Saturday, August 17, 2013

Michigan Practice Notes: Harvick looks good for Sunday in field of parity

Could Kevin Harvick be in line for his third win of the season? 
If Saturday's final practice sessions at Michigan International Speedway are any indication, Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 should be a wide open race with up to 18 drivers having a chance at winning. The main reason for suggesting such parity simply rests with the fact that there wasn't one heavyweight driver that stood out like we normally see each week.

Things got real interesting when Jimmie Johnson, who had the fastest lap early during happy hour, wrecked his primary car during the session and will be forced to use his back-up and start from the rear. Johnson has never won at Michigan in 23 starts, and his bad luck always occurred during races. Prior to wrecking his car in practice, Johnson would have easily been the top rated driver, but he doesn't get docked too much just because his back-up is probably still better than most in the field.

The main problem with Johnson now is that crew chief Chad Knaus will have a work in progress throughout the race. The primary car was set up perfectly, the back-up isn't. While they were able to get a few laps in with the back-up car, it still only came in with the 18th fastest lap. We've seen Knaus and Johnson win races under this scenario before, but Michigan is an entirely different story for them. Could it be that their bad luck at Michigan is out of the way for the weekend, and now they can relish in their underdog role? If there was one team that can do it, it would be Johnson's crew.

The top seven drivers we have rated could all be put in as a tie for the top rated driver because no one stood out. Kevin Harvick gets the top nod because of his June 16 second-place finish and showing speed during practices. When Harvick runs fast in practice -- like he did in the second session with the fastest lap -- we should all take notice, because it doesn't happen too often. When teammate Jeff Burton is also showing his best practice of the season, you know that the Childress engines have something special going on that will make them contenders.

Greg Biffle has won the past two Michigan races and has four for his career, but it was a little odd that he didn't bring the same winning chassis from the June race this week. He looked very ordinary in the first two practice sessions in his new chassis, but came on strong during happy hour with the third fastest lap. Should he win again, it would be the 14th win for car owner Jack Roush at his home track, and increase the track record he already owns.

The best story of the week brewing might be coming from Juan Pablo Montoya, who was informed earlier this week that he won't be returning to the No. 42 team for the 2014 season. All he does with the news is go out and run his best practices of the season. Should he win on Sunday, it would be his first win on any track in the Cup series with only left-turns. Now that would be a story, and it's very possible, and also very attractive if you can still find 60-to-1 odds.

Read More Here........Final Top-10 Driver Ratings

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