Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Sprint Cup's Biffle seeks boost at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas — Greg Biffle is looking for a do-over on a 1½-mile track in the new Sprint Cup car.

Texas Motor Speedway is an ideal spot for one because Biffle and the entire Roush Fenway Racing team have had so much success at that track. Biffle is the defending race champion, too, and he can't wait for tonight's NRA 500.

There is extra urgency for Biffle, who was 17th last month at Las Vegas. That track is similar to Texas and the only 1½-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 earned all 18 of his Cup wins on tracks a mile or longer. "This track feels good. I had really good speed here. … I think we have a good chance at winning. Right place, right time."

But after being fast in testing and practice, Biffle qualified his Ford 35th on Friday with a lap of 190.921 mph.

If his struggles at Las Vegas were surprising for Biffle, so 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 points.

The 25th Cup race at Texas, 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.

Biffle won at Texas last April, then Jimmie Johnson held off Brad Keselowski in a 1-2 white-knuckle finish in November. Johnson and Keselowski slammed together near the start-finish line after a late restart but maintained control in a wild few closing laps when they stayed in close proximity.

"Yeah, it was awesome. I enjoyed it in the car," Johnson said, recalling that race. "We raced right to that ragged edge and pulled it off."

After winning last week at Martinsville and leading a career-high 346 laps, Johnson has the series points lead. Right behind him is Keselowski, the defending series champ, who has five finishes in the top six this season.

At the high-banked Texas track, Jack Roush's nine victories are the most by any owner. Johnson's victory last fall was the fourth for Rick Hendrick, 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 spring 2005, with teammate Carl Edwards winning that fall. Edwards swept both races in 2008, and is the only three-time Cup winner there.

Because of the new cars, there were two full-field testing sessions Thursday. Edwards had a tough day but got some notes from his teammate after Biffle had the fastest lap.

"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 racetrack and he knows exactly what the car is going to do after five or six laps.' … He's a motivator."

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