Last August, Ryan Blaney won at Michigan International Speedway. But he already had a NASCAR Cup Series playoff ticket in his pocket thanks to a victory earlier that season at Atlanta.
As the series returns to Michigan on Sunday, Blaney has not assured himself a playoff berth.
He’s one of two winless drivers holding the final two playoff spots on points – and the other driver, Martin Truex Jr., is closing fast.
Neither want to be the last driver in the playoffs on points, and thus, at risk of being knocked out of title contention with a win from a driver below the cut line. Blaney (+121 above cut line) and Truex (+96) are only separated by 25 points entering Sunday.
Truex’s deficit to Blaney was 71 points after Atlanta three races ago. During that span, Blaney’s had finishes of 18th, 33rd and 26th.
For more storylines to follow, check out our viewer’s guide.
Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway
(All Times Eastern)
START: Command to start engines at 3:09 p.m. … Green flag to wave at 3:17 p.m.
PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon … Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. … Fr. Geoff Rose of St. Francis de Sales High School (Toledo, Ohio) will give the invocation at 3 p.m. … Lisa Bascom will perform the Canadian national anthem at 3:01 p.m. … Family of Faith Community Choir will perform the U.S. national anthem at 3:02 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (400 miles) on the 2-mile speedway.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.
TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. MRN coverage begins at 2 p.m. and will also stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast.
STREAMING: NBC Sports
FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy, high of 88 degrees, 15% chance of rain around start of the race
LAST YEAR: Ryan Blaney took the lead on a restart with eight laps to go and edged William Byron by .077 of a second to win last August at Michigan. The margin of victory was the closest at Michigan since the advent of electronic scoring.
CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:
Read More About NASCAR
Sunday Michigan Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather originally appeared on NBCSports.com