NASCAR: Biffle surging in Chase
By Mike Mulhern
It looks as if Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin have their act together in these opening weeks of the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs.
They’re taking their game right at their toughest challengers, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
Biffle simply out-drove his rivals in Sunday’s Camping World RV 400, and he put on a thrilling show, perhaps a bit too thrilling for car owner Jack Roush. It was Roush who said he was sweating out things in the final 40 miles as Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Edwards went at each other pretty ferociously.
Perhaps not since the Johnson-Kenseth race at Texas last fall has there been quite a finish like this: with so much on the line, and with such devil-may-care attitude.
And Kyle Busch, with a disastrous Sunday for the second week in a row, seems all but out of title contention. He’s in last place in the playoff standings, more than 200 points behind the new leader, Edwards.
Biffle, though because of NASCAR’s somewhat wacky championship points system, still isn’t leading the standings, trailing Edwards by 10 points.
But he and Erwin clearly have the momentum. In fact, they may be intimidating the competition. And they’re only 10 points down.
Biffle came 35 points from winning the 2005 title, a Cup he lost because of some loose lug nuts at Texas. And he’s won NASCAR Truck and Busch titles, so he knows how to win championships.
Biffle looked back at 2005 and said: “Actually, I feel stronger now. I feel we’re in better position now.
“We won five of the first 15 races in 2005, and then we were pretty good leading up to the start of the Chase. And then we were pretty decent in the Chase.”
Biffle sure put on a show. Outrunning Johnson and Edwards would be a good enough day, but what Biffle threw at Kenseth was amazing.
“A hell of a race,” Biffle said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Jack’s shoes, watching those three cars running into each other and going crazy out there.”
Roush said: “This is like a big Bristol, and the first time I went to Bristol ó and today ó I hyperventilated. I really need to have a paper bag to put on my head.
“It’s just hard not to lose your mind when you’ve got as many opportunities as there are, with the multiple cars, to be involved in something that’s just going to break your heart.”
Biffle, on the other, said he was cool about it. “It was kind of fun racing with Matt,” he said, “because Matt is so smart.
“When I got to him and got underneath him, he just moved up. He didn’t give me a chance to get on his outside because he knew I’d passed him twice or three times earlier on the top.
“Matt knew not to let me up there. So Matt decided to take that line and give me the bottom. This isn’t his first rodeo.
“Then Carl came up there and gave me a little help, got Matt loose off turn four. He really didn’t clear a lapped car down the front stretch, and I said ‘I know what I’m doing here: I’m going three-wide right in the middle of these guys, and right down on Matt’s door.”‘
And now it’s on to Kansas City where Biffle won last fall, in a controversial, rain-marred finish. Biffle was running out of gas, while leading late, and darkness and more rain were coming. He took the white and yellow for the last lap and limped around to the front stretch. But he slowed so much ó rivals said that was because he had run out of gas ó that Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson went on around him and actually crossed the finish line ahead of Biffle. Bowyer said he thought he’d won the race because Biffle hadn’t kept up proper speed under caution, as the rules require. Johnson agreed with Bowyer. But NASCAR nixed the complaints and gave the win to Biffle.
“I just think about it a lot, I replay the race in my mind,” Biffle said.
But not about the controversial finish.
“Greg and I talk about what we’ve got coming up … about the races I’ve won, the races I’ve lost, the championships I’ve lost, what I need to do to be better as a driver in order to beat Kyle Busch, Carl, and Jimmie and Jeff Gordon and Matt, everybody in the Chase.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to beat those guys. I can physically and mentally drive the car as good as those guys can. I just need to get it that good, and it’s up to me to do that …”