Biffle baffling NASCAR

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The hands-down winner of the Surprise Driver of the Year so far is Greg Biffle. I don’t know of anyone who thought that Biffle would sit second in championship points and lead all drivers with four wins through 13 races.

Not that Biffle was an unproven driver – he won the Busch championship in 2002 and the Truck championship in 2000 – but he was sitting in 25th position at this point last year. And gaining 23 positions in a year has to be considered a surprise.

Biffle has been nothing short of dominant this year. Darrell Waltrip calls it the &uot;Luck of the I-Roush.&uot;

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Every year it seems that one particular Roush Racing driver goes through the year with holding the four-leaf clover. In 2003 it was Matt Kenseth and in 2004 it was Kurt Busch. However, I don’t think either of those guys were as dominate as Biffle has been this year.

Biffle has led an incredible 20 percent of all the laps run this year. That is an amazing fact. We have a long way to go before a champion is crowned in Miami in November, but it would be hard to bet against Biffle.

Jimmie Johnson held on to the points lead with a fourth-place finish is Dover last week, but the lead over Biffle decreased to only 46 points. Elliot Sadler, Ryan Newman, and Tony Stewart round out the top five in points. Through the halfway point in determining who will compete in the chase, 13 drivers are within 400 points of the leader.

Word is that Chip Ganassi is looking to clean house after this season. Sterling Marlin has been told that he is not in Ganassi’s plans for 2006 and now it looks like Casey Mears might be in jeopardy of loosing his ride. Mears has been a disappointment this year.

Early on, I picked him as a driver to watch to make the chase, but he currently sits 27th in the standings. Ganassi has a couple of very talented young guys to fill those seats. David Stremme, who races for FitzBradshaw Racing on the Busch circuit, looks to be in line for the no. 40 ride. Reed Sorenson, a 19-year-old Busch driver who I believe is the next big thing in NASCAR, is the heir apparent in the no. 41 Target car.

These changes, combined with the vacancies at Roush and Penske, will make this fall and winter very interesting for driver movement. Evidently, the contract situation with DEI and Martin Truex, Jr. is still not resolved. DEI would be best served to wrap this guy up and not let him get away. Jack Roush and Robert Yates would both love to have Truex, Jr. in their camps.

Pocono is the next stop on the circuit this week, the 14th race of the year.

Pocono is one of the most unique tracks on the schedule. It is a combination of dragstrip, superspeedway, and road course all in one. Pocono has the longest straightaway of any track, but that straightaway comes off one of the most difficult turns of any track. The uniqueness of the track combined with the new gear rule that NASCAR has implemented for this race make this anyone’s race to win.

Both Johnson and Jeff Gordon have had good success here, Johnson swept the races here in 2004 and both will be strong this week. However, my pick to win this race is Jeremy Mayfield. Half of his four career wins came at this track and who can forget his 1998 victory when he put Dale Earnhardt into the wall on the final lap?

The race coverage begins at 1 p.m. on FOX and the green flag should wave around 1:40. Enjoy the race.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C.

His racing column regularly appears in newspapers across the Southeast. He can be reached by e-mail at jeff.