Posted 06/15/2012 at 03:13 PM
For the second consecutive week, Mark Martin has been the master of the new surface setting the pace in the first practice session with the fastest lap. Last week it was Pocono, this week, it’s Michigan where Martin went 201.376 mph to top the charts and looking sharp for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.
Martin ran only 15 laps in practice, but did get plenty of track time Thursday in testing where he was fastest as well in one of the sessions. After seeing Martin finish runner-up last week at Pocono and adding what he’s done the last two days, Martin should be the favorite to win Sunday. It would be his sixth win all-time at Michigan, but first on the sleek new pavement.
10 drivers topped 200 mph in the first 80-minute session. In Thursday’s testing, only eight drivers went that fast -- and that was a six-hour test session.
42 drivers beat the track qualifying record (194.232) set by Ryan Newman in 2005.
Keeping in line with a quality practice, a day after being fast in testing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran 32 laps finding his fastest lap (201.061) late in the session, good enough for second-fastest. Trevor Bayne ran 16 laps and was third best (200.770) followed by Tony Stewart (200.736) and Matt Kenseth (200.574),
Greg Biffle ran 37 laps while running the 15th fastest lap. He was the second fastest Ford behind Kenseth. Carl Edwards had the 18th quickest lap. Expect Biffle to be better in the final practice because of running well in Thursday testing. Hopefully, Edwards’ team is discussing speed with Kenseth’s
Marcos Ambrose ran the most lap of the session (43), but couldn’t find enough speed to better his 26th standing. Kevin Harvick was very strong in testing, but only had the 32nd best lap while running 40 laps.
A couple other notables that didn’t run well for some reason were Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson. Keselowski had a career best of third-place at his home track of Michigan last fall, but could only come up with a speed of 194.695, the 40th fastest. Johnson is still searching for that first Michigan win, but the 32nd fastest lap can’t have them feeling too confident.
Only three drivers ran 10 consecutive laps or more with Johnson leading the way.
We’ll see what happens in the final session.