*Biffle's Second Straight Win Makes Him Legitimate Title Threat *Kansas Region Home To A Pair Of Stars In The Chase *Loop Data: Top 3 Chase Drivers Look Strong At Kansas *RCR Teams Making Noise In The Chase Biffle Makes History By Winning First...
*Biffle's Second Straight Win Makes Him Legitimate Title Threat
*Kansas Region Home To A Pair Of Stars In The Chase
*Loop Data: Top 3 Chase Drivers Look Strong At Kansas
*RCR Teams Making Noise In The Chase
Biffle Makes History By Winning First Two Chase Races
Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/Sherwin Williams Ford) has become the first driver to win the first two races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and in the process, has established himself as a top contender for the 2008 series championship.
Biffle, who entered the Chase as the No. 9 seed and winless over his last 33 races, won in dramatic fashion at Dover International Speedway last Sunday, passing teammate Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) with eight laps remaining to claim his 14th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. He's currently third in the point standings, trailing only Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet).
Biffle looks to continue his surge of momentum this weekend at Kansas Speedway, a track where he drove to Victory Lane in 2007.
"We've worked extremely hard to get our cars and our team where they need to be," said Biffle. "I guess if you want to use the term 'peak at the right time,' you could. I feel we have worked hard all season and now our hard work is starting to show up. I feel a lot better about this championship run than I did in 2005."
In 2005, Biffle won a series-high six races and finished second in the Chase, 35 points behind Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota). The Vancouver, Wash. native is the only driver to win both the NASCAR Nationwide Series (2002) and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (2000) championships and looks to add a championship in the sport's elite series to his resume.
Biffle is also a superb example of NASCAR's developmental system. In addition to the two series titles mentioned above, he was the 2001 NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year and the 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year. He cut his teeth in NASCAR racing by competing in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series -- a NASCAR Touring Division in 1997 -- and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series from 1994-97.
The remaining schedule in the Chase sets up pretty favorably for Biffle. In addition to his 2007 victory at Kansas, he has a series-best Driver Rating of 118.5 at the 1.5-mile oval and has posted three top-five finishes there. He's also won at Texas (2004) and is a three-time winner at Homestead-Miami (2004, '05, '06). More importantly, the relationship between Biffle and his crew chief, Greg Erwin, appears to be jelling at the right time.
"When I came on board about 15 months ago, there was a lot of work to be done," said Erwin, who joined Biffle's No. 16 team in May, 2007. "Obviously, at the beginning I really didn't have any kind of a relationship with Greg. So learning about him as a driver, we had some personnel issues and some pit crew issues. But, towards the end of last season, we made some really strong improvements that we were able to carry over into this season."
Heartland Of America Home To Two Of The Chase's Top Performers
Kansas is often referred to as "the heartland of America" and two of NASCAR's top Chase drivers call this region of the country home.
Carl Edwards, who is the Chase points leader for the second consecutive week, is from nearby Columbia, Mo., and considers Kansas Speedway his home track. Edwards has one victory at Kansas -- in the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event. Edwards finished 37th a year ago at Kansas and has one top five and two top 10s in his four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts there.
Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) is a product of Emporia, Kan., and is currently sixth in points. Bowyer gained three spots in the points standings following his eighth-place finish last week at Dover. Bowyer leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series by 186 points over Edwards, the series' 2007 champion. Those two will battle for home track pride this weekend at Kansas, beginning with the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Saturday and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.
"It's always fun to go back to Kansas," said Bowyer. "It's an important race track for me. You always want to go back and run well in front of the hometown crowd. Knowing that we've run well there in the past gives us a lot of confidence going into this weekend."
Loop Data: Top 3 Chase Drivers Look Strong At Kansas
The two-race-old Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has thus far been a three horse race involving Greg Biffle (winner of both Chase events), Jimmie Johnson (second at New Hampshire and fifth at Dover) and Carl Edwards (two third-place finishes).
Figure on more of the same this weekend, as Biffle and Johnson -- and to a lesser extent, Edwards -- boast sparkling Loop Data statistics at Kansas Speedway.
As he was at Dover, Biffle is once again the top-rated driver at Kansas. Over the past three Kansas races, Biffle owns series-best stats in Driver Rating (118.5), Average Running Position (6.4) and Laps in the Top 15 percentage (94.4%). In the categories he doesn't top, he ranks second. Biffle is the No. 2 driver in Fastest Laps Run (80) and Green Flag Speed (163.814 mph).
Johnson's right with Biffle in each of the above categories. Over the last three Kansas races, Johnson has a Driver Rating of 115.6 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 7.8 (third), 87 Fastest Laps Run (series-best), an average Green Flag Speed of 164.005 mph (series-fastest) and 111 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), which is tied for the series-best with Tony Stewart. The stats could be telling -- and an indicator of Sunday's finish. At Dover last weekend, Biffle and Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth ranked first and second in pre-race Driver Rating. Those two finished 1-2 in the race. But one thing about Kansas, the only thing predictable is unpredictability. The track has held four Chase races and three of those have been won by non-Chase drivers (Joe Nemechek in 2004; Stewart in 2006 and Biffle in 2007). If the same occurs this season, look for Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet) or Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) to contend for the upset win. Both own Loop Data statistics that rank among the top 10. Martin, the 2005 Kansas winner, has a Driver Rating of 105.0 (fifth) and an Average Running Position of 10.7 (fifth). Kurt Busch has a Driver Rating of 94.0 (seventh) and an Average Running Position of 15.4 (ninth).
RCR Teams Making Noise In The Chase
The three race teams in the Richard Childress Racing stable are all off to a solid start in the Chase.
Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) and Clint Bowyer are currently ranked 4-5-6 in this week's Chase standings.
Burton has been steady throughout the season, posting 14 top-10 and five top-five finishes to go along with his one victory -- the first Bristol race. Burton has finished fourth and ninth in the first two Chase events.
Harvick may be flying under the radar more than any other Chase driver. He has put together a string of eight straight top-10 finishes and jumped five spots in the standings last week after his sixth-place showing at Dover.
Bowyer gained three spots in the standings last week after finishing eighth at Dover. It is the second straight appearance for him in the Chase, as he finished third in the championship race a year ago.
Uphill Climb For Kyle Busch -- Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota), who entered the Chase as the No. 1 seed, has posted finishes of 34th and 43rd in the first two Chase races and finds himself 210 points out of the lead. While formidable, it certainly is not an insurmountable obstacle. Four times since the Chase began in 2004, a driver has seen a gain of more than 100 points in a single race -- the largest being a 148-point swing by Jimmie Johnson at Lowe's in 2004. Johnson's rally from 165 points down with seven races remaining in 2006 is the largest deficit an eventual champion has made up in the Chase.
Busch has already experienced a larger swing in the points than he currently faces this season. Entering Talladega earlier this year, Busch trailed then points leader Jeff Burton by 80 points. By the time the circuit had completed the race at Dover -- just five races later -- Busch led the standings by 142 points. That amounted to a swing of 222 points. In other words, don't count Kyle out just yet.
NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference: Jeff Gordon
This week's guest on the NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference was Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) of Hendrick Motorsports. The four-time series champion is currently eighth in points. Here are some excerpts:
Approaching the third race of the Chase:
Gordon: "I'm really looking forward to it. We've been working extremely hard on our mile-and-a-half speedway program. It hasn't been up to par for us this year on those tracks. We had a great test at Kentucky last week. I feel like a lot of the things that we learned there we can apply to Kansas. I think if any track is similar to Kentucky, it is Kansas. So we're looking forward to seeing if those things can apply and if we can get ourselves going down the right path."
Several past champions are going to be coming to Kansas without a winy this season. Does that surprise you and what does it say about NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in 2008?
Gordon: "I think it says how competitive it is ... I can say personally I've worked harder this year testing, working with the team at the racetrack and away from the racetrack than any other season that I've run and the frustrating part is that the results aren't showing for it."
The keys to winning at Kansas:
Gordon: "I mean, this year you can throw everything out the window. You're talking about a new car, different tires. Even though Kansas is the same racetrack, what it takes to be competitive there, other than having the fastest car, is going to change a little bit. ... I'm really anxious to get there and see if the things we've been trying and learning will pay off. That's purely just balance, speed and grip. As far as driving the track, I'll probably drive the same line and approach the track the same way that I did even with the older car. The groove's been widening and the racing continues to get better and better."
On Being a father:
Gordon: "It's the most amazing experience. Certainly with a year like this, the pluses and the minuses have been, unfortunately with all the hard work we've been doing, I haven't been able to be home, and they haven't been able to travel as much as I certainly would like. But when I am with her, it is just the most amazing experience. There's nothing that is on my mind other than family and seeing her walk and try to talk and do some of the funny things that she's doing these days; things that just make you have a big smile on your face."
(Note to media: For a written transcript and/or full audio recording of the teleconference, go to NASCARMedia.com, NASCAR's media-only Web site.)
Office Depot Recognition:
This Friday, Carl Edwards will introduce the winner of Office Depot's fourth annual "Official Small Business of NASCAR" promotion at Kansas Speedway. The winning small business' logo will be featured on Edwards' No. 99 Office Depot Ford for the remainder of the season. The winning small business will also receive a $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot as part of its winning package.
Manufacturers' Race Tightens Up:
Thanks in large part to Greg Biffle's back-to-back victories, Ford has cut into Toyota's lead in the 2008 Manufacturers' Championship race. Toyota continues to lead, but only by seven points over Ford -- 172-165. Chevrolet is a close third with 159 points, while Dodge is fourth with 120 points. Chevrolet has won 31 Manufacturer Championships, including the past five in a row.
Non-Chase Drivers A Big Factor At Kansas:
In the four previous Chase races run at Kansas Speedway, three of the race winners have ironically been a non-Chase driver.
The trend began in 2004 -- the first year of the Chase -- when Joe Nemechek (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) came out of nowhere to win. That is Nemechek's last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Two-time series champion Tony Stewart won the 2006 race as a non-Chase driver, while Biffle won last year's race and likewise was a non-Chase competitor. Mark Martin has been the only driver to win at Kansas while competing in the Chase, having performed the feat in 2005.
A pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will be making milestone starts this weekend. Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge) will be making his 350th career NSCS start. Points leader Carl Edwards will be making his 150th career start.
NSCS Test Session At Lowe's:
More than 50 teams are expected to participate in a two-day test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The test is the seventh and final officially sanctioned test for the series in 2008. Test sessions are scheduled from 1-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. each of those two days. A revised NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test policy for 2009 is expected to be announced in the next several weeks.
Up Next: AMP Energy 500 At Talladega Superspeedway
Race 4 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is the AMP Energy 500 Sun., Oct. 5 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Jeff Gordon is the defending race champion, notching his sixth career victory at Talladega a year ago -- the most among active NASCAR drivers. Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota) was the polesitter.
Kyle Busch won at Talladega this past April, registering his first superspeedway victory.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five career wins at Talladega, second among active drivers. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt, won a record 10 times at Talladega. Jimmie Johnson (2006) is the only other Chase driver that has won at Talladega.
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, September 28 The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 1.5-mile oval
The Distance: 267 laps/400 miles
TV: ABC, 1 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN (KCSP-AM 610), SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Greg Biffle
2007 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson
Friday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m. -- 1 p.m. ; Qualifying, 3:10 p.m.
Saturday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m.; Final Practice, 12:50--1:50 p.m.