Biffle pulls fast one at Dover, comes from nowhere to win

Driver surprisingly reigns in MBNA RacePoints 400

Kyle Busch finishes second

Auto Racing

June 06, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DOVER, Del. - To many among the 140,000 at Dover International Speedway yesterday - and even to a few drivers in Nextel Cup cars racing against him - the appearance of Greg Biffle as the driver to beat was unexpected.

"Where did Greg Biffle come from?" were the first words spoken by second-place finisher Kyle Busch yesterday after Biffle and his No. 16 Ford had scored a 4.281-second victory over Busch in his No. 5 Chevrolet in the MBNA RacePoints 400.

"At the end, there was no catching Greg Biffle," Busch said. "He was checking out."

Biffle has been quietly checking out much of the season. Yesterday's victory was his series-leading fourth and brings him within 46 points of leader Jimmie Johnson, who finished fourth in his No. 48 Chevrolet.

The race was what third-place finisher Mark Martin called "good old-school racing," in which drivers gave one another room - most of the time.

"The best man won," Martin said. "That's the way racing should be ... green-flag racing, plenty of it. The guys who had the best cars were able to go to the front and stay in the front. The guys who made the best adjustments in the last 200 laps really are the ones that won the race, because up until that point Biffle was behind me. So those guys hit it on the money."

Unlike last weekend in Charlotte, N.C., where these same drivers set a NASCAR record for the most cautions in the sport's 56-year history, this race was the cleanest of the season. There were just seven yellow flags for 33 laps, and four of them were for debris. Only one created controversy, that being the one involving four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon and 2002 champ Tony Stewart as the two were about to emerge from Turn 2 on Lap 42.

"I got into the back of him," Stewart said. "It doesn't take too much of a rocket scientist to figure that out, now does it?"

Gordon, who finished 39th and dropped out of the top 10 in the points race, said Stewart was a little faster and he "probably" was going to move out of the way on the backstretch.

"Tony just ran out of patience," Gordon said. "The next time Tony is holding me up, it won't take long for me to move him out of my way."

Stewart saw it differently.

"Everybody else was doing a pretty good job of give and take," Stewart said. "It's just when you get around Jeff, he always takes more than he gives. I don't known what it is with him and Jimmie [Johnson] and Ryan [Newman], but it's a group of them that think the roads are named after them - one way."

Stewart said he hadn't planned to knock Gordon aside. "I just wanted to get close enough that he knew I was there to say, `Hey, you know, let us go, and if you're faster, we'll let you go.'"

The only problems Biffle had were the ones he created for himself. First, he and crew chief Doug Richert made major changes before the race that tightened the car much more than they expected and forced them to spend nearly the entire race loosening it up with wedge and track-bar adjustments.

Then, they got it too loose, and on Lap 157 coming out of Turn 3, Biffle got sideways.

"I had the wheel turned, completely locked," he said. "My front wheels wouldn't turn anymore. I was looking at the guy beside me. Then I started turning it back."

He got it under control and kept driving, adjusting his style to the car.

Finally, after crossing the finish line with an average speed of 122.626 mph, he got so enraptured with his thoughts that while attempting to do a celebratory burnout, he backed the car smack into the front-stretch wall.

"It was so overwhelming to win today, and I was so excited to win and I was thinking about that," Biffle said. "I had a lot of guys riding with me. I had the picture taped to my roll bar of a soldier, Ryan Doltz, who died in Iraq one year ago today. And I met a soldier just before the race who had lost his leg and he was so excited and enjoying life.

"I was thinking about them, and I hit the wall and I really didn't care. It just meant a lot to me to win today."

Biffle drives the National Guard car, and he has been driving it fast since the middle of last year.

Now, he said he doesn't want to be overconfident or arrogant, but he'd just won for the fourth time in 13 races and he has strong feelings about his race team.

"I feel we could win seven or eight races this season, with some of our good racetracks coming up," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling to believe you have the opportunity to win almost any week."

At Dover, Del.

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400, $282,800, 122.626 mph. 2. (22) Kyle Busch, Chevy, 400, $208,275. 3. (12) Mark Martin, Ford, 400, $163,450. 4. (1) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 400, $178,271. 5. (11) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 400, $140,183. 6. (27) Brian Vickers, Chevy, 400, $118,455. 7. (23) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 400, $142,321. 8. (4) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 400, $135,806. 9. (10) Kurt Busch, Ford, 400, $140,785. 10. (3) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 400, $138,851.

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