Michigan/Mid-Ohio Weekend Preview: Elliott eyes Michigan win

Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

When Chase Elliott travels to Michigan International Speedway, he must feel like Sisyphus – the king in Greek mythology forced to roll a boulder up a hill, and when he reaches the pinnacle, the boulder rolls off, forcing him to repeat the process for all of eternity.

The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver has made three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts in the Wolverine State and has finished second all three times.

“It’s great,” Elliott said about the two-mile track, which hosts Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “It’s also frustrating to have run second every time we have been there. It’s good I guess that we are inside the top five the past few times we have been there, but at the same time that is frustrating to have been pretty close to having a shot to win there, which would have been very big if we could have pulled that out.

Elliott enters Sunday’s contest coming off a series of solid, yet unspectacular performances. He placed 13th last week at Watkins Glen, 10th at Pocono, 39th at Indianapolis due to engine trouble and 11th at New Hampshire. Still he ranks 14th on the playoff grid, 39 points ahead of Clint Bowyer on the cutoff line. Elliott has little margin of error when it comes to making the postseason, but can guarantee himself a playoff berth by grabbing a win at Michigan.

“I like Michigan, I’ve always liked going up there,” Elliott said. “I really love that area. It’s just a cool part of the United States to go to. I like it up there – it’s a nice area and that is kind of why I like going.”

Sadler hopes to visit Victory Lane at Mid-Ohio

Elliott Sadler is sitting high and mighty atop the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings right now – 52 points ahead of William Byron.

(Getty Images)

He leads the circuit with five stage wins, but hasn’t visited Victory Lane at the end of a race this season. As a result, he trails the three-race, two-stage winner Byron by 12 playoff points.

A win in Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) would help Sadler close the gap and increase his odds of capturing his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

Sadler has finished in the top 10 in all four of his career starts at Mid-Ohio. He has a high finish of sixth at the 13-turn road course (2013, 2015) – the second of three road course races on the Xfinity schedule. The No. 1 Chevrolet driver placed 18th in the first road-course race at Watkins Glen last Saturday.

“Last weekend, we got a good look at what our road course program will be like for these next couple of races,” Sadler said. “With the first road race under our belt, we now know what we can expect. We can really dial in on the handling of our Chevrolet and our strategy. We had a fast car last weekend, just had a little bit of bad luck. I like Mid-Ohio – this weekend should be fun.”

Bell can notch fifth win at Michigan

No driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is running better than Christopher Bell right now.

 Christopher Bell. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The Oklahoman has won three of the last six six races, including two of the last three. In 12 starts this season, Bell boasts four wins, eight top fives, 11 top 10s and a 5.6 average finish. He ranks first in the Camping World Truck Series standings – 18 points ahead of second-place Johnny Sauter.

Bell will go for a fifth victory in Saturday’s LTI Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1). He finished 24th in his lone start at the two-mile track last year after an incident on Lap 75.

“I ran really well at Michigan last year until I crashed going for the lead late in the race, so I’m looking forward to going back there this year and trying to redeem myself,” Bell said. “Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) had a really fast Tundra there last year with William (Byron) – he and I worked really well together and were able to stay up front most of the race. Michigan is a place that you can’t really drive away from people, so you have to make sure that your truck handles well in the draft. Using all the aero techniques that you have in your arsenal is going to be the key to success this weekend.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: Pure Michigan 400

Place: Michigan International Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, August 13 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What to Watch For: Kyle Larson goes for his third straight Michigan win. … Martin Truex Jr. attempts to earn a second consecutive victory and add to his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-high four wins. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs a win to get into the playoffs and has triumphed twice at Michigan. … Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth lead active drivers with three Michigan victories. … Brad Keselowski tries to get his first checkered at his home track. … Daniel Suarez can build on his career-best third-place finish from last weekend at Watkins Glen.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Mid-Ohio Challenge

Place: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Date and Time: Saturday, August 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 169.35 miles (75 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on lap 75)

What To Watch For: Mid-Ohio marks the second of three road course races for the NASCAR Xfinity Series this month. … Four different drivers have won the four NASCAR Xfinity Series races held at Mid-Ohio. Former winners in Saturday’s field include Regan Smith (2015) and defending victor Justin Marks. … William Byron attempts to add to his series-leading 17 playoff points, and cap off a week that included his announced promotion to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018 to driver the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: LTI Printing 200

Place: Michigan International Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, August 12 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on lap 100)

What To Watch For: Four races remain until the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs. Barring more than eight winners, five of the eight playoff berths have been clinched by Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Kaz Grala. … Darrell Wallace Jr. returns to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving the No. 99 truck for Matthew Miller. Wallace has five career NCWTS wins. … Fifteen different drivers have won the 17 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan. Greg Biffle is the only repeat winner.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.