If there’s one thing that’s been predictable about the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, it’s that it has been unpredictable so far.
The last 10 races have produced 10 different winners.
Veteran superstars Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch could all miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that two of those three will miss it.
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has an impressive three victories and 11 top-five finishes, but he also has four DNFs.
Defending and three-time champion Tony Stewart has been all over the map, winning three races and finishing 22nd or worse seven times.
Denny Hamlin, who was expected to contend for a championship, won two races early but has finished 20th or worse in eight of 23 races run so far.
Kevin Harvick, another expected title contender, hasn’t finished better than eighth in his last 10 races.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a breakout season, but has been up and down lately, finishing fourth four times in the last eight races, but 15th or worse in the other four.
Matt Kenseth is a lame duck at Roush Fenway Racing, and Penske Racing, where Brad Keselowski drives, is in its last year with Dodge.
The Michael Waltrip Toyotas of Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer have been consistently in the top 10, but have only one race victory between them.
Which brings us to Greg Biffle.
Quietly, the 41-year-old Vancouver, Wash., native has led the Cup points standings for half the season, never once falling below fourth.
In the last five races, Biffle has one victory, two top fives and an average finish of 6.80.
And Biffle thinks he’s ready to at long last become the first driver in NASCAR history to win championships in all three top divisions.
“Well, I know that a lot of people don’t expect us to win the championship and don’t expect us to compete for the title but I don’t care what they say or who they want to talk about or what they want to talk about,” Biffle said after winning last week in Michigan. “We will be a factor when it comes down to Homestead. I promise you that.”
So far at Bristol, Biffle is off to a good start. He was third fastest in the opening round of practice on Friday and when qualifying was rained out that meant the field was set by first practice times. So Biffle will start third on the grid, behind pole-sitter Casey Mears and Brad Keselowski.
In the final Happy Hour practice, Biffle was ninth overall, but had the fastest average speed among the 16 drivers who ran at least 10 consecutive laps.
Although Biffle has no victories at Bristol, he does have six top-five finishes in 19 career starts here and an excellent average finish of 11.842. This could be the night he finally seals the deal.
As for flying under the radar in the championship discussion, Biffle’s happy to have the attention focused elsewhere.
“That is good,” he said. “We will do the best we can and see what happens when we get there. It doesn’t bother me at all. It keeps people from asking me questions. Go talk to them about it. It keeps the pressure off me. We don’t want the pressure.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.