• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

2022 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Michigan

ByMichael Manny

Aug 7, 2022
Bubba Wallace's car pushed on grid

Photo courtesy of Mike Mulholland | Getty Images

With just four races to go in the regular season, the NASCAR Cup Series hits Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday. 

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is starting on pole for the first time in his career. It is also 23XI’s first pole as an organization. Fellow Toyota driver Christopher Bell will start opposite Wallace on the front row.

Wallace’s career-best Michigan finish at the Cup level is ninth, but he won there in the Camping World Truck Series in 2017.

A Ford car has won the last seven Cup races at their home track, but the Toyota drivers’ performances were the story of practice and qualifying. Five Toyota drivers were in the final 10-car qualifying group, the most of any manufacturer. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, another Toyota driver, is starting third, with two Fords, Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Austin Cindric, making up the rest of the top five. 

One driver who does not have to worry about their playoff standing is Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick. Reddick was able to avoid the chaos at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last week to win for the second time this season. He will start next to Cindric in sixth. 

Through 22 races this season, the series has seen 14 different winners, tying the 2017 season for the most up to this point in the elimination-style playoff format era (2014-present), according to NASCAR media news and notes. 

As of now, just two drivers are in the playoffs on points, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. It’s a possibility that there could be 16 different winners this season. Blaney won last year at Michigan, so this could be one of his best remaining chances to clinch a spot. 

Another driver with a golden opportunity this weekend is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Harvick leads all active drivers in wins on the two-mile oval with five. He even made history at the track in 2020, becoming the first driver in series history to win at the same track on back-to-back days. 

Harvick is riding a 65-race winless streak dating back to 2020. The 46-year-old starts 16th, sitting 96 points below the cutline. 

Another driver to watch is Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson. When Larson won at Auto Club Speedway, another two-mile oval, earlier this year, it looked like the No. 5 team was picking up right where they left off in their dominant 2021 championship season. Instead, Larson has not visited Victory Lane since. 

Larson won at Michigan three-straight times between 2016-17 and is starting eighth, so this could be an opportunity to regain momentum. 

One noteworthy new entrant in this weekend’s race is Austin Hill, who is making his Cup Series debut in the No. 33 car for Richard Childress Racing. Hill is starting 31st after running the Xfinity race. 

The race is set for 3 p.m EST with coverage on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The stages will run through laps 45, 120 and the finish on lap 200.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments

Goodyear tire notes:

NASCAR Cup Series — Race No. 23 – 200 laps / 400 miles

Michigan International Speedway (2.0-mile oval) – Brooklyn, Mich.

Fast Facts for August 6-7, 2022

Tire: Goodyear Eagle 18-inch Speedway Radials

Set limits:

Cup: 1 set for practice, 1 set for qualifying and 7 sets for the race

(6 race sets plus 1 set transferred from qualifying)

Tire Codes: Left-side — D-5180; Right-side — D-5182

Tire Circumference: Left-side — 2,274 mm (89.53 in.); Right-side — 2,279 mm (89.72 in.)

Minimum Recommended Inflation:

Left Front — 22 psi; Left Rear – 24 psi;

Right Front — 50 psi; Right Rear — 46 psi

Storyline – Two kinds of heat to consider at Michigan this week: With summer temperatures expected to be in the upper-80-degree range at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, race fans will surely feel the heat.  For NASCAR race teams, however, there is a different kind of heat they are mindful of – tire heat.  The track surface at Michigan is relatively “smooth,” so there is not a high amount of tire wear.  With the speed expected of the Cup cars, a lot of heat is generated over the course of a run.  Since tire heat normally gets dissipated through the tread and there is little wear, Goodyear must design its Michigan tire with the proper tread compound and the appropriate gage (tread thickness) to help that process along.

“Excessive and sustained heat is the enemy of a race tire,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.  “When you have a smooth track surface, like the one at Michigan, tires just don’t wear naturally.  Heat gets generated the more a tire is run, but on most tracks that heat gets dissipated as the tread wears.  At Michigan, as on other low-wear tracks, we design the tire with an appropriately formulated tread compound and minimal tread gage to help control the heat generation, and enable the tire to run at a more optimal performance level.”

Notes – Cup teams on unique tire set-up at Michigan: Having moved to an 18-inch bead diameter tire for 2022, NASCAR Cup teams will run a different tire set-up than those in the Xfinity Series at Michigan this week . . . this is the first time Cup teams have run either of these two tire codes . . . Goodyear held a tire test at Michigan on May 31-June 1 . . . teams (drivers) participating in that test were the 23XI Racing Toyota (Bubba Wallace), Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (Austin Dillon) and Penske Racing Ford (Joey Logano) . . . with this 18-inch tire, and its lower profile sidewall, NASCAR Cup cars will not run inner liners in any of their tires in 2022.