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He who laughs last laughs best? Well, score one for Michigan pole winner Greg Biffle

 Greg Biffle: fastest at Michigan....but how about gas mileage? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   Nope, Greg Biffle didn't show up here sporting a black eye, as Boris Said promised to deliver a few days ago.
   And it was quite ironic that Biffle took the occasion here on Friday to win the pole for Sunday's Michigan 400 -- his first Sprint Cup tour pole since 2008.
   A little fired up, eh?

   While Biffle is here, Said is in Montreal for Saturday's Nationwide race, where he ripped Biffle again, though Said appeared to apologize for getting so carried away in the post-race garage at Watkins Glen: "I still think Greg Biffle is a jackass. We've settled our differences. I won't be going to Christmas dinner with him, that's for sure. (But) I don't think I'll be exchanging any punches with him either."
    Biffle here didn't mince words either: "I don't like Boris either.
    "But we've said our peace. Our deal is over with. We talked about that on the phone, and it's over."
   Until they meet again.
   One story here -- speed.
   Goodyear's tires are darned good this year….darned good.
   But with Friday's two fastest qualifiers, Biffle and Ford teammate Matt Kenseth, both over 190 mph – rip-roaring fast at this two-mile track – well, maybe a question is 'what's too fast here?'
    Too fast here? "Well, it's fast, but that's only one lap," Biffle said. "The next lap, you're three-tenths of a second slower; and the next lap, another two-tenths slower….and after six laps you're a full second a lap slower.
   "That's what makes this track fun, the fall off in speed like that."
    What might temper that fun is the probability this 400 will become another fuel mileage race, with fuel mileage more important than speed.
   And Biffle has had several fuel mileage issues this season, much to his chagrin.
   "Considering I've run out of gas almost every race this year….and last year we led the most laps here and ran out of gas, definitely it's an issue," Biffle said.
    "When you make power, it takes a lot of fuel. And Sunday could be a fuel mileage race."
     Biffle, stymied at the Glen with another gas mileage snafu, is under a lot of pressure here: "We've got to have a win to get in the chase. And this track and Atlanta (Sept. 4) are two good ones for us."
    Meanwhile, the summer's most surprising driver who was not so long ago derided as too wet behind the ears, to punkish, too excitable, is once again in the hunt, Brad Keselowski qualifying on the third row for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET start.
    Keselowski has become a hero this summer on the stock car trail.
    He was, well, all but woeful the first three months. Of course so was his teammate Kurt Busch.
   Then came Busch's big blowup at Richmond. And ever since the two Roger Penske drivers have been hot.
   Keselowski pulled off his first win of the year in that gas mileage gambit at Kansas, a race Busch dominated. Keselowski ripped off his second win this season two weeks ago at Pocono, driving despite a broken foot, an injury while testing at Road Atlanta.
   And Keselowski came dazzlingly close to a third win just Monday at Watkins Glen, with a dazzling performance that all but assures him of a spot in the championship chase.
   "It's been a good couple weeks for us," the lanky Keselowski says, still limping slightly. 
   "We've got a lot of good things going. Leading the 'wild card' standings…but certainly don't take that for granted.  That could go away if we don't keep performing. 
    "Last week was a big week for us, getting us up solidly in the top-20 and a little bit of breathing room."

     Dale Earnhardt Jr. reflects on Keselowski's early races on the Cup tour: "I don't know any rookie that's ever come in here and not ruffled some feathers.  That's just part of the process."
    Certainly the last two months Keselowski has earned respect.
    But his ironman performance in winning Pocono, well, that was a stunner.
   "What he did was cool, and it was good in the eyes of the sport, and to the fans, and endeared him to a lot of people, because of his stamina and his determination," Earnhardt says. "The fans need to see we have characters like that in the sport. It's not popular opinion that we are all that gritty.  You don’t really get the evidence of that too often in this day and age."

    So the 'good guy' Brad Keselowski story could easily roll on into the playoffs.
    But two or three races don't make a season.
    "I was really concerned after Loudon (July 17th)," Keselowski says. "We blew the tire at Loudon and had a terrible finish. Fell back to 23rd in points. 
     "It didn't look very good right there.  It looked very, very bleak. 
     "But I knew at any time we could get on a hot streak.  We had shown some performance….just without the execution.  I look at Charlotte as a perfect example, the All-Star and the 600, where I felt we were a top-five car at worst. 
     "At the end of the 600 we had the fuel mileage deal, had to check up, got all tangled up, and ended up finishing 20th.
     "The last few weeks we've had good execution combined with the speed we've had the last two to three months."

    For a while earlier in his career Keselowski seemed to be making a lot of enemies. Now, well, has he mended all those fences?
    Probably not. But he's not getting in so much trouble these days.
    "I don't really know how to mend fences…..and there are some I would like to mend," he says. "But there's no real playbook on how to do that.
    "I wish somebody could teach me. 
      "Mostly you just try to do right by yourself, by your team, and by what it means to be a competitor in this sport. 
     "Sometimes that's going to anger others.  I'm sure there are a couple of people not happy with me. 
     "But when you're making people angry, you're doing things right in this sport, because you're running well and you're getting all you can get out of it.
     "I'm sure there are a few that are not happy with me, but I don't think I have any that are super-mad at me…which is unusual for me at this time of the year."


    Something strange is going on this season – Goodyear is making tires so good that teams and drivers are actually complaining the tires at times are 'too good.'
   "We've seen major, major progress in the tires they've brought to the track," Brad Keselowski says. "They've really hit some strides lately. That's going to serve the sport well over the next few years.
    "I'm really interested to see what doors that opens up for the sport -- look at Watkins Glen, and the average lap time during the race was something like half a second to a second faster throughout the whole race. 
     "We've made our cars better, no doubt about it.  But you don't just find a second (a lap) in these cars. 
    "A lot of that work comes from the tire.  Goodyear has made huge gains. 
    "And I'd be the first one to tell you when they're doing a bad job. 
    "So I'm excited about that…and where the sport is going to go, if the doors that have opened up are used."

   Another Goodyear test is set for Phoenix next week, where there's new asphalt and a new track design.
   Goodyear just tested Martinsville for the Oct. 30th chase race.
   Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he's not that happy with the tire he thinks Goodyear has picked for Martinsville, though.
   "They brought the Watkins Glen tire (to test at Martinsville), and I loved it a whole lot," Earnhardt said. "It was to me clearly, without any doubt, the best tire that we had at the test. 
    "The tire we will use is a decent tire; but the Glen tire was by far a better product."
    The tire setup Earnhardt anticipates "over the long run wasn't as good a tire to race on, to pass people…because the left-rear tire is just going to burn right off it and you won't be able to get off the corner."

   Earnhardt is still miffed over the post-race scoring showdown with NASCAR after Monday's race at Watkins Glen, which ended under a freeze-yellow after the Boris Said-David Ragan-David Reutimann crash.
   Earnhardt protested his 15th place finish.
    "I was told NASCAR's opinion, and I was happy they gave me the opportunity to discuss that," Earnhardt said. "They gave me 15 or 20 minutes of their time, and we watched videos. 
     "I don't agree with the decision. Clint Bowyer crashed into Casey Mears and then went to the grass -- and in my opinion that means you're involved in the accident and shouldn't be able to maintain a position.  I think he lost a couple spots there…and those points are really important, especially right now."
   Bowyer's take: "The caution came out basically right at the moment I hit Tony Stewart, so I was like 'They weren't ahead of me.'
    "They actually passed me in the carousel. I never lost momentum; I was just off the track. I was trying to gather everything up and get going, and then I realized 'So what are these guys doing blowing my doors off?'
    "I couldn't go wide-open, but it wasn't like I was crawling. I was just dragging a lot of stuff."


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