October 31, 2013

Greg Biffle happy to be back in Texas after disappointing week

The Roush Fenway Racing driver returns to one of his best tracks.

Greg Biffle, to twist the age-old expression, got to Texas as fast as he could.

A disappointing finish last week in Martinsville that washed out what was left of his Chase ambitions — and ended with a well-publicized public display of aggression in a postrace spat with Sprint Cup dynamo Jimmie Johnson — had Biffle looking for a change in fortunes.

And what better place than Texas, where all is never completely lost, especially for a driver who has 12 top-10 finishes in 19 starts at Texas Motor Speedway, including victories in 2005 and in the track’s April event in 2012.

Though he still aspires to be the first driver to win NASCAR Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series season titles, it won’t happen this year after his big-league title hopes were dashed in a controversial ninth at the short track in Virginia.

He was forced to the back after repairing a bumper that he alleged was knocked loose only after a bump from Johnson.

“I had a good opportunity to get a top-three finish at Martinsville for the first time,” Biffle said. “Quite honestly after that thing was over, maybe a chance to battle for the win.”

There’s still much at stake for Biffle, who can get to third with a victory at TMS and good runs at Phoenix next week and Homestead the week after.

It’s a position that, as he pointed out, comes with a more bountiful fall financial harvest.

Last weekend will be remembered more for the postrace drama than opportunity lost for the Roush Fenway Racing driver who had the fastest car in the last 65 laps of the 500-lap race at Martinsville.

He closed within five seconds of eventual champion Jeff Gordon before being forced to the back after pitting to repair a bumper initially knocked loose after a run-in with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It was knocked loose again and hanging off the back only after Johnson “ran square in the back of my car,” Biffle said.

Race officials ordered him to the pits to fix it.

Johnson, tied for the points lead with Biffle’s former Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth, denied the allegation, saying he couldn’t have hit Biffle because he was on the inside of him.

An enraged Biffle confronted Johnson during a postrace interview, giving the five-time champion a shove and some choice words.

Biffle took to Twitter to apologize to Johnson’s fans, who used the same social media forum to give the No. 16 the what-fer.

At Michigan in June, Biffle outdueled Johnson, who crashed, for his only victory in 2013, and many of those same fans recalled Biffle exclaiming over the radio that day, “I love it when the 48 crashes trying to catch us.” Biffle later said he regretted his word choice.

Biffle used the “old-fashioned” telephone call to personally apologize to Johnson, though in a conference call Tuesday, Biffle did not back off his version of the incident.

“When I was walking over there, I was furious,” Biffle said. “We had a great car.

“It just didn’t transpire and I was a little upset about that. I should have handled that a little differently with Jimmie.”

Texas has been good to Biffle.

It was here that he broke a 49-race winless streak in spring 2012, when he raced past Johnson to the finish line.

Biffle went on to lead the points standings for 14 of that season’s 26 weeks. A fifth-place season finish awaited the perennial Chase qualifier.

He raved about the track after a test run last week.

“There’s a hell of a lot on the line for the 13 drivers in this final bit,” said Biffle, who finished fourth in April’s NRA 500. “For me there still is.

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