NASCAR News & Notes of the Week
Biffle, Earnhardt, Stewart and Truex making Cup Series news
By: Matt Taliaferro | 8/28/12, 7:13 PM EDT
Roush Fenway teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. (ASP, Inc.)
Greg Biffle credits an aggressive approach with his team’s return to the points lead and says once NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup starts, there won’t be any backing down.
Biffle regained the points lead after his victory at Michigan and held it despite finishing 19th last weekend at Bristol. That finish was good enough to clinch a Chase spot and return him to NASCAR’s playoffs after missing it last year.
Biffle has three finishes of sixth or better in the last five races, including the Michigan win and a third-place finish at Indianapolis. He notes that with his team comfortably in the playoffs, they could try more things and, often, the experiments have worked.
“We have been decent in the points so we have kind of tried to step out of the box and do some things to try and learn for the Chase and really be more aggressive with the setup and go for the win and say, ‘Hey, if it doesn’t work we won’t cry over spilled milk,’” says Biffle, who led the points after 11 races earlier in the season. “That is all you can do. You can’t flip a switch. We are already running as hard as we can.”
Once the Chase begins, Biffle says little will change on how the team races.
“I think we will be and we will have to be pretty aggressive on the setups simply for the fact that we will have to be conscious of our finishes,” he notes. “That is going to be a huge factor, but it is almost like if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. What we are doing is working. We are having consistent races so we are only going to be six points ahead of about half the guys in the Chase (after the points are reset). We are only going to be three behind, as of right now, four of them. That could change this weekend but it is going to be really tight in the points.
“That 12-20 point cushion (on the top four) I have is all going to disappear and it is going to be really super tight on the points. Each position is super-important. I think everybody realizes that going to Chicago.”
CHASE-CLINCHING SCENARIOS Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth clinched Chase spots last weekend at Bristol. Kenseth clinched only a wild card spot. He can clinch a full Chase spot (and thus use the bonus points for his win) by finishing 40th at Atlanta, finishing 41st and leading a lap or finishing 42nd and leading the most laps.
Any driver who leaves Atlanta 49 points ahead of 11th place in the points clinches a Chase spot.
Other Chase-clinching scenarios are:
• Martin Truex Jr: Finish 14th or place 15th and lead a lap or finish 16th and lead the most laps.
• Clint Bowyer: Finish 11th or place 12th and lead a lap or finish 13th and lead the most laps.
• Brad Keselowski: Finish seventh or place eighth and lead a lap or finish ninth and lead the most laps.
A victory would secure at least a wild card spot for Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart. They would need help from others to clinch a top-10 Chase spot at Atlanta.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (ASP, Inc.)
SECOND CHANCES Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked last weekend at Bristol if as an owner he would ever consider hiring a driver who had previously failed a drug test.
“Well, I think it would be difficult to convince certain people — whether it be sponsors or just any individuals,” Earnhardt said. “Some people are always going to be skeptics when you have a failed drug test.
“I believe in second chances and if I felt a guy was talented and felt he could help my race team and be competitive I wouldn’t have any problem with hiring him. I would want to understand the rehabilitation process and want to feel good about his current state, but yeah, if I felt like he could help my team I wouldn’t have any problem hiring him.”
IS MORE BETTER? Kyle Busch is entered in the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races this weekend at Atlanta. That’s a rarity for Busch, who used to run double- and triple-duty often. That changed after he wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck race at Texas last year. NASCAR barred him from competing in the Nationwide and Cup races that weekend while Busch’s team Cup team owner, Joe Gibbs, was forced to make nice with sponsor Mars/M&M’s. Since, he’s limited his racing outside of Cup.
This will be Busch’s 15th Nationwide start and first Truck start of the season.
Busch was asked at Bristol if running more Nationwide and Truck races could help him in Cup.
“Not necessarily, I think our Cup program is fine, it's running good, it’s fast,” said Busch, who is battling for a wild card spot to make the Chase. “The only other thing I can do is run more Nationwide and Truck races to get my bad luck out of the way there so it doesn’t move over to Sunday. Besides that, how much better do you want me to run before an engine blows up or before a brake rotor falls off or before you blow a right-front tire. You name it, we’ve had it.”
PIT STOPS Michael Waltrip Racing has a press conference scheduled for Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway where it is expected the team will announce the signing of Martin Truex Jr. and sponsor NAPA to contract extensions. ... NASCAR announced it would not penalize Tony Stewart for tossing his helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car at Bristol on Saturday. That’s not a surprise since NASCAR didn’t penalize Todd Bodine for throwing his helmet at Nelson Piquet’s truck at Pocono earlier this month. ... Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose have each scored four consecutive top-10 finishes, the longest active streak in Cup. Ambrose’s 160 points earned in that time leads the series.
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