CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Greg Biffle fell two laps down at Martinsville, clawed his way to a 13th-place finish, then headed to the Bahamas No. 1 in NASCAR standings.
“It feels good to go on vacation being the point leader,” Biffle said after the April 1 race in Virginia.
The driver from Vancouver, Wash., better have enjoyed his time away from the track, because it’s game-on from here. NASCAR resumes racing this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the first in a stretch of 14 consecutive weeks with races that will shape most of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
Brad Keselowski proved last year a driver can overcome a slow start and still be a championship contender. He was a season-low 28th in the standings nine races into the season, turned things around at the start of the summer and used three wins to claim one of the two wild-card spots in the 12-driver Chase field.
That leaves hope for Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne, who has had a horrendous start to his Hendrick Motorsports tenure.
Despite two poles and strong cars, Kahne has been plagued with problems and has four finishes of 29th or worse. His best showing this season was 14th at California, and an engine failure at Martinsville, Va., has him sitting 31st in the standings.
Carl Edwards, who lost the championship to Tony Stewart last season on a tie-breaker, is currently 11th, and Keselowski, despite a win at Bristol, is 12th.
Kyle Busch is stuck back in 16th and uncharacteristically has only challenged for one victory so far this season.
Stuck in 21st is four-time champion Jeff Gordon, outside the top 10 in points six races into the season for only the third time in his career. He rallied to make the Chase in 2004 and 2011 but has a lot of ground to make up this season.
So the attention, for now, shifts toward the back of the field to see who can salvage their season.
It takes the heat off Biffle, who’s leading the points standings for just the second time in his career.
Biffle’s only other time out front came in 2005, when he won six races but spent just one week atop the points and finished second in the final standings.
Now, behind four top-10 finishes in the first six races, Biffle holds a six-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. It shows he’s had a strong start to the season but means very little else at this stage of the game.
Biffle hasn’t won a race since Kansas in 2010 and takes a 49-race winless streak into Texas.
But he’s confident he’s getting close with the help of new crew chief Matt Puccia, who has already this season matched the three top-five finishes Biffle scored last season.
“You’re never happy unless you win or you’re winning. I don’t mean happy as you’re not satisfied, but you’re going to continue to work hard, or harder, be aggressive, until you win,” Biffle said.