Of the 26 weeks of the Sprint Cup regular-season schedule, Greg Biffle led the points after 15.
He was the points leader at the end of the regular-season schedule – at least until the standings were reconfigured for the Chase seedings.
At no point during the regular season was Biffle lower than fourth in the standings.
Yet Biffle isn’t often mentioned as a title favorite in the runup to the start of the Chase Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Is he an underdog?
“It is so hard to pick,” Biffle said. “If you look at the 56 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the 16 (his team) and maybe the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) a little bit, but, then again, we have been at the top of the points the whole time. Maybe people just don’t expect us to continue to stay there for another 10 weeks.”
Biffle has made it clear that he feels his team hasn’t received the proper amount of respect for running so well all season.
Participating in his fifth Chase, Biffle has been to the edge of the title previously – second in 2005, third in 2008, seventh in 2009 and sixth in 2010.
He gave team owner Jack Roush his first NASCAR title by winning the Camping World Truck Series championship in 2000 and followed with the Nationwide Series championship in 2002.
A win in this year’s Chase would make Biffle the first driver to hold all three major NASCAR championships.
“We have been talking a lot about the Chase for several weeks, probably the last two months, getting ready,” Biffle said. “What can we do to get better and keep the consistency that we have?”
Biffle was encouraged by a ninth-place run at Richmond last week in the regular-season closer.
“The Richmond car was a new brake package and a brand new build,” he said. “It was my best Richmond race in the last two or three years. It was a huge improvement for our short-track program. We’re going to turn that car around and take it to Loudon (for the second Chase race). I feel a lot better about Martinsville (typically one of Biffle’s worst tracks) with our brake package and the way that car drove.”
Although Biffle is a Chase veteran, this is the first playoff period for Matt Puccia, his crew chief.
“I’m not giving him any advice,” Biffle said. “He’s got us to this point. You look at what he’s done. As long as he doesn’t do anything different, I think we’ll be fine. We were leading the points and had an engine failure at Pocono. We came back to lead the points again. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it right.”
Biffle said the Chase is wide open.
“In this Chase more than ever, I look at the 12 guys and I can’t pick one of them and say he has a mediocre chance versus a good chance,” Biffle said. “I can’t do that.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.