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Biffle scores Chase wins in Kansas

Biffle scores Chase wins in Kansas

NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup tightened up on a day when seven Chase drivers took turns atop the scoring pylon and finished in the top 10. In the end, though, it was Greg Biffle, in a 140-point championship hole and an afterthought in the title hunt, whose car was dialed in when it mattered. Biffle led the final 28 laps in the Price Chopper 400 from Kansas Speedway to earn his second win of the season.

“You know, everybody asked us last week if we’re out the Chase, have we given up, whatever the case was,” Biffle said. “The 16 team will never give up. We’re just going to approach each race like we did today: qualify the best we can, do the best we can in practice, execute the best we can at the racetrack. We’re going to go to California and do the same thing, Charlotte Motor Speedway, you know, see what happens.”

Tony Stewart led a race-high 76 laps, but Biffle and his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team lurked in the top 5 throughout the day. He first took the lead on lap 188 of 267 and made the deciding pass of Paul Menard on lap 239.

“I was just reluctant to adjust on the car,” Biffle confessed. “You know, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’kind of attitude.When you’re running the worst you’ve run all day — fifth or sixth, most of the day you’ve run third —you hate to start adjusting on things just to see what it’s going to do. ‘Well, let’s just try this.’ You don't want to go backwards.

“I didn't want them to stick the wedge wrench through the window and start turning on it.Finally,I decided I could run right there with Tony [Stewart], then he started to get loose.I could pull back in on him.We were pretty even.I thought if I could get a little bit better where I could put the gas down coming off of Turn 4 —that’s where he beat me is Turn 4, everybody beat me there — I could beat him in [Turns] 1 and 2, I’d be good.

“So we put wedge in it, air in the left rear.My gosh, that was it, it was over.The car picked up a tenth, tenth-and-a-half [of a second] a lap.I put another wedge in it when we did the next set of tires, and the thing was faster yet.”

Perhaps overshadowing Biffle’s win, which brought him to within 85 markers of the points lead, was Jimmie Johnson’s perseverance. Johnson qualified 21st and spent much of the day mired in heavy traffic. Working feverishly to help the handling of the machine, Johnson fell back in the 30s at one point before methodically working his way through the field to finish second.

“Honestly, I drove 400 miles with my tongue hanging out just, sawing at the wheel trying to get everything I could,” Johnson said. “[I’m] very pleased to have walked that fine line and didn’t make any mistakes. My crew did the same. Chad [Knaus, crew chief] called a great race. We needed all those things to work together in order to get a good finish and we did that.”

The runner-up effort propelled Johnson past Denny Hamlin, who finished 12th, into the championship lead by a scant eight points.

Kevin Harvick, by virtue of a third-place finish, gained ground in the title hunt, as well. Harvick sits third,30 points in arrears of Johnson.

“We had a strong car really from the drop of the green flag all the way till the end,” Harvick said. “Obviously, we would have liked to win.We lost some track position there on those last couple pit stops — just took a little bit longer to get through traffic than we would have liked. [I] felt like we had a great car and just finished third and on to California we go.”

Stewart dropped to fourth in the rundown after holding point for much of the race. Fellow Chasers Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth finished fifth-through-seventh. Paul Menard, Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.

Kyle Busch suffered the biggest points hit of the day. After a lap 53 incident with David Reutimann, in which Reutimann’s car spun and made contact with the wall, Busch was given a dose of payback. Reutimann ran up on the No. 18 car off of Turn 2 and made hard contact on lap 156. The resulting damage to Busch’s rear suspension and aerodynamics hindered his efforts. He finished 21st.

“It’s just really unfortunate, you know,”Busch said. “These guys work their butts off and to put ourselves in the Chase and to have the opportunity to try to go after a championship and to have it end up something like that today.

“The guy [Reutimann] was loose, [he] said it on the radio. He slid up off the bottom and I got into him unintentionally and just spun him out — my fault, 100 percent. But then the retaliation to a guy that’s in the Chase that’s racing for something … he’ll be here next year. He could’ve wrecked me in any of the first 26 races next year, that would’ve been fine.

“It’s just hard to swallow something like a day like today where we had a top-5 car going. We salvaged the best we could, but still far off of where we could’ve been.”

Reutimann, who has had a couple run-ins with Busch in the past, had a much different point of view.

“I don’t care if you’re in the Chase or not,” Reutimann said. “You need to think about who you’re running over when you’re running over them. I don’t care who you are. If you’re in the Chase, you have as much responsibility to drive with respect as I do or anybody else.”

The top eight drivers in the Chase standings are within 85 points of the lead. After the aforementioned top three, Edwards (-53) is fourth, followed by Gordon (-58), Kurt Busch (-70), Kyle Busch (-80) and Biffle (-85). Jeff Burton took a hit, dropping from seventh (-80) to ninth (-101) after finishing 18th in Kansas.

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Matt Taliaferro