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Posted: Friday, August 15th 2014 at 8:32am

NASCAR Preview: Michigan is best shot for Biffle

By NASCAR Media
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Greg Biffle's best opportunity to move into the Chase for the Sprint Cup could come with a win on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. / Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
BROOKLYN, MI - The clock is ticking for Greg Biffle.

And it’s ticking fast.

Although he ranks 12th in the series in points (645), the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion driver sits 17th in the Chase Grid Outlook, on the outside looking in, with just four races left before the postseason, because he has yet to record a victory.

“We feel like we can win one of these last four races, so that's what we're focusing on is winning one of these last four and getting our way into the Chase that way,” Biffle said, heading into this Sunday’s race at Michigan. “But certainly we’re hanging on by a shoestring to make it in on points if it comes down to that.”

A wild ride of off-the-track developments further adds to the pressure. Biffle must carry the weight of proving he can be Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 1 driver following the departure of Carl Edwards at the end of the season.

Luckily, Biffle gets a shot to go for victory at Michigan this week, a track where he has won a career-best four times, including two of the last four races. He boasts 10 top-five finishes in 23 Sprint Cup Series starts there in addition to two Camping World Truck Series wins. Additionally, Biffle owns the series-best average running position (8.9) and driver rating (107.8) there.

And, oh by the way, those four Sprint Cup wins … that more than any active driver.

“I cannot wait to get there,” Biffle said. “Do I think we're going to have the fastest car? I'm hoping we're close, but we're definitely -- I feel like we're going to be running in the top 10.”

Last year at Michigan, Biffle notched the 1,000th NASCAR win for Ford in its own backyard on Father’s Day and had his daughter there for her first victory lane.

Coinciding with Biffle’s triumphs is Roush Fenway’s overall success at Michigan. Since Jack Roush entered NASCAR in 1988, RFR has accumulated a track-record 13 Sprint Cup checkered flags with five different drivers: (Biffle, four; Mark Martin, four; Edwards, two; Matt Kenseth, two; and Kurt Busch, one) at the D-shaped speedway in the scenic Irish Hills area of southeastern Michigan.

“It's just been one of those racetracks like Homestead or Darlington for us that I really like,” said Biffle of RFR’s success at Michigan. “I like the layout. I love the way it races, and we've just been super successful there.”

WDUN will have live coverage of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 from Michigan International Speedway beginning at Noon on 102.9 FM and at 1 pm on 550 AM.

NASCAR Nationwide Series: Rookie Elliott Leads Four Horse Championship Title Pursuit

Just a dozen races remain in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series title race, and the top four drivers are separated by a wiry 13 points as they head to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 on Saturday, Aug. 16. Leading the series’ top tier quartet is Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott who rests 12 points ahead of his teammate Regan Smith in second-place.Smith stands just one point ahead of third-place Elliott Sadler and fourth-place Ty Dillon;who are tied in the series standings.

Chase Elliott’s rookie season thus far includes three wins, eight top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 9.0. The outstanding 18-year old revels in the chance to become the first Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to win the overall series title in NASCAR Nationwide Series history. He and Smith also have the opportunity to bring JR Motorsports its first series title. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s driver duo has looked quite formidable this season, but with 12 races remaining, a lot can still happen.

Consider this, the eventual 2013 series champion Austin Dillon lost his standings lead following Mid-Ohio last season, dropping to fourth in the standings 15 points back from the point. In the remaining races he subsequently came back to win the title.

Elliott has proven his craft extends even into the realm of road courses, finishing fourth at Road America and sixth at Watkins Glen (not to mention a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year), but will he be able to fend off his closest contenders?

Smith’s road course struggles continued this past weekend, finishing 17th at Watkins Glen. Smith could rebound this weekend at Mid-Ohio though, he finished 15th at the 2.258-mile course last season.

Sadler has posted consecutive road course top-10 finishes this season (ninth at Road America; seventh at WGI) and is looking to build on his success at Mid-Ohio where he finished sixth last season. Just 13 points behind Elliott, he has a season-to-date Driver Rating of 97.5, one win, five top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 9.3.

Dillon has discovered his late season stride; in his last 12 starts he has finished in the top-10 nine times - including his first career series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though riding high on his recent successes, Dillon’s road course performance is a work in progress. He finished 19th at Road America, but claimed eighth last weekend at Watkins Glen. Dillon has a season-to-date Driver Rating of 96.7 and has posted one win, three top fives and 15 top 10s in 2014.

WDUN will have live coverage of Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course beginning at 1:30 pm on 102.9 FM.

NASCAR Camping World Trucks: Fresh Start Likely At Michigan

Not one regular in this weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race has won at Michigan.

In fact, the only entry who has taken a checkered flag there is two-time winner and past series champion Travis Kvapil (2004, ‘07). Kvapil has run mostly a part-time schedule in the truck series, starting only four races in the last three years combined. His last series win came in 2007.

So, consider it a strong possibility that a new victor will be crowned Saturday in the Careers for Veterans 200.

With 12 different winners in 14 seasons (Greg Biffle and Kvapil are the only repeat winners), Michigan has proven to be anyone’s race.

Let’s take a look at this year’s prospects:

Kyle Busch: Busch enters as the clear-cut favorite. He has finished first in all five NCWTS events he has entered this season and boasts six consecutive victories on the circuit dating back to 2013. Busch’s five wins lead the series, as do his 143.8 driver rating and 500 laps led. The lone downside? He has yet to win at Michigan in seven starts.

Jeb Burton: In 2013, Burton broke the track’s qualifying record en route to the Keystone Light Pole and led for 41 laps before finishing 10th in his first start at Michigan. But that was last year. Burton has posted just three top-10 finishes and has yet to log a top-five in 11 starts in 2014.

Johnny Sauter: The model of consistency in the series seems poised to break out with a victory. The No. 2-ranked driver in the points standings carries momentum from Pocono where he finished second and led 64 laps. He has five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 11 starts this season.

These aren’t the only drivers in the hunt. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano will compete in his second NCWTS event of the year in Michigan, while points leader Ryan Blaney and two-race winners Matt Crafton and Darrell Wallace, Jr. look to register top runs.
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