Race Coverage Daily & Internet
Monte Dutton, Gaston Gazette
A wacky victory for Biffle
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The latest Kansas Speedway race had everything but Quantrill’s Raiders.
Kansas rainy Kansas. Kansas messy Kansas. Kansas goofy Kansas.
Greg Biffle won the most untidy Nextel Cup race of the season to date – and perhaps any season – in the home state of Bob Dole, Alf Landon, Dorothy and Toto. The Ford driver held off the charge of the actual race’s only Kansan, Emporia’s Clint Bowyer, who didn’t get a chance to give it one final shot.
In one final, bizarre twist, the winning car didn’t even come close to crossing the finish line first. Biffle slowed dramatically as the field came down to the checkered flag, skittering into the waterlogged grass in the darkness. Passing, of course, isn’t allowed under a yellow flag, but the winner is supposedly required to maintain a certain speed.
“It’s pretty sad when the car can’t even make it across the finish line,” said Bowyer.
“I had enough gas to finish,” said Biffle, “but I got down in the grass and they just told me to shut it off.”
Biffle, winning for the first time this year, made it across the line but didn’t make it across first … or even that close to first.
The 43 drivers who began the LifeLock 400 represented a group more akin to a football team in size, but an argument could be made that the conduct of the race more closely resembled the performance of the 1962 New York Mets.
To paraphrase Casey Stengel, “Can’t anybody here race this track?
Precious few, particularly from the mostly doomed, dozen drivers in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Seven of them finished 29th or worse, spreading the range of the Chase from 158 to 248, first to 12th.
After two rain delays totaling approximately three hours, when the race finally resumed for the final time, the field made it less than a lap at speed before a mammoth crash occurred.
It began with contact between the cars of Michael Waltrip and Ken Schrader exiting turn two. Stewart made it through miraculously, though his Chevy sustained contact in the slowdown with Truex’s car, which was less fortunate. Matt Kenseth’s Ford sustained heavy damage, as well as the cars of David Gilliland, David Stremme and Bobby Labonte.
Stewart, who would’ve won the race had it not been resumed – for a second time! -- restarted with the left-front tire rubbing, which set off a free fall from contention.
Meanwhile, up front, Biffle was wresting the lead away from Kevin Harvick on lap 174.
Stewart, trying to nurse his car home, crashed on lap 175, slowing when the car, somewhat predictably, had its tire blow. Kurt Busch piled in from behind, unable to move down because of a car (Kyle Busch) on his inside, and Carl Edwards couldn’t avoid the melee.
“I did everything I could to stop,” said Edwards. “I just committed to the top and couldn’t get through.
“Some people are saying that Tony should’ve stopped to get his car fixed, but if I was in the same position, I would’ve been begging to stay out, too. That’s racing, man.”
Meanwhile, Stewart, sitting inside his crippled car, tossed his steering wheel almost directly at the in-car camera, yanked down his own visor and fired his gloves in frustration before climbing out of the car. He was reportedly still livid after being checked out in the infield car center.
The race, having already been shortened to 225 laps, was then shortened to 210 laps as darkness closed in.
And, once again, the field couldn’t make it a lap after a lengthy caution flag. Denny Hamlin’s Chevy and Jamie McMurray’s Ford crashed on the back straight.
Biffle ran away with the remaining laps, even while Bowyer was seizing solid control of second, Harvick was fading and Jimmie Johnson was sneaking toward the front.
To top off the absurdity, NASCAR officials swallowed their whistles for nearly two laps before finally waving a final yellow flag with four laps to go. Juan Pablo Montoya’s Dodge hit the wall first in turn three and then popped it again in turns one and two.
By then, it was fairly close to dark, and NASCAR officials elected to ignore their own rules, eschewing the so-called “green-white-checkered rule” in deference to lack of visibility.