April 10, 2012
Biffle surprise Sprint Cup leader
By Dean McNulty, QMI AGENCY
Just what the heck is going on in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship this season?
Admittedly it is only six races into a 36-race season but did anyone expect to see last year’s runner up Carl Edwards languishing in 11th spot, 47 points behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate and Cup leader Greg Biffle at this stage?
Or four time champion Jeff Gordon, way back in 21st spot, 90 points back, with only a single Top 10 finish in the first half dozen events?
Let’s look at some of the surprises so far this year.
Carl Edwards: After finishing in a tie with Tony Stewart last season Edwards kept repeating his mantra that the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team didn’t have to make any adjustments going into 2012. He may have to re-think that plan with both Biffle, in the No. 16 RFR Ford and Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 RFR Ford, outperforming Edwards so far.
Greg Biffle: He may be the most unexpected No. 1 driver in NASCAR. Biffle is starting out his season the way that Edwards did in 2011. The No. 16 RFR squad has yet to claim a victory but has four Top 10s in the first six events. Remember that Edwards led most of the 2011 season with just one win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: For a guy who hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race since July 2008 at Michigan International Speedway, Earnhardt is doing something right this year in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. His has Top 5 finishes Daytona, Fontana and Martinsville. His losing streak could end Saturday at Texas.
Denny Hamlin: Few in the Sprint Cup garage doubted Hamlin’s talent but a disappointing 2011 season that followed his heart-breaking loss to Jimmie Johnson in 2010 had the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team on the ropes. But with new crew chief Darrian Grubb — Stewart’s Cup winning pit boss last season — Hamlin has rebounded big time.
Clint Bowyer: There were plenty of whispers that Bowyer may have made a mistake leaving Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota but the Emporia, Kansas, native has picked up right where he left off last season with three Top 10 finishes so far.
Jeff Gordon: The four-time champion may be regarded as a slow starter but to be down in 21st place, 90 points back of Biffle at this stage of the season is a big hole for the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet team to have to climb out of if he expects to make the Chase for the Championship this season.
Kasey Kahne: He came to Hendrick with much fanfare. Kahne was pencilled in as an immediate contender for a berth in the Chase but so far the No. 5 Chevrolet squad has been plagued with bad luck. He has a pair of poles but nothing else to show so far. He is currently way back in 31st place.
Kyle Busch: He may be the most unpopular driver in Sprint Cup but he came into this season with the most wins of anybody over the past five seasons in all of NASCAR’s top three series. But the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team is off to a horrible start with just two Top 10 finishes.
Steve Arpin, a former dirt racing champion racer from Fort Francis, Ont., will get his first start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season Friday at Texas Motor Speedway in the Turner Motorsports’ No. 30 Chevrolet with crew chief, Trent Owens. Arpin is a former winner at Texas in the ARCA Series. He will be supported by his long time sponsor Mike’s Hard Lemonade ... Motocross and rally car champion Travis Pastrana will make 11 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this season as well as several Nationwide Series events in 2012 starting with the Richmond 250 at Richmond International Raceway, April 27, in the No. 99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.