Saturday, July 28, 2012

Brickyard Practice Notes: Roush Drivers Making Case For First Brickyard Win

Greg Biffle looks in good shape to get Roush's first Brickyard win (Getty)
By Micah Roberts

Three Roush-Fenway drivers found their way into the top-5 fastest speeds during Saturday’s final Brickyard 400 practice session at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There have been 18 previous NASCAR races run on the famed bricks, but a Roush driver hasn’t claimed a win yet.

Greg Biffle topped the charts with a fast lap at 181.499 mph on the final of his 28 laps run. Biffle has been outstanding at Indy the last four seasons, finishing eight or better, including two top-5 finishes.

The No. 99 Roush team made Chad Norris crew chief following the New Hampshire race, replacing Bob Osborne after eight years, and the move showed immediate residuals with Carl Edwards running the second-fastest lap (181.232). Like Biffle, Edwards has always been at contender at Indy with an average finish of 11th over his career that includes runner-up in 2008.

Matt Kenseth had the fifth fastest lap (180.770) and has been stellar over his career at Indy, but has fallen just short of claiming a victory. In 12 Brickyard starts, Kenseth has been runner-up twice and has three other top-5 finishes, including fifth last season.

Ford’s last win at Indy came in 1999 when Dale Jarrett won the for second time. Ford has three wins at the Brickyard, but none have come from a Roush car. That could change Sunday.

Toyota has also been shut out of the Brickyard winner’s circle, but Joey Logano is making a push to end the streak. Logano had the third fastest lap (181.189) in practice and looks like a driver that should contend in Sunday’s race. In addition to solid practices in both sessions, Logano also has the Pocono win in his back pocket.

The correlation between Pocono and Indy has always been strong over the years because of similar traits between the two 2,5-mile tracks. If a driver does well at one, he’ll likely be good at the other. Logano’s best finish at Indy was ninth in 2010.

A Chevrolet has won nine straight races at the Brickyard and Kasey Kahne was the fastest of the bunch in both of Saturday’s practices. He was fastest overall in the first session and then had the fourth best lap during happy hour, which was technically 110-minutes. Kahne’s best finish at Indy was runner-up in 2005.

Brad Keselowski ran the most laps (42) and finished with the 11th fastest single lap. Three-time Indy winner Jimmie Johnson ran the next most (41) and finished with the sixth fastest lap.

Keselowski has to be considered a candidate to win just because of winning at Pocono last season, and the fact that he’s won three races this season. On the same line of thinking, Johnson has finished fourth in his last three Pocono races in addition to his two wins there in 2004. Johnson is also using the same chassis he won with at Dover.

Only five drivers ran at least 10-consecutive laps with Kyle Busch having the best average followed by Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr, Jeff Burton and last years Brickyard winner, Paul Menard.

Busch had the 13th fastest lap, but was strong overall in average speeds while running his 32 laps.

The fastest overall average in the final session was Logano at 177.923 mph while running 20 laps. Perhaps more impressive was Biffle who ran 28 laps for a 177.219 average. They were the only two drivers to average of 177 mph.

My dark horse for the week was Sam Hornish due to the great test sessions A.J. Allmendnger had at Pocono. They were sluggish in the early stages of their final practice, but found some speed late getting the 17th fastest speed.

Top-5 Brickyard Practice 2 (Final) Speeds:
1) Greg Biffle 181.499 mph
2) Carl Edwards 181.232
3) Joey Logano 181.189
4) Kasey Kahne 180.999
5) Matt Kenseth 180.988

Brickyard Practice 2 Speeds

Kahne and Martin Fastest in First Practice Session

By Micah Roberts

Kasey Kahne looking to make it 10 straight Chevy's at Indy (Getty)
Kasey Kahne topped the speed chart in Saturday’s first practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kahne's lap of 185.326 mph came on his first of 16 laps run during the 60-minute session. This practice determines the qualifying order schedule and Kahne will attempt his lap last.

Mark Martin was second fastest with a lap at 183.520 mph, showing that his runner-up finish at Pocono is translating well to Indy. Martin has never won at Pocono or Indy over his great career, but looks poised to be in a position to get Toyota their first win at the Brickyard.

Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-5 speeds in the session. Gordon and Johnson have combined to win seven Brickyard 400’s over their careers. Gordon had perhaps the best car in last years race and needs his fifth win at Indy more than ever just to keep his Chase hopes alive.

Last years Brickyard winner Paul Menard had the sixth fastest lap while running 13 laps in the session.

Only one driver, Denny Hamlin, ran at least 10 consecutive laps. Hamlin finished with the 20th fastest lap. Sam Hornish ran the most laps of the session (29) and had the 24th fastest lap.

The drivers will run their final practice session at 10:30 am (ET) with qualifying set to begin at 2:10 pm.

Top-5 Indy Practice 1 Speeds
1) Kasey Kahne 185.326 mph
2) Mark Martin 183.520
3) Jeff Gordon 183.292
4) Jimmie Johnson 183.235
5) Brad Keselowski 182.918

Brickyard 400 Practice 1 Speeds

Brickyard 400 Average Speeds - Screen

Final Brickyard 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practice & Q Sessions

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to, or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 

The Denver based crew of the #78 Furniture Row-Farm America Chevrolet, driven by Regan Smith, prepares their car with a special paint scheme to honor the victims of the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Getty)

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