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Friday, August 19, 2011
Look for the Roush boys up front


This NASCAR season has me befuddled, and I love it.

There have been 15 different race winners already, with five of them winning for the first time.

There's been no dominant driver, as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick co-lead the series with three wins apiece. Only three other drivers have multiple wins this season, and none of those won at all last season.

Even ol' five-time, Jimmie Johnson, has only won a single race, and he did it in a plate race, where a host of drivers can win. Proof in point, the other two plate races this season have been won by first-time winners.

In my spring Michigan pre-race blog, I made a case that even though Johnson was winless at Michigan, he was among the favorites based on his strong numbers there. Well, now I'm reversing my course, as I'm apt to do.

It's not that he was never strong at Michigan, if not for a gallon more fuel, he might have a couple wins there. In 2009, Johnson led 279 of 400 total laps, plus he ran the fastest lap on a whopping 135 of those circuits.

In the three Michigan races since, Johnson's led only 14 laps and run the fastest lap 10 times. Plus, he spun out all by his lonesome here in the spring race.

So, who do I think will excel at Michigan? I like the Roush boys.

In the spring race, although none of them won, you could argue that they had the three fastest cars, as Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards ranked 1-2-3 in fastest laps run.

Since 2005, Edwards has put up the most impressive runs at Michigan, ranking first in the field in driver rating, average running position and overall green-flag speed.

He also ranks no worse than third in any speed category, while Biffle ranks no worse than fourth in any major loop data category.

So, we could see Biffle -- the pole sitter for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) -- become the 16th race winner this season, or perhaps Edwards pick up his second win.

Or maybe I'm completely off base and Johnson gets his first Michigan win, making me look the fool.

The Eliminator: Michigan

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1) There's been one first-time winner in 84 all-time Michigan races. (14 drivers eliminated, 32 remaining).

2) Of the last 83 Michigan winners, 82 had a previous top-5 finish at the track (10 eliminated, 22 remaining).

3) There have been 14 different winners in the last 14 second Michigan race (10 eliminated, 12 remaining).

4) The last seven Michigan winners finished in the top 20 in their last Michigan races (six eliminated, six remaining).

5) The last six Michigan winners finished in the top 20 in each of the last three Sprint Cup Series races (five eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Kyle Busch