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Five things to watch in today’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth


Regardless whether teams have the high-drag package figured out, they’ll race it today at Michigan International Speedway.

Drivers spent Saturday’s practice sessions trying to run near competitors to solve the riddle of this package, which debuted last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some drivers reported that their car’s handling worsened when they approached the back of a leading car.

“There is a lot of turbulent air there,’’ Jeff Gordon said. “We are going to be fanned out and finding clean air and then trying to get that tow down the straightaway. It’s going to be a totally different Michigan I feel like than what we have ever had before.’’

The draft helps cars close, but the key will be how quickly the groove widens to allow cars to complete a pass.

Martin Truex Jr., who was fastest in Saturday’s final practice session, said there are challenges in the draft.

“It’s going to be tough to pass, but we passed some cars (Saturday),’’ he said. “Hopefully, we can do some more (Sunday), because we need to.”

How drivers handle the aero package - which won’t be run in the Chase - is among the storylines in today’s race:

Kyle Busch’s challenge. He was set to start sixth but will take the green flag at the rear in a backup car. Busch spun off Turn 4 in Saturday’s final practice and slid down into the infield grass, which damaged the nose of his primary car.

Busch climbed into the top 30 in points last week to become Chase eligible. A bad finish could drop him out of the top 30. Facing that issue and how cars handle in traffic, Busch could be in a for long day.

“Starting in the back, we’ll definitely tighten it up a heck of a lot more than we were planning on doing to start the race just being in that much traffic and then just try to work our way through as best we can,’’ Busch said. “If top 20 is it, then that’s it. It doesn’t matter, Michigan’s not a place I had circled on the list to go win at, so let’s just make it through tomorrow and carry on.”

Winless streaks grow. Roush Fenway Racing is on a 42-race winless streak. That’s nothing compared to some other teams. Richard Childress Racing is on a 59-race winless streak. Chip Ganassi Racing is on a 62-race winless streak. Michael Waltrip Racing is on a 75-race winless streak.

Roush’s top starting spot today is 20th with Greg Biffle. RCR’s top spot is 17th with Ryan Newman after Austin Dillon, who has to have started fourth, moves to the rear after an engine change. Ganassi’s top starting spot is 18th with Jamie McMurray. MWR’s top starting spot is 12th with Clint Bowyer.

Dominant teams. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to finish first and second in each of the last five races. Can that streak continue?

Can Kasey Kahne recover? His Chase hopes are fading after finishing 43rd at Pocono two weeks ago and 42nd at Watkins Glen last weekend. He’s finished no better than 19th in the last six races to fall out of a Chase spot. Can he turn things around today or will he fall further behind?

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