Posted 08/18/2012 at 03:28 PM
After being the only driver to top 200 mph in Saturday’s early practice session at Michigan International Speedway, Greg Biffle followed it up by being fastest in the final session. Biffle’s fast lap of 198.879 came in the late stages of the 55-minute session and makes him a serious contender to win Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, which would be the third win of his career on the 2-mile track.
Jimmie Johnson had to make an engine change during Saturday’s early session. The bad news for the No. 48 team is that they’ll have to start from the rear in Sunday’s race. The bad news for the rest of the field is that the back-up engine is just as fast as the one they removed. Johnson was fastest in Friday’s practice. With the new engine, they were second fastest (198.222) in the final session.
Johnson has never won at Michigan, one of five tracks on the circuit that have that claim. The deepest start position any driver has won with at Michigan was Mark Martin in 2009, starting 32nd. If any driver can best that, Johnson would certainly be a the top of a short list.
Joey Logano was third fastest during the final session with a lap of 197.960 mph, which should give the No. 20 team some hope in their attempt to make the Chase. A second win on the season with three races remaining until the Chase field is set would make them a favorite to get in.
Matt Kenseth had the fourth-fastest lap and will be looking for his third win at Michigan. He’s one of only two current drivers to average better than a 10th-place finish (9.1) at Michigan. His teammate, Carl Edwards, is the other.
Mark Martin was fifth fastest (197.488) and outside of Biffle, has had the best combined practices between the Friday and Saturday sessions. Martin has produced speeds in the top-5 during all three sessions.
Johnson had the fastest average speeds, followed by Martin, Kasey Kahne and Biffle. Only six drivers topped an average of 195 mph with Martin’s MWR teammates being the other two.
Only two drivers, Kahne and Martin, ran 10-consecutive laps or more.
Some notables outside the top-5 single lap speeds: Tony Stewart (7th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th), Jeff Gordon (19th) and Michigan native Brad Keselowski (22nd).
For Junior, he may not be in as good of shape as previously anticipated because of wrecking his car in practice. The car he wrecked was a good one, the car that won in June. He will have to start from the rear of the field with Johnson. His back-up finished third at Fontana and 17th at Darlington earlier this year.
Carl Edwards was eight fastest, but looks like he’ll be almost as good as his teammates based on his first two practices. Two-time Michigan winner Denny Hamlin was ninth fastest.
Kyle Busch did not participate in the final session so he could make it to Montreal for the Nationwide series race. David Reutimann sat in for Busch and finished with a very uninspiring 41st fastest lap.