Speeds down after NASCAR tire switch
By NOAH TRISTER
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) Greg Biffle posted the fastest speed in an extra Sprint Cup practice session Saturday night - and it was quite a bit slower than his run the previous day.
The Cup cars finally slowed down when NASCAR held the extra practice because of a tire switch for Sunday's race. Biffle's speed was 195.647 mph - he had topped out at over 204 on Friday on the newly repaved surface at Michigan International Speedway.
"The tires are really hard, you can tell," Biffle said. "It is giving up a lot of grip. It is kind of funny, you can hear the tires squealing when you first go out, before it builds temperature, you can feel it sliding on the racetrack. It slows the cars down and as it builds heat it actually starts to gain some of that grip back."
The tire switch was announced Friday night, but it wasn't in effect for qualifying Saturday, when 19 drivers surpassed the 200 mph mark. Teams then scrambled to prepare for Sunday's 400-mile race under different circumstances.
"It kind of threw us for a loop - the engine guys mostly," Biffle said. "They have set amount of miles we can put on the engines and we are a little over this weekend. We are on the throttle so much around here that we are a little concerned with the engine package anyway. This is a little added blood pressure for them all day tomorrow."
GORDON'S OUTLOOK: In a typical season, Jeff Gordon would likely be found in the top 15 in Sprint Cup points. But this has been anything but an ordinary year for the four-time series champion.
Gordon has been the victim of several unexpected problems throughout the season. It started in the Daytona 500 with a blown engine, then there was a blown tire at Darlington, a cut tire at Bristol, a blown engine at Kansas and engine overheating last week at Pocono.
Gordon is 22nd in the standings.
"I don't look at the standings where I'm at," Gordon said. "Probably unlikely that we're going to make it (to the Chase) but we're good enough and running good enough that we can win races. So, if we finally start to put it together, we'll make it in. And if we don't, we'll start working on it next year."
For all the problems his car has had, Gordon still has led the third-most laps (404) through 14 races. He has one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
"If we were running 25th every weekend, I would not be real happy," he said. "But when we're up front leading and top five, and tires and blown engines and silly crazy things that we've had happen to us, some of that is self-inflicted and those are the ones that are the hardest ones to accept.
"It's not been a fun year. It's not something that we're used to, being that far back in the points, but we also know we're a lot better than that."
INDYCAR TO MICHIGAN?: A spokeswoman for MIS says track president Roger Curtis talked Friday with a representative from the IndyCar series, and he's expected to resume talks in a couple weeks. IndyCar canceled a race in China later this season and is looking for a replacement.
Curtis said Thursday he'd be interested in bringing open-wheel racing to his track, although he wasn't sure how interested IndyCar would be in coming to MIS. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said that day he was hoping to start a dialogue with MIS.
Updated June 16, 2012