Published April 21, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Greg Biffle leads the Sprint Cup standings. He's coming off a late pass of Jimmie Johnson to win at Texas and is now headed to Kansas Speedway, where he's won twice.
Everything seems to indicate that Biffle is on top of his game.
He's not so sure he's even tops on his team.
The often-overlooked driver at Roush-Fenway Racing still believes that title belongs to Carl Edwards, who became the poster boy for the organization during a dream 2008 season. But it's the former Trucks and Nationwide champion who has dominated this year, with top-3 finishes the first three races and a sixth-place run at California a few weeks ago.
"I still think the 99 is the No. 1 team at Roush. I'm the underdog," Biffle said, his face not for a moment giving the impression that he's kidding.
Edwards, who is 11th in points, had a different opinion.
"Right now, Greg is the No. 1 team — the 16 team is," Edwards said, "because they're leading the points and winning races."
Biffle, who qualified 17th for Sunday's race, has finished no worse than 13th this season. He has a 19-point lead in the standings over teammate Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The strong showings early in the season seem to validate a number of changes to the No. 16 team that owner Jack Roush made after last season. Biffle finished 16th in the points and went the entire year without a Sprint Cup win for only the second time in his career.
"We've run competitively at every venue," Biffle said. "The short tracks we've been pretty respectable. At this point I feel good about improving on all those fronts, just getting a little better than we are now."
The No. 16 team was about as good as could be last weekend.
He ran near the front at Texas most of the race before making a pass of five-time champion Johnson with 30 laps remaining. Biffle pulled away down the stretch to snap a 49-race drought and give himself a boost of confidence heading to one of his favorite tracks.
"It was certainly kind of a relief to finally get to Victory Lane," he said.
The 42-year-old driver understands his window for winning a title is rapidly closing.
He's come close before, winning six races in 2005 and finishing second to Tony Stewart by a mere 35 points. But since then he hasn't been able to put everything together as he did when he won the Trucks title in 2000 and the Nationwide championship in 2002.
No driver has won both of those series along with a Sprint Cup title.
"I feel the urgency because I'm ready to win it," Biffle said.
Biffle doesn't believe the expectations placed on him were unrealistic when he arrived in NASCAR's marquee series. He does acknowledge the competition was tougher than he expected.
"I feel better than I ever have in these past five seasons, the way our team is and how competitive we are," he said.
Biffle won at Kansas in 2007 and '10 and has a strong car again this weekend. But he nearly lost the car in Turns 1 and 2, the same corner where Johnson also got sideways during his run Saturday.
The near-miss left Biffle shaking a bit afterward.
"We were really close to having to pull out the backup," he said. "It just swept the bottom perfectly, but then it took off like it wasn't going to stop. ... It didn't end up being as bad as I thought, but when it first took off, I thought we were in trouble."
All the Roush-Fenway drivers will start in the middle of the pack Sunday.
Kenseth qualified 18th while Edwards was 21st, though the driver Biffle calls the leader of the team said he had a better car than he showed during his two-lap run.
"It felt pretty good, but it wasn't that fast," Edwards said. "Our race trim package is real fast, though. I think all the Fords are going to be tough to beat here. I think it'll be just like Texas with all the long runs and the cars sliding around."
Just like Texas? That ought to suit Biffle.
"When we got the points lead, I was like, 'OK, now we have to keep it and we have to perform at this level everywhere we go,'" he said. "We've been competitive. Now we have to keep it up."