Greg Biffle saved his best for last. Biffle grabbed the lead from Jimmie Johnson after a restart with 12 laps to go and claimed his first win of the season in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Biffle led 46 laps earlier in the...
Greg Biffle saved his best for last.
Biffle grabbed the lead from Jimmie Johnson after a restart with 12 laps to go and claimed his first win of the season in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Biffle led 46 laps earlier in the race but Johnson looked like he was going to run away with the win in the first race of the Chase for the Championship. But a late caution stacked the field up and Biffle stormed by Johnson on the restart to take the lead.
"I was holding back at the middle part of that run," Biffle admitted. "Then we got those cautions thankfully that closed us up to Jimmie Johnson and gave me a shot at him. I was a little better than him on that short run. He was a little bit loose and I knew it."
Biffle spent most of the week telling the media that he felt like his team was starting to come together at just the right time. Maybe he was on to something.
He had a fourth place finish at Michigan last month and finished second to Johnson two weeks ago at Fontana. Another strong day today gave him his first win in more than a year.
"I can't describe it," Biffle said. "I needed a lot of help to get here. Everybody has just given me so much help and support."
Biffle is third in the points and is looking to become the first driver to win championships in all three of NASCAR's top divisions. He won the Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2000 and Nationwide Series title in 2002.
Johnson, who is looking for his third straight Sprint Cup championship, was making a bid for his third straight win. He took the lead from Carl Edwards on lap 66 and then passed Biffle when his crew turned in the fastest pit stop under caution on lap 216.
"On long runs we were very strong all day long," Johnson said. "The short runs are what hurt me the most. I felt a little vulnerable. I was inching back up to him but I didn't have enough laps."
Johnson is looking to become just the second driver in NASCAR history to win three straight championships. Cale Yarborough did it 30 years ago.
Johnson leaves New Hampshire tied for first in the standings with Edwards.
"I'm preparing for it to be close," Johnson said.
The starting lineup was set by points after qualifying was rained out on Friday.
Edwards started on the outside of the front row and needed just three laps to take the lead from points leader Kyle Busch. He paced the next 34 laps before competition caution was thrown on laps 36. Edwards struggled with a tight set-up after that and surrendered the lead to Johnson. He finished third and is tied with Johnson for the point lead.
"It's cool to be leading the points," said Edwards, who picked up his seventh top-10 finish in the past eight races. "I'm pumped. It just wasn't any good in practice and (crew chief) Bob Osborne did a great job coming up with a set up."
Jeff Burton also had a solid day, coming home fourth.
"We didn't have the fastest car all day, but we had the fastest car every now and then," Burton said. "We kept ourselves in position and ran in the top five all day. That's the kind of runs we need to get back to having. We ran well."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead from Johnson on lap 89 but had a slow green flag pit stop midway through the race that cost him the lead. He finished fifth.
"It was some great racing," Earnhardt said. "The car was awesome and we were leading the race and then we put on a set of tires and fell all the way to 10th. We put on another set and we were fine. We just lost all that track position."
Kurt Busch won the rain shortened race here in July and finished sixth today while Martin Truex Jr. rallied late in the race for a seventh place finish.
Tony Stewart was solid early and was battling for the lead within the first 80 laps but was held up exiting his pits on lap 84 and dropped back to 34th. He was also hit with a speeding penalty on a green flag stop midway through the race that put him a lap down. Stewart got a free pass back onto the lead lap late in the race and finished eighth.
Denny Hamlin was among the leaders most of the day but lost some positions late in the race when he pitted for fuel. He finished ninth.
"It was an OK day," said Hamlin, who jumped up to sixth in the standings. "We ran really well but we just couldn't make it (on fuel). It still was a good day it just wasn't our day as far as fuel mileage."
Kevin Harvick struggled early, dropping back several positions in the opening laps. He fell as far back as 31st before rebounding late in the race for a 10th place finish.
Clint Bowyer won this race last year and had the fastest car in practice but he lost the handling on his car early in the race and dropped back to a 12th place finish while fellow chaser Jeff Gordon finished 14th after struggling to get out of his pits cleanly.
Kyle Busch started on the pole and led three laps before dropping back in the field. He had a broken bolt on his sway bar and nearly wrecked on lap 20, glancing off the wall coming out of Turn 4. Busch lost a lap to the leaders while pitting to make the repairs and finally spun on lap 83. He came back on the track eight laps down and finished 34th and dropped to eighth in the standings.
"It wasn't very good," said Busch's crew chief Steve Addington. "When you have a part failure, it's one of those things that you can't do anything about. We're just going to have to go back and re-evaluate."
Chaser Matt Kenseth had a loose race car early but made up nine spots on pit road when they made a two-tire stop under caution on lap 84. He was running 12th when he was caught up in an incident on a restart with 70 laps to go that ended his day early.
"The lapped cars were all side-by-side," said Kenseth, who finished 40th and failed to finish the race for the first time this season. "We'll just take it one race at a time. We were running pretty good and were looking like we could slide out of here with a top-10."
Joey Logano made his Sprint Cup debut here today. He started 40th and was a lap behind the leader within the first 30 laps. He lost another lap when he was penalized for dragging his jack out of his pit stall. He finished 32nd.