Biffle Smokes Kansas Sprint Cup Field
A quick adjustment made to tighten Greg Biffle's No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup Series machine at Kansas Speedway set the car on a rail and catapulted the championship contender to a 7.638-seconds victory over Jimmie Johnson.
Biffle's second victory of the season moved him from ninth to eighth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings and within 85 points of the top spot now occupied by the four-time and defending series champion Johnson, who drove to his 12th top-five and 16th top-10 finish of the season.
The No. 16 led the 400-mile race three times for a total of 60 laps, including the final 29, in a competitive affair that produced 20 lead changes among 12 drivers.
Biffle's 16th career victory and second all-time at Kansas Speedway breathed much needed life into his title hopes by giving him a 55-point boost in the standings. He opened the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup with a 17th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a 19th-place finish on Dover's Monster Mile.
"It's a big win for us. It was a great day, the car ran flawless. Everyone made great calls in the pits and the car just kept getting better and better and better. I was too loose for the first three quarters of the race and I didn't want to adjust on it because I was running in the top three. I finally tightened it up and off it went. It gives us a lot of confidence. We're going to do the best we can. If we win them all, we win them all," Biffle said under confetti-littered blue skies in Victory Lane.
Johnson, who claimed his sixth victory of the season in Dover, Del., last week, raced from the 21st Kansas starting spot to earn his fourth top-three finish in his past five starts. He assumes a familiar perch atop the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings and will enter the series Oct. 10 event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., with an eight-point advantage over second-place championship driver and previous Chase leader Denny Hamlin, who placed 12th at Kansas.
"We didn't have what we wanted leaving practice and didn't until probably the halfway point of the race today. We kept working on the car and making it better. Coming through a poor qualifying effort and fighting for track position all day long, getting second at the end was really cool. We had some strategy work against us. We started way back again and drove right on back through for a second time and got to the front. I'm glad we had the finish we did. There's a lot of racing left, but we're doing the right things. We're making bad weekends good weekends," said Johnson, who did not lead the race.
The fourth Chase for the Sprint Cup event of the season should provide him an opportunity to gain more championship separation. He took his first victory of the year at Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 21 and has scored a total of five victories, 10 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes at his home-state facility through 15 career starts. Kevin Harvick, who led the series standings before they were reset for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, pegged third-place at Kansas after qualifying 24th and leading the race twice for a total of 16 laps. He moved from fifth to third in the standings with his 13th top-five and 19th top-10 showing of the campaign.
He owns two top-five and six top-10 finishes through 16 career Auto Club Speedway starts and placed sixth there during the series February visit. He will start the race trailing Hamlin by 30 points.
"The car was good all weekend. Track position is pretty important here and it took us a little longer than we needed to get back through traffic after our pit stop. It was just a good day. The car was fast all weekend and we had a solid top-three run. I feel good about next week, too. We feel good about where we are, that's what got us here, solid top-five finishes and the things we did during the year. We just have to keep doing those things to keep our cars in contention, run up front, lead some laps and get those points. We'll see where we are when we get to Homestead," said Harvick.
Tony Stewart charted his first top-five and first top-10 finish in this season's Chase for the Sprint Cup with a fourth-place Kansas result after starting fourth and leading the race four times for an event-high 76 laps.
He earned his third consecutive top-10 California finish with a ninth-place showing in February and has collected a total of four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes there in 18 career starts dating to 1999. He maintained his hold on the 10th spot in the Chase standings and starts the week 127 points behind Johnson.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon moved from eighth to fifth in the Chase standings with a fifth-place Kansas run. He led the event three times for a total of 29 laps and earned his second top-10 finish in his past three starts.
He will head to the Golden State owning 11 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes for the season. He placed an uncharacteristic 20th in the first Auto Club Speedway event of the season but has registered three victories and 10 top-five finishes at the track, including back-to-back second-place runs in 2009.
Race coverage is set for a 3:00 p.m., start on ESPN, Motor Racing Network radio and Sirius XM 128.
Story by Mike Schmaltz