After he got to victory lane Sunday at Michigan, Greg Biffle threw down a jubilant proclamation.
"We're going to make a run at the title. I know they don't talk about us a lot, but they will when we get to Vegas," Biffle said.
Las Vegas, of course, is the site of the Sprint Cup Series championship banquet in December. And Biffle was referring to that head table on the banquet stage where he envisions his team sitting. And while Jimmie Johnson, the driver he ultimately overtook thanks to engine trouble to win Sunday at Michigan, may be considered the favorite in the minds of many, it's probably wise not to overlook Biffle, who now leads the standings by 20 points over teammate Matt Kenseth.
Biffle looked destined for second place with eight laps to go, but suddenly Johnson, who had stormed past Brad Keselowski for the lead just a few laps earlier, started having engine trouble and Biffle breezed by.
Johnson's engine expiration brought out a caution just shortly after Biffle seized the lead, but Biffle drove away from Keselowski on the final lap to take his second win of the season, matching a statistical oddity that has no bearing whatsoever on this year's championship but is too bizarre not to point out.
Biffle has won exactly, yes, exactly, two races in every even numbered year since 2004. Not more, not less. And it's 2012, an even numbered year. Will the pattern continue? If it does, Biffle has little shot at the title. Just once — Tony Stewart in 2005 — has a driver won the Chase without winning a single Chase race. Kurt Busch in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006 are the only two drivers to win the Chase with a single Chase win. With Tony Stewart's five Chase victories (and subsequent tiebreaker) last year, it's apparent that in this Sprint Cup age, it will likely multiple Chase wins to secure the trophy.
Unless you believe in the power of quirks, there's no reason to think that Biffle isn't one of the drivers capable of denying Johnson his sixth title. Biffle's first win of the season came at Texas, the site of the eighth race in the Chase, and of the eight tracks in the Chase that the Sprint Cup Series has already visited, he's got five top 10s and a lowest finish of 13th. If that success carries over, those are finishes that can put you squarely in title contention.