FORT WORTH, Tex. — If you wanted the guide to the complaints about modern-day intermediate track racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Saturday night's Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway was all that you needed to see.
There were long green-flag runs. Oh, were there long green-flag runs. The race's second and final caution was from Laps 95-100. That meant the last 234 laps were run under green.
The racing was single file and spread out. Twelve cars finished on the lead lap. Only seven cars finished one lap down. Most of the races 16 lead changes happened while pit stops were being exchanged.
There weren't any crashes. Both of the race's cautions were for debris, though on the second caution, the debris stemmed from Trevor Bayne's smack of the Turns 3 and 4 outside wall. The previous fewest number of cautions at Texas was five.
The race winner Greg Biffle — not an intermediate track complaint, unless there's a large unknown legion of Biffle haters — who passed Jimmie Johnson for the lead with 30 laps to go. After the pass, Johnson gave chase to Biffle, but that quickly ended when Johnson got loose and brushed the wall in Turn 3, allowing Biffle to pull away for the easy win, unspoiled by any late race incidents necessitating a green-white-checker finish.
"We ran with him [after Biffle's pass for the lead] for the next eight to ten laps and then I made a mistake into three and hit the fence, and at that point just needed to make sure I brought it home," Johnson said.
The win extended Biffle's lead at the top of the Cup Series points standings to 19 over teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished fifth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 10th. Something that could have also been extended? That 234-lap, green-flag run. If this was the 24 Hours of Texas, they could have raced until 3 a.m. without the yellow flag waving.
Did the steady 25 MPH winds all evening at Texas also contribute to the quality of racing? Biffle said he was surprised that there were no incidents, but also felt that the wind played a factor into the spacing of the field.
"That could be a factor as to why there were no accidents," Biffle said. "You would think 'Oh it would cause one,' but it made it so you really couldn't race side-by-side real tight with a guy. "
Because of the relative equality in equipment throughout the field, the competition in the Sprint Cup Series has been billed as the toughest it's ever been. And that's not an untrue statement — a race like this 30 years ago would be considered competitive. But that equality and aero sensitivity from the exponential increase in engineering technology in the series has made a habit at intermediate tracks of metasticizing into high speed parades minus the pretty floats and the marching bands.
Has that equality spoiled people into expecting a knock-down, drag out fight to the finish every single week? Perhaps. And it doesn't help matters that the Camping World Truck Series returned to Rockingham on Sunday, a worn-out racetrack with multiple grooves that's a staple of NASCAR history.
Saturday night's race at Texas will likely not fall into the "unforgettable" category for anyone but Greg Biffle. But not every sporting event is. Let's chalk it up and move on to Kansas — another 1.5 mile track — and hope we don't see a repeat.
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