The time is now for Greg Biffle in Michigan
August 15, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
Although Greg Biffle can't secure a spot in the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Michigan International Speedway, a strong performance can go a long way in helping him reach the postseason as a championship contender.
Biffle currently is seeded ninth in the standings, 181 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, who last weekend at Watkins Glen clinched a spot in the Chase. More precariously, however, Biffle sits only four markers in front of Kurt Busch in the 11th position.
To say Biffle is on the bubble would be an understatement.
An early-race accident or middle-of-the-road performance at Michigan could knock him from the top 10 -- and possibly even out of a provisional Wild Card position. Heading into the weekend, two-time race winner Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman, who has one win, hold these spots. Biffle currently maintains a 22-point advantage over Newman for the second Wild Card.
The good news for Biffle is that Michigan is one of his best tracks and he currently rides a two-race winning streak at the two-mile oval nestled in the Irish Hills an hour-and-a-half away from Detroit.
"I'm looking forward to Michigan; it would be three in a row if I can pull off another win," Biffle said. "I feel like one more win would lock us into the Chase."
While Biffle can't secure a spot in the Chase with a victory at Michigan, it would put him in a great position to do so over the other three races remaining before the playoffs begin and could be the insurance he needs to claim a Wild Card spot if he does fall out of the top 10.
If Biffle is to find Victory Lane on Sunday, he'll need to rely more on his success at the track than how he's performed recently.
In 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Michigan, he has notched four wins, 10 top fives and 13 top 10s. He twice has had back-to-back victories there, winning in the August 2004 race and June 2005 race. He duplicated that feat this past June after posting his third victory at the track last August.
More impressive, however, is that in those 21 starts, Biffle has finished all 21 races, finished on the lead lap in 20 and led at least one lap in 15. His 110.0 Driver Rating is tops at the track. He also leads all active drivers in the following categories: most laps in the top 15 (2,862), best average running position (8.2), faster early in a run (179.520 mph), fastest late in a run (175.542 mph), fastest on restarts (174.076 mph) and fastest green-flag speed (177.096 mph).
Biffle's average finishing position at Michigan is 11.3, which is his second-best average among tracks (10.1 at Kansas Speedway).
In the seven races following his June win at Michigan, however, his performance has been inconsistent and not where it needs to be if he's to make a serious play for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title. He followed up his win with a strong eighth-place performance at Sonoma, but then finished 34th, 17th, 15th, 24th, 10th and 16th in subsequent races.
Not only has Biffle done well at Michigan, but his team, Roush Fenway Racing, has experienced great success there. Biffle's June victory was a series track record 13th for owner Jack Roush, whose headquarters lies less than 100 miles east in Livonia.
Despite their success, Biffle and his team know Sunday won't be a walk in the park and they'll arrive focused and ready to go for that illustrious three-peat.
"Even though we've won the last two races, we can't let our guard down," said Matt Puccia, Biffle's crew chief. "The competition has changed quite a bit over the last few months."