Posted 06/15/2012 at 06:27 PM
Greg Biffle’s lap of 204.708 mph was the fastest NASCAR lap ever recorded at Michigan International Speedway. Biffle snatched the top time in the final minute of Friday’s 80-minute final practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.
The lap itself was a thing of beauty and appeared aided by forces of the draft through one of the turns. Michigan’s new pavement is faster than what the drivers and NASCAR Officials might have initially figured. Biffle’s speed was almost 3 mph faster than Tony Stewart’s top speed Thursday during a test session that had been the fastest.
14 drivers topped topped 200 mph after only 10 did it in the early practice. Only eight different drivers reached that figure in six hours of testing on Thursday.
Just like Biffle, Marcos Ambrose's Ford showed a great improvement in the final practice compared to the earlier session by running the second fastest lap at 203.551 mph. Biffle had been 15th best in the early session while Ambrose was 26th.
Kevin Harvick had been mired in 32nd for most of the session while in race trim, but laid down the third fastest lap in a late mock-qualifying run.
One of the bigger improvements from the morning session was Carl Edwards who finished with the fourth fastest lap giving Ford three of the four fastest speeds. Paul Menard was fifth fastest while running 41 laps.
Mark Martin (64) ran the most laps of the session followed by Ryan Newman (58), Jeff Gordon (55) and Kasey Kahne (55).
Biffle had the top average speed (199.642), but only ran 14 laps in small doses. His teammate, Matt Kenseth, ran 41 laps with a strong average of 196.429 mph. All the Fords came out flexing their muscles in this session, including Trevor Bayne who finished 6th fastest making four of the five top-6 speeds coming from Fords.
It’s been a six race drought at Michigan for the Roush-Fenway drivers, but it’s not a place we can expect it to last long. The current crop of Roush drivers have six Michigan wins between them and Jack Roush has 11 overall as a car-owner.
One the unknown variables that has shown its face due to the high speeds gained on the new pavement has been tire wear. It was a major concern throughout the garage during the final session.
Kahne went 16 straight laps on one run and when his crew inspected the tires afterwards, he had a huge blister built up on the left front tire. Martin Truex Jr went 18 straight laps and came away with blistered left side tires, on both front and back. Mark Martin had blisters on both left side tires, but also had it happening as well on the right rear causing perhaps even more concern than most.
In addition to the new high speeds, tire wear looks like it will play out as being one of the major storylines of Sunday’s race.
On the stretch that Kahne got blistered, he was also was in the middle of running the third fastest 10 consecutive lap average. Kenseth was second in the category and Dale Earnhardt Jr was fastest.
Earnhardt Jr has been performed at a high level over the last two days of testing and practice and it could be argued that he has never had a Hendrick Motorsports car this good before a non-restrictor-plate race. It’s been 144 races since Junior last won and it came on Fathers Day at Michigan four years ago.
Should Junior finally win, not only would it be a great gesture to the memory of his own Father, but also to the millions of Fathers proudly wearing his gear in the NASCAR Nation waiting for the drought to end. It sure would beat a new tie or the Wranglers that most Dads will receive as a gift this Sunday.