Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NASCAR: The Biff Arrives

There is no one, no one, who drives a race car as hard – lap after lap – as Greg Biffle.  No one.

And there is no one with better car control in NASCAR than Greg Biffle.  No one.

No, not even Kyle Busch, although he comes closest.
At least once a race you’re treated to a shot of the No. 16 car completely sideways in the corner with “The Biff” somehow maintaining control.  It’s not necessarily the fastest way around a track, but it sure is fun to watch. 
So why hasn’t he won more races? 
Biffle, from Vancouver, Washington, captured the Camping World Truck championship in 2000 and the Nationwide Series title in 2002, both driving for Jack Roush.  When he moved up to the Sprint Cup series in 2003 with Roush, most figured it was only a matter of time before he became the first driver ever to score the NASCAR Triple Crown, a championship is all three major series.
That was 377 races and just 17 Sprint Cup wins ago.  Not bad, better than most, but certainly not what was expected.  He didn’t win a race in 2011 and was out of contention for The Chase by mid-season.  It was a career low point. No one mentioned Biffle early this year in the pre-season discussions about championship contenders.    Biffle is first to admit that things have been tougher than he thought.
“You know, when I moved from the Truck Series to Nationwide, it was a huge step,” Biffle says.  “It was much, much harder. And when I moved from the Nationwide to the Cup Series, I had no idea that the competition was going to be what it was.  I knew it was going to be hard.  But man, it’s tough, and there’s a lot of great drivers in this sport and a lot of good equipment.  But I knew it was going to be hard.”
This year has been different from the start.  Things actually began turning around last year when Matt Puccia took over as crew chief, with Biffle capturing three second-half pole positions.  He should have won this year’s Daytona 500.  Only a faster pit stop by Kenseth and Biffle’s willingness to sacrifice his own chance at a win while pushing Kenseth to the finish line, relegated him in third place.  He followed that with third place finishes at Phoenix and Las Vegas.  But still no wins. 
Until Texas.  
The win came in impressive fashion, Biffle chasing down Jimmy Johnson and diving under him when the five-time champion flinched in traffic.  Biffle went on to the win, while Johnson went on to scrap the wall trying to keep up and whine about slower cars getting in his.  It was classic Biffle, on the edge, lap after lap.   
"I was driving sideways around the corners trying to catch him, and I could tell I was catching him,” Biffle said.  “He got in some lapped traffic and I got my shot. When I got underneath him, I was surprised how easy it was."
The Biff had arrived.    And he’s primed to take off.
Next up is Kansas.  He’s very good at the track with two wins, six top fives, eight top 10s and one pole position.  He has the best average finish among active drivers of 8.2, just ahead of Johnson at 8.3.  Still ahead are Darlington and Michigan, both driver tracks where Biffle shines.  By mid-season this year, just one year after Biffle's lowpoint, it may be that no on is asking why he doesn't win more.

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