Texas struggles hurt Biffle's title chances

Updated: November 6, 2005, 9:31 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Greg Biffle was out in front and seemingly headed for the strong showing he wanted -- and needed -- in Texas. He then started getting bad vibrations.

Biffle's promising start at the Dickies 500 turned into a frustrating race in which he spent most of the day just trying to stay on the lead lap rather than contending for the lead. And it cost him ground in the NASCAR Nextel Cup championship chase.

Just 37 laps into Sunday's race, Biffle had gone from seventh to first when he overtook teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead. A dozen laps later, he was forced to stop under green because of a bad vibration in his car. His day didn't get any better after that.

"It was pretty clear we would've had a top-five tonight, maybe a top-10," Biffle said. "It's unfortunate when you're trying to race to be the lucky dog. It changes your whole systematic deal of the race when you're racing for the lucky dog versus racing for position."

While Roush Racing teammates Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Kenseth finished 1-2-3, Biffle was 20th, though he did finish all 334 laps after getting back on the lead lap on the final caution.

With two races left, Biffle dropped from third to fourth in points, and his margin behind leader Tony Stewart increased from 75 to 122.

On the 83rd lap, Biffle got loose coming out of turn 4. He spun across the frontstretch, but somehow managed to keep the No. 16 Ford from hitting the wall or any other cars.

About 200 laps later, Biffle spun again coming out of turn 4. He would have gotten back on the lead lap then, except he caused the caution.

Newman slips
Ryan Newman was the polesitter Sunday, but didn't even lead a lap. He never got in the top 10, and ran only a handful of laps in the top 20.

Forced to a backup car because he wrecked on his second qualifying lap Friday, Newman had to start at the back of the 43-car field Sunday. He finished 25th as the last car on the lead lap, and slipped from fifth to seventh in season points -- 174 behind leader Tony Stewart.

Hamlin gets full-time ride
Denny Hamlin was behind the wheel of Joe Gibbs' No. 11 Chevrolet for the fifth straight race Sunday. There will be plenty more races in that car.

Even before Hamlin finished seventh in the Dickies 500, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Hamlin would be the driver for the rest of this season, and in 2006.

"Just one year ago, I never dreamed I'd be in this situation," the 24-year-old Hamlin said. "But the passion is there each and every week. It's something I was born and raised to do."

Jason Leffler was fired after the Brickyard 400 in August, when he was 35th in points and didn't have a top-10 finish in any of his 19 races. Hamlin was given a monthlong tryout leading into Texas, and had two top-10 finishes in those four races.

"He's just so consistent and smooth on the track. He doesn't get rattled," Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs said. "He takes his time the first part of the race. He learns the track, he's careful around guys, then he starts kind of picking up and moving."

Hamlin is fifth in Busch Series points, and will also run a full-time Busch schedule next year.

Aikman's split attention
When Troy Aikman is broadcasting NFL games on Fox next fall, he'll also have an interest in what's being televised on NBC.

The Hall of Fame Racing team formed by Aikman and Roger Staubach, the quarterbacks who led the Dallas Cowboys to their five Super Bowl championships, will debut in Nextel Cup next season.

"The hard part being in the booth doing football is I'll be wondering at various points in the game how the No. 96 car is doing," Aikman said.

Aikman expects to get plenty of updates from the Fox production crew that he works with for NFL games. It's the same crew that works Fox's NASCAR telecasts the first half of the season before NBC takes over.

"They are very much into NASCAR as well," Aikman said.

Stewart's bridge
A new overpass that eases congestion at the south tunnel at Texas Motor Speedway was dedicated as the "Tony Stewart Bridge."

Stewart in the past complained after traffic congestion in that area, and almost missed a driver's meeting because of it one time. Track president Eddie Gossage had joked he would name an overpass for Stewart, and he did on the bridge completed this year.

He said it
"We can win the championship on racing, and not have to count on bad luck on anybody's behalf." -- Jimmie Johnson, who finished fifth Sunday, to remain second in the points chase and cut the gap behind leader Tony Stewart from 43 to 38 points.

Sparkplugs
Carl Edwards was the 10th winner in 10 Nextel Cup races at Texas. He was the fifth Roush driver. … The announced crowd was 194,500. This was the first time that Texas Motor Speedway had two Nextel Cup races in the same year The track has 159,585 permanent seats and a listed estimated capacity of 212,585. … This was the first Texas race to start in the daylight and end under the lights. … TMS officials gave retiring driver Rusty Wallace a pair of cowboy boots and a replica of the "Wallace Lane" sign from the road on track property that bears his name.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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