KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Greg Biffle is back in the title hunt, and Jimmie Johnson has resumed his normal spot atop the NASCAR leaderboard.
Kansas Speedway again played a major role in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, which got a whole lot tighter after a fast-paced race dominated by the title contenders.
Biffle won Sunday's Price Chopper 400, pulling himself out of a deep hole with seven races remaining to determine the title, and Chase drivers took the top seven spots.
"Everybody asked us if we're out of the Chase, have we given up?" the Roush Fenway Racing driver said. "The (No.) 16 team will never give up. A win here propelled us up there. Maybe we'll go do the same next week."
That had to be the widespread thinking as nine drivers are separated by 101 points. It's the closest the Chase field has been after three races since NASCAR started the format in 2004.
But another telling stat could mean trouble for everyone besides Johnson and Denny Hamlin: Only once in the Chase has the eventual champion been ranked lower than second after Kansas. Who was that? Johnson, who rallied from eighth in points after Kansas in 2006 to win the first of his four consecutive titles.
And here he is again after rallying from as low as 21st midway through Sunday's race to finish second. He leads Hamlin by eight points headed into next weekend's race in California.
Still, Johnson said a fifth consecutive title isn't in the bag.
"It's early. I'm not worried about who is leading the championship right now," he said.
Hamlin, like Johnson, he struggled mightily early. But his adjustments were good enough for only a 12th-place finish, and Hamlin's 35-point lead before the race began turned into a deficit.
"I knew right away we were going to have a long day," Hamlin said. "You've got to make the most of your bad days and, if this is a bad day for us, then we're going to rebound next weekend."
So will Kyle Busch, Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch had early contact with David Reutimann that caused Reutimann to spin, and when they crossed paths later, Reutimann appeared to intentionally knock him into the wall.
Busch was seventh at the time of the accident, fell to 22nd and demanded over his radio that NASCAR take action against Reutimann, of Zephyrhills. Crew chief Dave Rogers heightened the drama by telling Busch that Reutimann's team demanded he retaliate against Busch.
Busch finished 21st, worst among Chasers, and took time to change out of his firesuit before speaking to reporters.
He was much calmer about the incident afterward.
"Whatever. It's just really unfortunate," Busch said. "The guy was loose, said it on the radio, he slid up off the bottom and I got into him unintentionally and just spun him out. My fault, 100 percent. But then the retaliation? For a guy that's in the Chase, that's racing for something … he'll be here next year. He could have wrecked me in any of the first 26 races next year. That would have been fine."
Reutimann didn't admit that he intentionally wrecked Busch, but had no guilt for tangling with a championship contender.
"You guys can sugarcoat it all the time, but he wrecked me," Reutimann said.
The Busch-Reutimann incident was the extent of the on-track drama. Everything else was relegated to decent racing in an event that finished in a record 2 hours, 54 minutes, with five cautions, fewest in track history.