Saturday, June 15, 2013

Michigan Post-Practice Notes: Edwards looks to be the driver to beat

Martin an interesting look this week with every Toyota horse under hood 
Kurt Busch was fastest in both of Saturday’s practice sessions at Michigan International Speedway, the final preparation for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400. Busch, a two-time winner at Michigan, has been fast during practice almost everywhere that requires lots of horsepower. Although the No. 78 is running with very similar packages as the Hendrick cars, this team is still a single car operation based out of Denver. His speeds are one of the best stories in NASCAR this season.

Until Busch finally hits payday and wins a race, we still have to temper our expectations and look at others who practiced well which takes us right into Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne. Johnson and Kahne probably practiced the best, outside of Busch. Johnson had the best 10-consecutive lap average in the first session and Kahne was best during happy hour.

If this were a normal track for Johnson, where he claimed one of his 63 career wins, Johnson would be elevated to the top of the charts. But he hasn’t. He’s led the most laps over the past eight years of races at Michigan, but the checkers have been avoiding him in every imaginable display of bad luck. Because of the track holding some kind of hex over Johnson, that plays into the part of rating.

Edwards practiced well, but what sets him over the top as the top candidate to win this week is his past history. No one has a better average finish (8.2) at Michigan than Edwards, and no one has more wins at Michigan than Roush Fenway Racing (12). All we needed to see in Saturday’s practices was that Edwards had some speed to confirm that he would be the driver to beat Sunday. He had the second fastest lap in the early session and was fifth fastest during happy hour. Between all the history Ford, Roush and Edwards have had at Michigan, and the Roush cars appearing to be on an upswing, the No. 99 is the car to beat.

Mark Martin gets a strong look this week because he’s the only Toyota running at full horsepower. In a precautionary move for their drivers in the Chase hunt, Toyota Racing Development reduced the horsepower on Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr’s cars by about 12-to-15 horses.

Martin has won five times at Michigan, but more importantly, the maximum Toyota horsepower engine set-up has won five races this season on fast tracks. During final practices, Martin was fast in short and long runs. Martin looked like what we had seen in practices earlier this season with Kyle Busch and Kenseth.

With Martin being the lone power guy for Toyota, a wager on him also takes on the risk of having an engine that forced TDR to make a change. Their engines were expiring. Winning races was great early on, but now it‘s about points racing for a lot of these drivers. When you blow an engine, you blow a day and end up with a finish position in the 30’s, which can blow up a season. Martin is not in the Chase race, and is expendable, but he’s also very fast. His large price makes the reward trump the risk in this spot.

Read More Here...........Final Top-10 Rated Drivers Chart

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