CUP: Biffle Earning Respect With Top Runs

With the competition closing in on Greg Biffle in the points standings, the driver executed the perfect defense by winning.

Entering Texas Motor Speedway, Biffle’s NASCAR Sprint Cup lead had diminished to just a six-point advantage over Dale Earnhardt Jr. But the entire Roush Fenway contingent exhibited speed throughout the weekend, on the speed chart and in qualifying with Matt Kenseth and Biffle posting the second- and third-fastest laps during time trials.

On Saturday night, Biffle took command of the Samsung Mobile 500 for the first time on Lap 31. Biffle led five more times before finally getting the best of then-leader Jimmie Johnson on Lap 303. The five-time champion lost his composure while battling with the lapped car of Ryan Newman.

“Catching the (No.) 48 car at the end, I had to dig deep,” Biffle said. “It was all I had to be able to get to him, and it seemed like when I got to him it was too easy. I don't know if he used up his tires or the traffic — he had trouble, I think a little bit of trouble in traffic. That's when I could close in on him.”

Johnson’s moment of weakness provided Biffle with the perfect opportunity to secure the lead with 31 laps remaining — and end a 49-race winless streak in the process.

Biffle’s 17th career Sprint Cup victory also extended his points lead to 19 over Roush teammate Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earlier in Biffle’s career, he made winning appear easy. At 29, during the second full season in the Truck series, Biffle won nine of 25 races and finished second in the 1999 points standings. The following year, Biffle was crowned Truck champion. In 2001, Biffle won five of 33 Busch (Nationwide Series) races during his first year on the tour and finished fourth in NASCAR’s precursor to Sprint Cup. Biffle then backed up his performance with four wins and his second title in 2002.

When Biffle arrived for his first Cup season in 2003, team owner Jack Roush’s protégé seemed well on his way to becoming the first driver to secure NASCAR’s triple crown — titles in Cup, Nationwide and Truck. And while Biffle won as a rookie — and in each of the next five seasons — he quickly realized the depth of the competition at NASCAR’s top level.

Biffle came close to the title in his third Cup season. In 2005, he won six races but lost the championship to Tony Stewart by just 35 points. Now at 42, and after nearly a year of working with crew chief Matt Puccia, Biffle is determined to chase the Sprint Cup.

“When I moved from the Truck series to Nationwide, it was a huge step,” Biffle said. “It was much, much harder. And when I moved from the Nationwide to the Cup series, I had no idea that the competition was going to be what it was.

“I knew it was going to be hard. But man, it's tough, and there's a lot of great drivers in this sport and a lot of good equipment. But I knew it was going to be hard.

“But this year is my year, so I'm going to keep after it all the way to Homestead.”

Outside looking in

Michael Waltrip Racing continued to dominate in the Toyota camp with Mark Martin and polesitter Martin Truex Jr. finishing third and sixth, respectively.

On Friday, Waltrip credited Martin’s determination as being one of the catalysts for the company’s dramatic turnaround. But the ever-humble Martin transferred the spotlight back to the organization and his teammate Truex, who moved up to fourth in the points standings with his fifth top-10 finish of the season.

“They really have a lot of great people there with great attitude, great teamwork, and man, have I got one awesome crew chief in Rodney Childers,” said Martin, who posted his 13th top 10 in 23 races at Texas. “Martin Truex Jr. has been phenomenal, phenomenal. The teamwork I'm feeling right now at MWR is second to none I've ever been at. Martin Truex Jr. is really, really engaged, and he's working hard to help the whole program.

“We're racing three cars to put two in the Chase, for sure, and win races and try to go toe to toe with the likes of Hendrick and Roush and those guys. That's a tall order for right now. I'm very proud of the results we're getting. It's coming from a lot of good attitudes and hard-working people.”

Ironically, Martin, who is running a part-time schedule this season, has competed in five of seven races and sits 20th in points.

A heartbreaker

Marcos Ambrose appeared destined to secure his second top-10 finish in the Samsung 500 and deliver crew chief Todd Parrott a belated wedding present before the No. 9 Ford ran out of gas on the white-flag lap.

Ambrose qualified seventh and remained in the top 10 throughout the first 499 miles of the race, but as the leaders raced to the finish, Ambrose was forced to bring his car to the pits. And if the miscalculation in fuel wasn’t enough, NASCAR issued Ambrose a speeding penalty coming down pit road and scored him 20th, at the end of the longest line of lapped down cars.

Numbers game

2 cautions: Record number of yellow flags and caution laps (10).

3: Weekend sweeps for Roush Fenway Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

4: Hendrick cars finished in the top 10 – the first time since Talladega last spring.

160.577 (miles per hour) average speed of the race: The fastest Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway.

Say what?

Winner Greg Biffle on the windy racing conditions at Texas Motor Speedway: "I got a hole wore in my hand from holding onto the steering wheel. It was tough. The wind was blowing you all over the place. I was swatting flies all night long. The wind was blowing the car back and forth and over. That could be a factor in why there was no accidents. You would think that would cause one. Well, it made it so you couldn't really race side by side with a guy. I was nervous coming off Turn 2. I wouldn't run up on a guy coming off the corner like I normally would. I'd leave more room because I wasn't sure when the wind was going to blow my car one way or another."