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TARGET HOUSE 300

Biffle Edges Mears for Win

September 05, 2004|Mike Kupper | Times Staff Writer

Greg Biffle made it two for two Saturday in NASCAR Busch series stock car races this season at California Speedway.

Carrying a race-long duel with Dodge driver Casey Mears into the last four laps, Biffle squeezed his Ford ahead with three to go, then held off the Bakersfield driver the rest of the way in the Target House 300, averaging 147.844 mph. Biffle also won the Busch race the last time NASCAR was in Fontana, in May.

"I'm pretty happy to be [atop the podium] twice in a row," Biffle said.

Kevin Harvick was third in a Chevrolet, giving Nextel Cup drivers a sweep of the podium positions, but it didn't stop there. "Buschwhackers," or Cup drivers stepping down in class -- as they do so often at the bigger tracks when the Busch and Cup series are sharing a weekend -- also finished fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth.

Only three non-Cup drivers, Martin Truex Jr., the Busch series leader; Kyle Busch, the runner-up, and Jason Leffler, cracked the top 10, all in Chevies. Truex was sixth, Busch ninth and Leffler 10th.

Biffle is running both series for Jack Roush and has posted victories in both this season. Saturday's Busch triumph was his fifth, and he won the Nextel Cup race at Michigan International Speedway two weeks ago. In none of his other victories, though, did he have as good a time, he said, as he had here.

"This was the most fun I ever had winning," he said. "It was an awesome race. That's what's so exciting about Busch races."

Mears could only agree.

"That's the most fun I've had racing for a long time," he said. "I didn't win but I can go home happy. I had an absolute blast."

Biffle, in a car slightly down in power but sticky in the turns, and Mears, whose car had plenty of oomph but was loose in the corners, hooked up early and often as the race unfolded before a crowd estimated at more than 40,000. Biffle led 72 of the 150 laps over the two-mile, D-shaped track, Mears led 43.

"There were three or four times we were battling for eight, 10 laps at a time," Mears said.

The last battle was a four-lapper, though, and Biffle, in his better-cornering car, prevailed.

Coming off a caution period on Lap 147, Mears moved his Dodge outside coming out of Turn 2 and powered past Biffle on the back straightaway, driving into the lead.

Briefly, as it turned out. Biffle stayed with the low line, got underneath Mears' car a lap later, brushed him slightly as they came out of Turn 3 and made the final pass in the duel, then held off Mears for the next two laps.

"The fans really got their money's worth," Biffle said. "He was a little better in the straights but we were way better in the corners, so that made for great racing. It was fun racing him."

*

Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin and Rusty Wallace can tell you, it's not easy being an old-timer these days in Nextel Cup racing. All are still competitive but only Jarrett has a shot at making the top 10 for the decisive last 10 "playoff" races.

Then there's Bill Elliott.

In slightly more than a month, he's going to turn 51. He's semi-retired and has driven only five races this year. But he'll be starting third in today's Pop Secret 500, having qualified one of Ray Evernham's Dodges at 186.306 mph, only slightly slower than the 187.417 turned by pole sitter-whippersnapper rookie Brian Vickers in a Chevy.

"I didn't think much of it," said Elliott, who became "Million Dollar Bill" when he won the Daytona 500, Winston 500 and Southern 500 in 1985.

In fact, he said, he hasn't been thinking much at all about Nextel Cup racing.

"I just go do my own thing," he said. "I've been watching my son race his go-karts.... I do a little bit of dirt racing and I've done some of these race-of-champions deals with some other Cup guys.

"I'm so far removed from the day-to-day stuff that it makes it easier for me.

"They say, 'You've got to be in Southern California this weekend,' and I say, 'Well, OK.' ... I enjoy being a part of it and being part time, having a good time."

And qualifying third.

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