He has been flying under the radar the last few months, but Greg Biffle is having one heck of a season. He sits second in points and is tied for the second-most top-five finishes in the series this season with nine. Not to mention that his 9.4 average finish leads all drivers. Still, Biffle's lone trip to Victory Lane came early in the year at Texas, and the lack of statement wins has kept his name off the short list of championship favorites. After clobbering the field in Saturday's first practice at Michigan International Speedway with a lap of over 200 mph, Biffle it appears is out to change that this weekend. The two-time MIS winner finished fourth at the track in June, and he has 11 top-10 finishes, eight of them top-fives, there in 19 career races.
Take a chance on Kyle Busch
Biffle wasn't the only strong fantasy option near the top of the leaderboard in the opening practice. Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five, and all four drivers are former winners at Michigan. Martin and Edwards will share the front row when the field takes the green, and while Martin finished fourth at MIS last August, Edwards actually leads all drivers with an 8.4 average finish at the track. In fact, Junior is the only one of the four that didn't qualify in the top five for Sunday's race, but considering he delivered a dominating win in the June event at the track after starting 17th, fantasy owners shouldn't hold a mediocre qualifying effort against him.
Only five drivers ran at least 10 consecutive laps in the first session Saturday, but of the five, Kyle Busch was the fastest by a sizable margin. His luck has no doubt been terrible lately in every series, but there is no denying his potential. Busch is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has finished in the top three in two of his last three starts at Michigan. Fantasy owners looking to make up ground on some of the more conservative players in their leagues should definitely consider taking a chance on Busch.
In Happy Hour, Biffle left little doubt that he should be considered the favorite for Sunday's race as he topped the charts once again. He was followed by Jimmie Johnson, and although the five-time champ qualified third, he will start at the rear of the field after changing engines. Johnson has never won at Michigan, and starting at the back of the pack certainly won't make getting to Victory Lane easy. That being said, he has finished second and fifth in his last two starts at MIS, he has a fast car, and he still has a great pit stall to work with. Johnson is still capable of contending for the win this weekend, and he still deserves consideration from fantasy owners.
Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Martin rounded out the top five, and fantasy owners will definitely want to add Kenseth to the list of potential targets. He qualified fourth for Sunday's race, and he also ranked in the top 10 in the opening practice Saturday. More importantly, he has finished in the top 10 in four straight starts at Michigan, cracking the top five three times during the stretch.
Only Kahne and Martin ran at least 10 consecutive laps in the final sessions, but owners looking for a sleeper pick may want to consider Regan Smith. He ranked sixth in the first practice and 15th in the final session, and he did finish 13th at Michigan last August. Smith has also been on a bit of a roll lately, finishing ninth in the last two races. Granted, a road course and Pocono aren't exactly comparable tracks to MIS, but a little momentum can go a long way, especially when Smith also has a fast car.
The other big story in the final session was a wreck involving Earnhardt. He backed the car into the outside wall, and he will have to go to a backup car for Sunday's race. On the plus side, Junior's primary car was fast, and he has a strong setup to fall back on as he goes for the season sweep at Michigan this weekend. Still, he didn't get a chance to work on his backup car, and he will now have to start from the rear of the field. His fantasy value isn't completely diminished, but his ceiling likely went from a potential win to simply fighting for a top five.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
Don't miss these great reports....