Saturday, April 14, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Greg Biffle wins at TMS
By Richard Durrett
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Greg Biffle said a few days ago that his team didn't want just the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead, that it also needed wins. Well, he got one Saturday night, taking the lead from Jimmie Johnson with 40 laps to go and eventually claiming the checkered flag in the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Here are some quick thoughts on the race:
What it means: Biffle leaves Texas having increased the Cup points lead but also having won his first race since Kansas in October 2010. Along with the win, Biffle has three third-place finishes and hasn't finished worse than 13th. No one has been more consistent.
Lots of green-flag laps: The Samsung Mobile 500 finished under green and had more than 200 consecutive green-flag laps leading up to that finish. It's the first time since 1999 at Homestead that there's been 200 or more consecutive green-flag laps at a superspeedway in a NASCAR event.
Can't get 200: Hendrick Motorsports is still waiting for victory No. 200. Johnson appeared to have it in sight but Biffle was able to get around Johnson, who led the most laps. Johnson still doesn't have a win in 2012. This is Johnson's fifth runner-up finish in the past 12 races at TMS. He also has one win (November 2007) in that span.
Mover and shaker: The most impressive move of the night has to go to Jeff Gordon, who started 34th (outside Row 17). He moved up steadily and got himself into the top 10 at the halfway point. Gordon, who had just one top-10 finish coming in, finished fourth. He struggled at TMS early in his career but won in April 2009 and had a top-10 in November (ending a streak of three straight finishes of 23rd or worse).
Junior can't quite break through:Dale Earnhardt Jr. now has gone 136 races without a win. He ran pretty well Saturday night -- finished 10th after starting 16th -- and continues to have a solid start to the 2012 season, but he wasn't in Victory Lane. Junior last won in June 2008 in Michigan. He won at TMS in 2001 and 1998, and had two straight top-10 finishes in Texas coming into the race.
Fuel system issue:Brad Keselowski started eighth (outside Row 4) and was competitive until he had a problem with the fuel system. He tried to hang around but was not running fast enough lap times to stay on the track consistently. He had to go to the garage and work on it on Lap 159. He did get back on the track to pick up as many points as he could.
Wind factor: When the green flag dropped, winds were gusting at 21.5 mph from the south, meaning it was with the drivers on the backstretch and against them on the frontstretch. The wind coming out of Turn 3 might have contributed to Trevor Bayne touching the wall early in the race, but otherwise it didn't appear to be a big issue.
Side-by-side racing? We didn't see much of it at TMS on Saturday night. The cars got spread out on the 1.5-mile oval thanks in large part to few cautions. The Nationwide race Friday was much more exciting racing than the Cup cars were Saturday. Plus, tires didn't appear to be wearing out much, something that's been the case all season.
Smoke's struggles:Tony Stewart, who won at TMS in November and has run well in Texas, had to start in his backup car after a wreck in practice Friday. He started 29th but quickly dropped back from there and ended up 24th (two laps down). He wasn't able to generate any momentum or get the car where he wanted it. His crew tried a two-tire stop early in the race to gain some track position, but the car wasn't good enough to hold it. Debris cautions before the race was 100 laps old kept him from getting lapped, but he was lapped in the second half and just didn't have it. It's been a long time since Stewart, who was dominant at TMS in the fall and won the Sprint Cup title, has struggled this much.
Golf meets racing:Denny Hamlin was hoping some of Bubba Watson's major championship luck would rub off on him this week in Texas. Hamlin, who won at Phoenix in the second race of the season, was Watson's caddie for the par-3 tournament at Augusta National Golf Club last week. Of course, Watson went on to win the green jacket as Masters champion. Hamlin worked his way up after a slow start but wasn't able to get all the way to the checkered flag, finishing12th.
Crowd: The estimated attendance for Saturday night's race was 159,200. There weren't many empty seats in the frontstretch, but there were spots without folks on the backstretch. No matter how you look at it, it was a large crowd.
What's next: The NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Kansas Speedway for the second annual STP 400. The race is April 22 at 1 p.m. ET with Keselowski as the defending champion.