By JEFF WOLFE
Greg Biffle wasn’t sure how many bullets he would have for Jimmie Johnson. So, when he got a shot to take the lead, he didn’t waste it Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. The result was that Biffle ended up shooting the traditional shots from six shooters in Victory Lane, his first win since winning at Kansas in 2010.
Biffle took the lead for good with 30 laps to go, going low to make a pass on Johnson, who led a race-high 156 laps in front of 159,200 fans on windy night at the 1.5-mile oval.
“I said I’ve gotta go now or I’m never going to get it,” Biffle said of his winning pass. “I figured if I got right in front of him, I could get it. I just put the throttle to the floor and prayed it was going to stick.”
Biffle came into the race as the Sprint Cup points leader, but with no wins in the first six races. That’s why he didn’t hesitate to go for the victory when he had the chance.
“I knew I had to do it and I kept trying and trying and trying,” Biffle said. “I knew the team would forgive me if I wrecked it trying to beat him so I just gave it all I had.”
It was Biffle’s second win at Texas and increased his points lead to 19 over Roush-Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Biffle, who has 17 career victories, thinks he will have more visits to Victory Lane this year.
“I promise you this is not our last win of the season,” he said. “I’m so lucky I’m getting to drive this car right now. I’m going to drive my heart out to get some wins and put is in the Chase (for the Sprint Cup).”
Biffle and the rest of the field spent a good portion of the night chasing Johnson. The No. 48 Chevrolet, also looking for its first win of the season and the 200th Sprint Cup win for Hendrick Racing, led 156 laps, many of them in the final 234 laps, which were all under green.
But Johnson’s dominance might have actually hurt him a little when it came to dealing with lapped traffic, causing him to slow a bit and givie Biffle a chance to gain ground.
“I’m definitely disappointed,” Johnson said. “We had a great race car and our pit stops were amazing. A little more respect from lapped traffic, and it might have been a little different. I just got tangled up in some lapped traffic and the 16 (Biffle) made a great move and got by me. I just didn’t have anything left to get him. I tried, but I ran out of grip going into Turn 3 and drilled the fence.”
Johnson’s scrape with the wall wasn’t enough to bring out a yellow flag. In fact, there were only two yellows for 10 laps on the night in the 334 lap race, neither of which came out due to wall contact. The previous record for fewest yellows at Texas was five.
The long green flag runs also put some extra pressure on the pit crews. But that was fine with Biffle, who has a new crew chief this year in Matt Puccia along with almost all new personnel working on the car.
“The team has done a tremendous job,” said Biffle, who led 90 laps Saturday. “We have all new guys except three. We have a whole new race group and new chemistry. And that lucky break, we’re getting it now.”
Pit road issues cost Biffle’s Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards any chance at challenging for his first win of the year. Edwards had to take a drive-through penalty which put him back to 30th. He spent the rest of the race catching up and ended up in eighth.
“That is kind of fun racing like that,” Edwards said of his journey back into the top-10. “I don’t know what it is like to watch, but as a race car driver that is neat to run the whole race. A caution would have helped us. We had a very fast race car. An eighth-place finish after having to go to the end of the field, from the back to eighth under green, I am proud of that.”
Jeff Gordon was also proud of his fourth-place finish. That’s because he started 34th.
“It was nice to have everything come together tonight,” said Gordon, who has had his share of tough luck this season and was 21st in the point standings going into the race. “Starting 34th, we had our work cut out for us. We had a great night. We’ve had this kind of car many times, but just haven’t been able to get to the finish. Tonight, we did it and hopefully this is something we can build on.”
The rest of the top-10 were Mark Martin in third, Kenseth in fifth, Martin Truex, Jr. in sixth, Kasey Kahne in seventh, Kevin Harvick in ninth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tenth.
It was also the fastest race in Texas history with an average speed of 160.577 mph. That suited Biffle just fine.
“It was a great win for us,” he said of Roush-Fenway’s ninth Sprint Cup victory at Texas. “We’ve been trying so hard on the 16 team and the fans and everybody has stuck behind us. It sure is great to win like we did tonight.”
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Kansas Speedway for the STP 400. Coverage is due to start on FOX at 12:30pm EDT (11:30am EDT) on Sunday.
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