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Biffle ends his drought

He opens the Chase for the Cup playoff with his first victory in 34 races and moves from ninth place to third in the standings.

September 15, 2008|From the Associated Press

LOUDON, N.H. -- Greg Biffle began the Chase for the Cup as a longshot.

At best.

Winless for almost a year and seeded a distant ninth in the 12-driver field, few considered him a serious contender. But "The Biff" never counted himself out, believing a strong run Sunday in the opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway would put him in position to race for the Sprint Cup title.

Biffle used a self-described "textbook pass" on Jimmie Johnson with 12 laps to go at the Sylvania 300 to snap a 33-race winless streak and vault all the way to third in the Chase standings. He trails co-leaders Johnson and Carl Edwards, his teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, by only 30 points.

"I felt like we were a definite threat for the Chase if we made it because of the momentum we've had and how good the [Chase] racetracks are for me," Biffle said. "There were some that I was a little nervous about, and one was Loudon. We've gotten through the one a little better than I expected, which is here, so I feel like we're definitely the dark horse."

Johnson, the two-time defending series champion, seemed to have the first round of the Chase locked up after leading a race-high 96 laps. But Biffle was saving his Ford, hopeful that a late caution or two would give him the chance he needed to run Johnson down.

He got it when Patrick Carpentier spun late, setting up a restart with 13 laps to go. Biffle slid past Johnson on the next lap to grab the surprise win and leave Victory Lane with a notable swagger. It was his first victory since winning at Kansas last September.

Johnson finished second and said he knew Biffle would make a run on him after David Ragan and Carpentier brought out a pair of cautions with fewer than 20 laps to go.

"Short runs is what hurt me the most. I felt a little vulnerable, and sure enough he got by," Johnson said. "But the big picture, second place is not a bad day at the office."

Edwards finished third and was followed by Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Chase drivers swept the top five spots.

Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., two drivers not eligible for the Sprint Cup title, finished sixth and seventh.

Chase drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.

Kyle Busch, the regular-season points winner, struggled from the start in a disaster of an opening race. He broke the sway bar on his Toyota just minutes after the race began, and struggled to keep his car off the wall as he tried to nurse it to the mandatory first caution at Lap 35.

He barely made it and fell two laps off the pace -- one lap because of a penalty -- and restarted in 43rd place. He was in a later wreck and finished 34th, 12 laps down.

After starting the Chase with an 80-point cushion, he tumbled all the way to eighth in the standings.

Still, no one was counting out the most dominant driver this season.

"We just have no clue what's going to happen with the races to come," said Johnson, who finished 39th in the 2006 Chase opener but rallied to win his first title.

Joey Logano, the 18-year-old phenom who is replacing Stewart in the No. 20 car next year, had a long race in his Cup debut.

He pulled away on an early pit stop with the jack hanging from his car and had to return for a penalty that mired him in the back of the field. He finished 32nd, three laps down.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Standings

*--* Driver Points Behind 1. Carl Edwards 5,220 -- 2. Jimmie Johnson 5,220 -- 3. Greg Biffle 5,190 30 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,170 50 5. Jeff Burton 5,170 50 6. Denny Hamlin 5,148 72 7. Tony Stewart 5,147 73 8. Kyle Busch 5,146 74 9. Clint Bowyer 5,137 83 10. Kevin Harvick 5,134 86 11. Jeff Gordon 5,121 99 12. Matt Kenseth 5,043 177 *--*

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Associated Press

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