NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan starting lineup breakdown

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — Chase Elliott has enjoyed the perks of winning a NASCAR Cup series race except for maybe one thing.

He isn’t too thrilled with a new nickname.

On his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came up with a new nickname for Elliott: Young Elvis.

“If you ever put a picture of Chase — I’m a huge Elvis fan so I can do this in my head — if you ever take a picture of Elvis Presley when he starts breaking into music and Chase, they are really similar,” Earnhardt said on the podcast.

“Their face. They look the same. Same hair, same sort of boyish looks. It’s very similar. And I think that the hope is that he would become the Elvis of NASCAR.”

Uh, Elliott doesn’t see it.

“For some reason, he’s always thought I looked like Elvis,” Elliott said. “I really don’t why. He’s got a little bit of an obsession for Elvis. He’s got an Elvis room in his house, which is kind of weird. I’ve been in that room before and you wake up and there’s Elvis man staring at you.

“I don’t know if he just has a thing for Elvis or what. But, yeah, whatever. I don’t think he’s qualified [to give nicknames].”

Earnhardt has championed a nickname for another Hendrick Motorsports driver, Alex Bowman, who has said several times he’s not a fan of the “Bowman the Showman” moniker that Fox broadcaster Mike Joy said and Earnhardt rallied behind.

Should Earnhardt remain in the nickname business?

“I think he needs to retire from giving nicknames,” Elliott said.

What you can call Elliott is a winner, and he wouldn’t mind being called a back-to-back winner if he can prevail Sunday in the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Here’s how the lineup breaks down:

1. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): Back-to-back poles for Hamlin, who has to think he’ll have a better day than last week when he finished 13th at Watkins Glen.

2. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): He started third and finished fourth in June but this hasn’t been one of his best tracks (average finish of 18.9).

3. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): Harvick probably is still seething over not winning the rain-shortened race at Michigan in June. He’ll be the driver to beat Sunday.

4. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): The Michigan native was third in this race a year ago. Expect him to be in the mix.

5. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you — Dillon is starting fifth. Even more impressive is his teammate, Ryan Newman, will join him in the third row.

6. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): Newman won back-to-back Michigan races in August 2003 and June 2004. Since then? He has had just two top-5 finishes at the track, including a fourth a year ago.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): Elliott isn’t the only driver to have three runner-up finishes at Michigan without a win. The same is true for Truex. He also has a trio of thirds.

8. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): Blaney led 15 laps in June before settling for eighth. He could challenge Sunday.

9. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): With two career wins at Michigan plus a pair of top-10 finishes in his past three races at the track, don’t count Logano out to win for the second time this season.

10. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): He starts in Row 5 while the rest of the Hendrick drivers are in Rows 10 and 11.

11. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): Seeks his first top-10 at Michigan in his 13th start. Maybe it will be a lucky 13th start.

12. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): Busch was frustrated after over-driving the car in qualifying. Expect him to pass some cars early.

13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): Stenhouse started seventh but finished 29th in June. Has to hope this qualifying effort isn’t a tease.

14. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): There are seven Ford drivers starting in the first seven rows.

15. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): Is he racing for a 2019 ride? Maybe. But he’s probably more focused on just getting good results amid a frustrating season.

16. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): A little surprising that the driver who won in June is starting this far back.

17. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): Larson will race in the Knoxville Nationals on Saturday night, something he had to argue with Ganassi to do a year ago. But after winning at Michigan last August, he didn’t have to argue for permission this year.

18. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): If you were surprised that Bowyer is starting 16th, you are probably even more surprised Keselowski is starting this far back.

19. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): Johnson started 20th and finished 20th in June. No way he finishes as far back as 19th this time, right?

20. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): Considering he’s clumped with the other Hendrick drivers, he can’t be too frustrated with the mediocre starting spot.

21. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): Last week’s winner is going to need a reversal of fortune from the opening day of the weekend to earn back-to-back victories.

22. Bubba Wallace (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet): Wallace won a truck race at Michigan a year ago. The race Sunday probably won’t be as much fun.

23. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): He started 20th and finished sixth a year ago, so there’s at least some history of having a good day at Michigan.

24. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): Making the second round of qualifying at Michigan is a pretty decent day for Ragan, who started 27th in June.

25. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): Allmendinger still might be feeling the sting of not challenging for wins on road courses this year.

26. Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): Bayne has driven in only three of the past 11 races and he didn’t run at Michigan in June. This one could be a struggle.

27. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): The RCR affiliates filling up Row 14. They want to know what the RCR drivers in Row 3 have.

28. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): Kahne raced at Knoxville earlier in the week and the results were about just as satisfying.

29. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): McDowell probably will be fighting for a 25th-place finish, if his past three races (23rd, 27th, 25th) are any indication.

30. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): He started 30th in June, too, before a disaster of a race.

31. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): Cassill earns the best-of-the-way-underfunded teams starting position.

32. Corey LaJoie (TriStar Motosports No. 72 Chevrolet): LaJoie started 32nd in June as well … and finished 27th.

33. B.J. McLeod (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): McLeod might have had more fun racing on the road course at Mid-Ohio this week.

34. Gray Gaulding (StarCom Racing No. 99 Chevrolet): Gaulding is making his first start of the year for StarCom after being out of the BK Racing ride for the past five races.

35. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): Reed Sorenson qualified the car, but Chastain is expected to come from the Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio to compete Sunday.

36. Garrett Smithley (Premium Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet): This is Smithley’s third Cup start.

37. Timmy Hill (Carl Long Motorsports No. 66 Chevrolet): Hill was 35th at Michigan in June.

38. Jeffrey Earnhardt (Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota): Earnhardt will compete in 13 of the final 14 races of the season for team owner Marty Gaunt.

39. Blake Jones (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Jones is making his second-career Cup start.

40. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): Suarez slapped the wall in qualifying, but the team is repairing the primary car for the race.



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