Sports

Biffle enters Texas race ahead in points, recharged for title hunt

When Greg Biffle arrives at Texas Motor Speedway this week, it will be as the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader.

That's a prestigious position.

It's usually held by drivers like Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.

But in April, that's all it means. Prestige.

The end of the season, in Miami the week before Thanksgiving, when being the points leader counts the most, is a long ways off.

"We won't lead the points the entire season, OK? Or up to the Chase, however you want to say it," Biffle said two weeks ago after a sixth-place finish at Fontana, Calif. "Hopefully we're leading at Homestead or after Homestead."

Leading in April is nice. Shoot, leading at any time of the season is nice.

But Biffle knows the history of points leaders as well as anyone else.

Last year, Carl Edwards led more than half the season but was caught at the end by Tony Stewart. Two years ago, it was Kevin Harvick cruising at the top only to slip in the Chase.

That's only recent history. Many more examples are in the books.

So if, after Saturday night's Mobile Samsung 500 at TMS, he finds himself knocked out of first place -- he's only six points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 12 ahead of a four-pack of drivers that includes defending series champion Stewart and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth -- he'll take it for what it's worth.

"If and when that happens, certainly I'm not going to let that take the wind out of our sails, you know what I mean?" Biffle said. "We're going to work as hard as we can to keep the points lead, keep in the top five, keep in the top three. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter."

Biffle's history at Fort Worth says he won't give up the points lead easily. He won at TMS in April 2005, and he's been in the top 10 for seven consecutive races there. He's been fifth, fourth and fifth the last three runs.

"Hey, if we continue to lead the points, that's a bonus," Biffle said. "That's the attitude. We've all got a positive attitude."

A change in attitude shouldn't be unexpected from the No. 16 Ford team.

Biffle has a new crew chief, Matt Puccia, and a largely new group of mechanics and pit crew in the Roush Fenway shop. It was a move to kick-start Biffle after a season in which he was winless and didn't make the Chase.

"Matt has got a plan, and he's leading this team like a 10-year veteran crew chief or a five-year veteran crew chief that's won multiple races or championships," Biffle said. "It's just clear he's got a great group of guys together. I give him a lot of credit for where we're at today."

That's actually a high compliment. Puccia is a Sprint Cup newcomer. He led one of Roush Fenway's Nationwide teams and had only modest success. Last winter, he didn't seem like a natural pairing for Biffle. But their personalities and work ethics have meshed.

"It's all about chemistry and getting people to work together," Puccia said at Bristol, Tenn., where Biffle had won the pole. "These guys come in every day wanting to know what they can do to be better."

Now all Biffle needs is more of the same. High finishes. A place at or near the top of the standings. A win. Maybe more.

"I promise you, if anybody can take me to winning a championship, it's Matt Puccia," Biffle said. "He never gives up, never leaves a rock unturned. He's the hungriest guy I've ever seen in my whole life and is the most focused to win a race. I cannot wait. ...When he does win, when we win here hopefully in the near future, it will be well-deserved."

Best five

A look at Greg Biffle's five best seasons in NASCAR Sprint Cup:

Year

Wins

Poles

Points

rank

2005

6

0

2

2008

2

2

3

2010

2

0

6

2009

0

0

7

2006

2

2

13

This report includes material from other writers.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

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