He may not have unloaded the fastest car at the track, but during each of the 3 practice sessions Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M car, and his crew chief Matt Puccia who has only been with Biffle for 11 races so far, they made wholesale changes and managed to bring the car to life.Ã‚Â Greg Biffle turned a lap of 174.887 mph (30.877 seconds) which was good enough for him to lay claim to the pole position, his second of the year, and 8th of his career at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Biffle is the defending champion of this race and he certainly knows this track.Ã‚Â His record here of two wins and six top-fives in 10 starts and an average finish of 8.3 certainly stands above the rest of the competitors and you can just see the confidence in his eyes.
“I unloaded off the truck and tried to make a lap and I said we were in big trouble,” Biffle said. “We went from there to being the fastest car [and] it wasn’t in one run. I think that says something about the team, how we started there and ended up [with the pole], how we worked on the car and didn’t lose our patience, confidence and focus on getting the car to go. It was quite amazing.
“Never would have guessed that we would be on the pole. They went back and looked at the data and worked on it. I have to pat myself on the back a little bit because I must have drove a pretty good lap in order to get it up there, but they did a lot of work and really studied it. That says a lot for our team and a lot for Matt. That is what a championship team is made of, someone that can make something out of nothing. That is what we did [Friday]. We started out without very much and we are on the pole for Sunday’s race.”
“I thought Michigan, Chicago, Dover — all of those I thought were places that we could have won at,” Biffle said. “Unfortunately, the two speedway races, Michigan and Chicago, we had items break on the race car. That took us out of contention. We had OK finishes but I think here we’re back in the saddle again.
“This is a mile-and-a-half and our cars are fast and run good on those. I have some wins here and this is obviously a place that we are very capable of winning. I feel the same way about Texas and Phoenix, Charlotte and Homestead. I feel like those are race tracks we can definitely win at. We could win at all of them or none of them. We just have to wait and see.”
Biffle managed to edge out his teammate Carl Edwards who came a close second with a speed of 174.571 mph.Ã‚Â Third-place qualifier Kyle Busch (174.447 mph) split up the Roush Fenway party by beating RFR driver Matt Kenseth (174.436 mph), who will start fourth. Kasey Kahne (174.413 mph) qualified fifth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be starting mid pack in 18th this weekend.Ã‚Â When asked about the last few races and the mechanical problems from last weekend at Dover Jr was sounding relieved and assured that those problems would not rise again.
“There was not enough penetration on that weld. Not enough heat,” Earnhardt said. “That’s what he told me, so that’s what I will go with. I haven’t seen the piece that broke. It’s unfortunate but I’m sure it won’t happen again. Chad Knaus promised me it wouldn’t. I’ll take his word. Pretty strong word.”
A lot of the pundits have been discounting both Dale Jr and Ryan Newman as they sit in the 10th and 11th places in points right now.Ã‚Â Counting them out may be a natural reaction, but with this new points system it really is too early to say.Ã‚Â We’ve seen Brad Kesolowski make a run before the chase from 23rd to 11th in just 9 races and if anyone was watching the points at the start of the chase to now they will realize just how big the points swings have been.Ã‚Â How does Jr feel about his chances within this new points system.
“You don’t really know I guess,” Earnhardt said. “I mean, 34 positions, you can do that in a race. There’s only 43 of us in a race. With the right luck, you can make it happen. We’re going to have to run good to do that. We’ll see how that goes. We’ve had some pretty fast cars, some quick enough cars to have some good finishes. Man, I would like to win a race before the year is out, and I think we can do that as a team. I feel confident that we can do that. I don’t think it’s over by no means.”
Ryan Newman reminded the media that last week they were counting out 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson and yet this weekend he sits 5th in the standings, just 13 points behind the co leaders, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick.
“Last week you guys counted Jimmie Johnson potentially out. He bounced back pretty vibrantly, and that was one race,” said Newman, 41 points back in 11th. “We’ve got seven to go, or whatever it is. From my standpoint, just go out there and do our best. It’s no different. But we’re 41 points out — 42 if you want to go for the championship, I guess, because we don’t have the wins to beat some of the guys up there. But we can. There’s still plenty of time. There are still plenty of, I guess, wild cards if you want to say it, between Phoenix and Martinsville and Talladega. We don’t know.”
“You get one mulligan, not two and a half,” Newman said. “I think by no means are we out of a shot for a championship. We’ve just got a pretty steep uphill battle I still think we’re capable of overcoming. I’m not going to say that we’re not. But it’s not going to be easy.”
Other chasers also made excellent points about how the media is reading the standings and looking for a prediction.Ã‚Â No one can predict how things will work out yet especially since no one can predict things like mechanical failure, tire issues, or even how the weather will be effecting the tracks that are left to race at.Ã‚Â Matt Kenseth thinks that it is just too early for those types of predictions.
“Last week I went in, and everybody was asking and saying that Jimmie was out of it,” said Kenseth. “I was thinking that he had won the last however many Dover races. I thought that was interesting, because you can have some pretty wild point swings. The further you get down the road, you can start looking at it and see who you think is more legitimate
than others, but there are a lot of cars really close right now. I think it is pretty early to be eliminating anybody.”
Tony Stewart knows better than the rest of the field how big those swings can be.Ã‚Â To go from 10th place to first in the first 2 races of the chase, only to drop back to 3rd place in a points tie with Kyle Busch, Stewart is ready to face the next 7 races.
“We have seven races to go,” Stewart agreed. “You look at how much it changed in the first two weeks. You can stare at the point standings until you are blue in the face. There is a long way to go still. Everybody is worrying way too much about the points and where everybody is at right now.”