Rookie Biffle wins at Daytona

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Rookie Greg Biffle played the fuel strategy game and won Saturday night in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Biffle ducked into the pits to top off his gas tank under caution on lap 79 of the 160-lap race. That gave him just enough to make it the rest of the way on one more stop and cost favorites Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip a shot at another restrictor-plate victory.

The former Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion was being pressured by former series champion Bobby Labonte at the end, but Labonte suddenly slowed coming through turn 2 on the final lap, out of gas.

Jeff Burton, Biffle's Roush Racing teammate, running the same fuel strategy, finished second, 4.102 seconds about 20 car-lengths behind the winner's Ford Taurus.

''Just before it went back to green (on lap 79), I saw a bunch of guys going in and I told (crew chief Randy Goss) and he said, 'Come on in.' That's what won us the race,'' Biffle said.

The winner also gave a lot of the credit to series points leader Matt Kenseth, another Roush entry, who ran second and kept Labonte behind him until Kenseth had to pit for a splash of gas at the end of lap 156.

Kenseth got back out fast enough to finish sixth, just behind Labonte, who coasted to the finish line. Ricky Rudd finished third.

Biffle got the opportunity to try a fuel economy run because the race was slowed by only two cautions for a total of 10 laps and none in the last 81 laps.

''I figured Bobby was going to get me there at the end,'' Biffle said. ''He's got a lot of experience at these superspeedways. This is my first year in these cars and this thing was really loose. He just didn't have anybody to help him.''

Dale Earnhardt Inc., teammates Earnhardt and Waltrip came into the race as heavy favorites, having won eight of the last 10 races at Daytona and Talladega, the two big tracks where NASCAR requires the carburetor restrictor plates to keep the cars under 200 mph.

But both of them stayed on the track when the other cars ducked in to top off for fuel and had to make an extra stop. Earnhardt, who appeared to have the strongest car in the field and led two times for 43 laps, finished seventh, while Waltrip, coming up well short of his third straight Daytona win, wound up 11th.

Rookie Bourdais wins Cleveland GP

CLEVELAND Rookie Sebastien Bourdais crossed the finish line with one of his tires visibly damaged Saturday to win the CART Cleveland Grand Prix, held at night for the first time in its 22-year history.

Bourdais, the polesitter who has had a wildly inconsistent first season, took the lead from Jimmy Vasser at the end of lap 83 and won for the third time.

However, while cruising to an apparently easy win, he barely avoided a disaster with four laps to go when he had contact with Adrian Fernandez. Bourdais' car sustained damage to the left side, and his left rear tire was nearly shredded.

Against a spectacular backdrop on the shores of Lake Erie, the 24-year-old Bourdais who honed his night time driving skills in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, France his hometown had the fastest car and the fastest pit crew.

On his third pit stop, Bourdais' Newman/Haas pit crew was able to get him back on the track quicker than the Players' team of Tracy, the points leader who led the first 67 laps.

Bruno Junqueira was third, 3.9 seconds behind Bourdais.

Defending champion Patrick Carpentier was fourth.

Tracy and Bourdais ran a two-man race for 67 laps, zipping quickly through the corners and powering down the illuminated runways of the temporary 2.106-mile course at Burke Lakefront Airport.

When the drivers came in for their third of four required pit stops, Bourdais was just 1.06 seconds behind Tracy. Bourdais pulled out first, and as he came down pit row, he was nearly hit by Tracy.

Vasser led for a brief time before he was reeled in and passed by Bourdais, who built his lead to over 11 seconds before his incident with Fernandez in turn 2.

After three laps were run under a yellow caution flag, Bourdais had to hold off Tracy in turn 1, where he was early schooled by the Canadian, and sped away for the victory as Tracy and Junqueira battled behind him.

Tracy, making his 200th career start in a CART race, took advantage of Bourdais' inexperience on the course and snatched the lead at the start with a smooth move.

Starting on the outside of the front row, Tracy took a wide angle into the first corner before dipping inside just as Bourdais was finding his line into the curve.

On the final lap, Bourdais took the proper angle and prevented Tracy from getting him again.

Michel Jourdain, the points leader after six events, lost control and spun into the infield on the opening lap and finished seventh.

Rookie Tiago Monteiro never got started. He suffered a mild concussion during the warmup session and was not cleared to race by CART's medical staff.

Roberto Moreno, who got his first career CART win at Cleveland in 2000, was knocked out on lap 17 after being bumped from behind by Vasser.

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