A week of contract announcements will be capped by a weekend of racing, in which the two drivers who most captivated the NASCAR news cycle — Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones — return to their home state for doubleheader Cup events at Michigan International Speedway this Saturday and Sunday.
With two Cup races this weekend, if different manufacturers win each race, then the trophy will go to the manufacturer with the most points earned by top-10 finishers of both races. Winners and losers could look different each day, but the format of the races will be identical: 156 laps (312 miles) with stages ending on Laps 40, 85 and 156.
NASCAR is also implementing a new procedural change at Michigan. The choose rule will be incorporated into restarts for all races, except at Daytona and Talladega, beginning with Friday’s Truck Series race, and will continue through the playoffs. The announcement from NASCAR came Thursday after a successful test run of the rule during the All-Star Race at Bristol.
The rule means drivers have to choose either the inside or outside lane on the restart by a certain point on the track, and it is intended to add more strategy since drivers will be forced to pick between track position or the preferred lane when the race goes green. No. 22 driver Joey Logano said he’s advocated for the rule “for years.”
“To see it kind of come into action at Bristol is something that I thought went really smooth,” Logano said. “It was kind of exciting and interesting to see the decisions that drivers made, and it was different every time. If you do that at Bristol, what’s it look like at Michigan? What’s it look like at a road course?”
NASCAR also announced Thursday a new system for determining starting order and pit selection order in the age of no qualifying. Beginning at the Daytona Road Course race next weekend, NASCAR is using a formula that takes into account “competition-based performance metrics” instead of a random draw to determine the starting order through playoffs. The formula is: Points position (weighted 35%), plus finishing position from last race (50%), plus fastest lap from last race (15%). Some drivers have called the new procedure confusing but “fair.”
“The random draw has served us well during the return to racing, but it is important that starting lineups are based on performance as we approach the playoffs,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said in a statement. “The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting lineup and pit selection order.”
The other major news of the week came Thursday night, when Joe Gibbs Racing announced it is parting ways with its No. 20 Toyota Camry driver Erik Jones after the season. Jones came up through the Toyota pipeline and delivered two playoff berths for his team over the past two seasons in the Cup Series. He had extended his contract with JGR by a year last season, but now the team is likely to move to Cup rookie Christopher Bell in the driver’s seat of the No. 20.
JGR has not yet officially announced the move for Bell, but Friday another Cup rookie, Tyler Reddick, confirmed he would return to his Richard Childress Racing team next season. The No. 8 driver, expected to have a multi-year deal with the team, said he’s looking to beat Bell, Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek in the Rookie of the Year battle this season.
But the week leaves Jones, a native of Byron, Michigan, a free agent with the most to prove as he heads to his home state this weekend. Jones, ranked 18th in points, is still two positions below the 16-driver cutoff for a postseason spot.
Looking ahead, Jones could follow in the footsteps of another driver released by JGR who went on to make waves with a new organization, Logano, beginning this weekend at Michigan.WEATHER AT MICHIGAN
Good news for NASCAR Saturday. Sun is in the forecast all day at the start of the packed race weekend at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track. According to the National Weather Service, Saturday should be sunny with a high near 84 degrees and clear skies in the evening.
Sunday is also expected to be sunny during the day, with a high of 88 degrees, but there is a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m.
WEATHER AT MICHIGAN
Sunday is expected to be sunny during the day, with a high of 88 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, but there is a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. The race is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
HOW TO WATCH
Race: Consumers Energy 400
Distance: 312 miles, 156 laps (stages end on Laps 40, 85, 156)
When: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
TV: NBCSN (broadcast starts at 4 p.m.)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Second 2019 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick