Friday, August 19, 2011

Roush Stable Has Three of the Top-5 Speeds in Michigan's First Practice Session

Roush brigade looks pretty strong at Michigan (Getty)
Jack Roush has 11 wins as a car owner at his home track of Michigan International Speedway and watched as three of his four drivers finished speeds among the top five fastest in Friday’s first practice session. Matt Kenseth led the way with the fastest lap of 188.813 mph with Greg Biffle third (188.506) and David Ragan fifth (188.260).

The driver missing from the bunch, Carl Edwards, could only muster the 28th best lap at 186.495 mph. Edwards wasn’t able to get a satisfactory qualifying run during the entire 90 minute session despite being one of the Las Vegas favorites to win the race based on owning the track record for best average finish (6.2).

A Roush driver hasn’t won at Michigan since Edwards did it in 2008 -- a span of five races -- which is an eternity compared to the regular Ford domination over the entire history of the track. Three Toyota’s and two Chevy’s have won in those five races since.

Outside of the three Roush Ford’s in the top-five, five Chevy’s took the remaining positions within the top-eight with Ryan Newman (188.506) being the fastest among the guys in bow-ties. He was followed by 2009 Michigan winner Mark Martin (188.462), who had the fourth best lap, Paul Menard (187.990) in sixth, Jeff Gordon (187.926) and Jamie McMurray (187.842).

McMurray struggled in race and qualifying trim for the first 89 minutes, but on his last lap came up with the eighth best lap.

Most drivers spent the first portion of the session in qualifying trim and then went into race mode. Among the top-10 performers, only Martin and McMurray bettered their speeds in the second half of the session.

Brad Keselowski was the top Dodge performer in practice (187.745) and will be looking to get his third win of the year and first at his home state track to solidify his place in the Chase even more.

Denny Hamlin has won two of last three Michigan races and will be running a new Toyota Development Engine this week. He ended up with the 11th fastest speed of 187.607. He was the second fastest Toyota behind teammate Kyle Busch, who gained his top speed very late after running in the mid-20's for most of the session.

It's been 115 races since Earnhardt Jr. has won a race (Getty)
In addition to Edwards being a surprise, Jimmie Johnson raised some eyebrows with having only the 26th fastest lap. Johnson has never won at Michigan, one of only five tracks on the circuit he hasn't conquered, but his Hendrick teammates all fared much better with even Dale Earnhardt Jr having a better session than the No. 48 team. Earnhardt Jr. has gone 115 races since last winning a race and it came at Michigan in 2008.

The most impressive on the day was Matt Kenseth who comes in with all kinds of credentials that have many believing he will be the driver to beat Sunday. He has the second best average finish (9.5) on the track among all active drivers, two wins and he’s got his best chassis running this week.

The car he’s using last ran at the Brickyard where he finished fifth. Prior to that, Kenseth ran it in June’s Michigan race where he led three times until settling for runner-up. Before that, he won with it at Texas.

Michigan Practice 1 Speeds

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