A few weeks ago, Greg Biffle was so frustrated with the performance of his rookie race team he suggested owner Jack Roush might need another driver to make things work.
Um, forget he said it.
Biffle stunned the Winston Cup circuit Saturday in winning the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, defeating the stronger cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick by getting better fuel mileage.
"It's unbelievable," said Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Ford. "Our team has struggled a little bit this season, especially lately. We've worked harder than we've ever worked trying to get our race cars going like they need to be."
Biffle, 33, was a champion in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Busch Series with Roush before moving up. He quickly learned the top series was more demanding.
Biffle failed to qualify for the season's third event at Las Vegas and had just one top-10 finish _ a fifth at Bristol _ in 15 starts. He ranked 25th in the standings before Saturday.
"It's been frustrating," said Biffle, a native of Vancouver, Wash. "Every series I've been in I've been competitive and I've won in. I felt we would be more competitive in this series, but I haven't been able to get the balance I want in the race car.
"I think my driving style is similar to (teammate) Kurt Busch. I had the same identical springs, shocks, sway bar, fender width _ other than the color, everything the same as Kurt Busch's car at Michigan, and he won while I was a lap down."
Biffle's struggling team used what some might consider a sneaky fuel-mileage strategy to steal one of NASCAR's premier events, but Biffle called it smart thinking. During a caution on Laps 75-79, Biffle and crew chief Randy Goss decided to visit pit road just before the green flag to top off on fuel. Biffle and a handful of others who used the strategy were able to finish with one more pit stop while most needed two.
"I don't think we had any crazy pit strategy or anything," Biffle said. "I talked to Randy about it. It was a decision we made together and it really paid off for us."
The five Roush teams _ Jeff Burton finished second using the same strategy _ pride themselves on getting good fuel mileage, a product of the carburetor in the 800-horsepower engines.
But even Roush did not expect to win a restrictor-plate race with a commitment to economy.
"We've had better-than-average fuel mileage for, it seems like, the last 10 years and I think Mark Martin won one race on fuel mileage in that period of time," Roush said. "We go for that. We race the entire car, everything we can do."
WINSTON CUP POINTS LEADERS
Driver Make Pts Back
M. Kenseth Ford 2,551 --
Earnhardt Jr. Chevy 2,371 180
J. Gordon Chevy 2,348 203
B. Labonte Chevy 2,296 255
M. Waltrip Chevy 2,159 392
J. Johnson Chevy 2,079 472
K. Busch Ford 2,067 484
K. Harvick Chevy 2,049 502
R. Wallace Dodge 2,019 532
S. Marlin Dodge 1,998 553