DARLINGTON, S.C. Greg Biffle's chances of winning a race he dominated appeared gone after his Roush Racing team made some late-race changes.
But a timely spin by Mark Martin and four fresh tires were all Biffle needed to win Saturday night's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Darlington Raceway in overtime.
''The second to last run there we tried some tire pressure things and got my car way too loose,'' Biffle said. ''I thought, 'Why in the world would we wait until the last run to try something?' It went the wrong way, but we recovered from that.''
Biffle, who led 176 of 370 laps on the treacherous 1.366-mile, egg-shaped Darlington oval, fell behind on a late pit stop, but got another chance when Martin spun, bringing out the 12th caution flag just five laps from the scheduled finish.
Ryan Newman, who had taken charge late in the race, chose to stay on the track while Biffle and several other contenders pitted for tires. When the green flag waved again for a two-lap shootout, beginning on lap 369, Biffle, taking advantage of those fresh tires, charged from fourth. He passed Carl Edwards, Ken Schrader and, finally, Newman before taking the white flag for the last lap.
''You feel like Superman,'' Biffle said of the restart with new tires. ''When the caution came out, I was going in the corner so slow and I was slipping and sliding all over. I couldn't even imagine restarting on those tires and having to run three more laps.
''With the new tires, I knew I had him beat.''
Biffle went on to win easily, adding the Dodge Charger 500 to victories earlier this season in California and Texas. Six-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon, also with fresh tires, followed Biffle's No. 16 Ford to the front on the overtime dash, but lost by 0.989 seconds about six car-lengths.
''Man, I wish we could have beat Biffle out on that last stop,'' Gordon said. ''The first guy on four fresh tires was going to win it.''
During the competitive race, Biffle fended off a series of challenges from Newman, second-year driver Kasey Kahne, Gordon and series points leader Jimmie Johnson, who had won the two previous races at the South Carolina track.
The 35-year-old driver from Vancouver, Wash., gave team owner Jack Roush his fifth victory in the first 10 races of the season. Defending series champion Kurt Busch and Edwards have each won one race for Roush in 2005.
Kahne, who started from the pole and led 60 laps, finished third, followed by Martin, Newman, Jamie McMurray and Johnson, who charged back after making an unscheduled pit stop on lap 260 and falling to 23rd, a lap off the pace.
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started 39th, finished eighth, just ahead of Edwards.
Despite dominating the race, it looked as though Biffle was going to wind up an also ran when Newman, who had been watching the battles up front most of the night, shot past into the lead on lap 323 and pulled away to leads of more than 3 seconds.
Newman, who has not won since last September at Dover, was out front by about 30 car-lengths and seemingly on the way to an easy victory when Martin, running in fifth, spun on lap 363, bringing out the yellow flag and setting up Biffle's sixth career win.
''We were going to end up second,'' Biffle said. ''I feel bad for Ryan Newman. He had a really strong car tonight and that's tough decision to make.''
Newman said the decision was thrust upon him.
''The second-place car was so far back that by the time he committed to coming down pit road I was committed to staying out,'' Newman explained. ''That was it.
''I think three or four guys, if they were bright enough, would have stayed out and tried to get a top 10 out of it instead of finishing 20th. But that didn't happen. We had a car that should have won but didn't.''
Gordon moved into second place in the season standings, 127 points behind Johnson. Biffle is third, 148 behind, while Busch, who crashed on the first lap of the race, wound up 37th and slipped from second to fourth, 229 points back.
It was a very successful night for the track that lost one of its two Cup races this season and has been rumored to be in danger of also losing this event as part of NASCAR's continuing expansion to new tracks in nontraditional parts of the country.
About 70,000 spectators, only the second sellout crowd at Darlington since 1997, watched the first Cup race run almost entirely at night at NASCAR's oldest paved speedway.
This one began at sunset, while the final Southern 500, last November, was started in the late afternoon and finished under the then-new lights.
Peninsula Clarion © 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us