Texas an ideal spot for Biffle to get season boost
Posted at: 04/12/2013 9:05 PM
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
(AP) FORT WORTH, Texas - Greg Biffle is looking forward to a do-over on a 1 1/2-mile track in the new Sprint Cup car.
Texas Motor Speedway is an ideal spot because Biffle and the entire Roush Fenway Racing team have had so much success there. Biffle is the defending race champion, too, and he can’t wait for Saturday night.
There is admittedly an extra emphasis and a different sense of urgency this weekend for Biffle, who struggled to a 17th-place finish last month at Las Vegas. That track is similar to Texas and the only 1 1/2-mile circuit NASCAR visited the first six races this season.
"We plain and simply screwed up at Vegas and I take most of the blame for that. We were just way off with the new car," said Biffle, who has gotten all 18 of his career wins on longer tracks. "This track feels good. I had really good speed here. ... I think we have a good chance at winning. Right place, right time."
Kyle Busch earned the pole for the race with a record Texas qualifying lap of 196.299 mph in his Toyota, which knocked brother Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet off the pole. Kurt Busch will start second after a lap of 195.688 mph.
The Busch brothers have started on the front row together one other time, at Las Vegas four years ago. Kyle won from the pole that day and Kurt finished 23rd.
After being fast in testing and practice, Biffle qualified his Ford 35th with a lap of 190.921 mph.
As surprising as the struggles at Las Vegas were for Biffle was his solid, ninth-place finish last week at Martinsville, the half-mile track that is the shortest on the circuit.
"I just never thought that would happen to us, but that is just the way it works," said Biffle, sixth in season points.
The 25th Cup race at the Texas speedway, which opened in 1997 and started hosting two races a year in 2005, will be the first night race this season _ and for the new Gen-6 cars.
While Biffle won at Texas last April, Jimmie Johnson held on off Brad Keselowski in a 1-2 white-knuckle finish last November. Johnson and Keselowski slammed together near the start-finish line after a late restart, but managed to maintain control in a wild few closing laps when they stayed in close proximity.
"Yeah, it was awesome. I enjoyed it in the car. Thought I was going to get turned around in (turns) one and two one of the restarts we had, but we didn’t," Johnson said Friday, recalling that race. "We raced right to that ragged edge and pulled it off. Of course I had a good perspective of it after the race when I watched the video and I smiled. That is just good hard racing."
The fall victory kept Johnson ahead in points with two races to go, but Keselowski went on to win the championship.
After winning last week at Martinsville and leading a career-high 346 laps, Johnson has the series points lead. Right behind him is Keselowski, who has five finishes in the top six this season. He was asked if the Texas race last fall was a defining moment.
"Yes and no. I would say it would be a defining moment if we had won the race. I think it was a defining moment for me knowing that we could run competitively at tracks others didn’t feel like we could I felt like we could," Keselowski said. "Coming back here, while we might not have gotten the win we wanted last fall, I feel like we can get it done this spring."
Johnson starts seventh at Texas and Keselowski 16th.
Roush drivers certainly know how to get it done at on the high-banked Texas track, where Jack Roush’s nine victories are the most by any owner. Johnson’s victory last fall was the fourth for Rick Hendrick, the second-most among owners.
Matt Kenseth, in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, has the track record of 772 laps led. All of those were for Roush, and 40 more than two-time Texas winner Biffle has.
Biffle’s other Texas win came in the spring race in 2005, with teammate Carl Edwards winning that fall. Edwards swept both races in 2008, and is the only three-time Cup winner there.
"I think all of us look forward to coming here because of our past performances, and I know we expect a lot out of ourselves here," said Edwards, who is seventh in season points.
Because of the new cars, there were two full-field testing sessions Thursday that gave teams more than three extra hours on the track.
Although Edwards had a tough day in the testing, he got some notes from his teammate after Biffle had the fastest lap. They are side-by-side in the garage, and Edwards has spent a lot of time "walking over there" and asking a lot of questions.
Edwards qualified ninth with a lap of 194.147 mph.
"He said something that kind of struck me," Edwards said. "He was describing his car and he said, `But you know it’s just like Texas normally is,’ and I thought, `Here’s a guy who knows every nuance of this race track and he knows exactly what the car is going to do after five or six laps.’ ... He’s a motivator."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)