My Brain on NASCAR: Time to bone up on your Biffle for Chase

I am fortunate to be invited to do regular weekly NASCAR segments on a couple of local radio talk shows. While the subject matter differs from week to week according to what just happened or what’s getting ready to happen, there’s a certain comfortable rhythm to each show, since by and large the things fans are interested in don’t really change all that much.

We usually spend a few minutes analyzing Tony Stewart’s performance in the most recent race – both on and off the track — handicapping his chances for the next event, and trying to decide whether the three-time champion may be, in the complicated technical term listeners like to use, toast.

I believe not.

We then spend several more minutes talking about anything remotely related to Dale Earnhardt Jr. I truly believe that if fans could get information on the number of freckles Earnhardt has on the back of his left hand, it would generate a flurry of Tweets ranging from whether it’s bad luck to have an odd number of concentrated melanin spots on a particular body part, to the potential aerodynamic effects of beauty marks in general. There’s a hot topic for you.

We then move on to discuss whether Earnhardt is an overrated driver and whether Rick Hendrick made a mistake in hiring him. Well, Junior has been a model of consistency this season and was one of the first three drivers to officially clinch a spot in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, so again, I believe not.

We like to open the familiar Kyle Busch can of worms, which some savvy PR guru should really consider marketing as a duel package with the Kurt Busch can of controversy .The tone of these callers is a somewhat celebratory right now, since Jeff Gordon, with a little help from Busch’s crew chief, knocked Kyle out of the Chase at the very last possible second. “Kyle Busch” and “fan favorite” are terms you rarely hear in the same sentence. Some folks want to contend that Busch’s early career success was just a flash in the pan, and soon the luster will fade away.

Don’t even be tempted to believe that. It’s delusional. Ever heard of fool’s gold?

We will now commence to talk about the Chase as it unfolds, and discuss various drivers’ hopes as they rise or plummet according to the vagaries of each week’s race. Fans are very interested in whether or not Jimmie Johnson has what it takes to win his sixth championship.

I don’t believe I’d want to bet against him.

We’re in South Carolina, so some guy will invariably call and remind us that first, we should keep the NASCAR talk to a minimum because it’s football season (duh), and that second, the first driver to win three consecutive Cup Series championships was Cale Yarborough. We don’t really need this reminder, as no child is allowed to graduate from high school in the Palmetto State without first demonstrating that he knows and fully understands the significance of this piece of racing history. Still, we never tire of discussing it.

This in turn always leads to the comment that if Yarborough and fellow legendary South Carolinian David Pearson were driving today, they’d show all these young whippersnappers like Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin a thing or two about “real racing”.

I’m not exactly sure what to think about that theory, but I know Stewart would be tickled at being called a whippersnapper, and I absolutely believe it would be a ton of fun to watch.

Someone we don’t talk a whole lot about is Greg Biffle. We don’t dedicate entire segments to Biffle because he simply isn’t a guy who draws much attention to himself. Once you get past the major surface facts – he drives the No. 16 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, he has won a couple of championships in NASCAR’s support series, he made some pretty funny Subway commercials a couple years back – fans don’t really know all that much about him. Given his performance so far this season, however, he is currently forcing millions of eyes to swivel and focus in his direction.

So here, for storage in your NASCAR information banks are a few items of Biffle interest. (Friendly suggestion: You might want to memorize this stuff, in order to seem knowledgeable when discussing the top-ranked drivers of the 2012 season. I believe he might have a good shot at ending up at the very top.)

Biffle is the only driver in NASCAR history to win both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championships, so if he wins the Sprint Cup Series title, he’ll become the first guy to accomplish that feat, too. His Truck Series title in 2000 was the first NASCAR championship in any series for Roush Racing. His team is seldom embroiled in any type of “mechanical controversy,” like some others we could mention but won’t as we don’t like to point the finger at the No. 48.

At age 42, Biffle is one of the more seasoned drivers on the circuit. He has won 18 Cup Series races in his career. His best finish in the driver standings was second, behind champion Tony Stewart in 2005.

He is an avid animal lover and, along with his wife Nicole, established the Greg Biffle Foundation. The Foundation’s primary goal is to improve the well-being of animals by contributing generously to the Humane Society, no-kill shelters, spay and neuter clinics, and the Animal Adoption League. I don’t believe anyone dislikes a dog lover, although cats may be another matter.

NASCAR is a loud, spectacular sport. It certainly doesn’t hurt a guy to have splashy stuff like a famous last name, movie-star good looks or an athletic back flip going for him. But sometimes, the guys who aren’t constantly hounded by cameras and who like to keep their engines wide open and their mouths shut can give us plenty to talk about. It’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for.

Greg Biffle is a good sport, a good guy and, most importantly for this discussion, an extremely good driver. There is also a good possibility he could assume the title of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion after the final lap at Homestead-Miami is run in November and the 2012 season is complete.

Could this really happen?

You’d better believe it could.

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