CONCORD, N.C. -- Greg Biffle finished sixth one week ago at Talladega Superspeedway, and then looked up at the scoring tower to realize Cup Series leader Brad Keselowski had finished seventh. His net gain for one long day of trying to crawl back into the Sprint Cup championship hunt?
"So, 49 more weeks," he joked, "and we'll be right there with him."
Clearly, Biffle doesn't have quite that long, but he's also not giving up. And his perseverance was rewarded with a night like Saturday, when the pole winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway finished fourth and finally found some real traction in the standings, moving up three places to sixth. It was the biggest gain by any of the Chase contenders on the 1.5-mile track, and it surely buoyed the spirits of a driver who was among the best during the Cup regular season.
"We had a great night," Biffle said. "The [No. 16 car] was fast all night, but I was too loose all night. I didn't take big enough swings at it. I didn't want to get tight, because when you get tight here it's miserable, and there with about 100 to go we took a big swing at the car and she really took off. We started turning the fastest lap times, but we had so much track position to make up, and then you can't beat the fuel mileage. We're just not in that game to be able to go as far as those guys were going. It hurts to get beat on fuel mileage, but we were the first car behind the three that made it on fuel mileage, so I feel pretty good with fourth."
Biffle had to pit late to top off, taking him out of the mix to win, and leaving Clint Bowyer to prevail in a gas-fumes shootout over Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Those latter two drivers rank high in the championship standings, somewhere Biffle thought he'd be after a regular season that saw him win twice and lead the points for 14 weeks. Biffle was the Cup Series leader until Chase -- something that's been forgotten in the time since, as the Roush Fenway Racing driver has endured a miserable start to the playoff that two weeks ago left him 11th in the standings.
The last two races, though, has brought back the Biffle that looked so strong for so long in the regular season. The driver believes his team fell behind because it didn't test at available tracks like Nashville as often as some of its competitors did.
"The couple races going into the Chase we weren't very good, and then a couple races after the Chase started we weren't very good, so I think we got behind by not going to Nashville and not doing some testing," he said. "We got behind as an organization and as the 16 team."
Biffle believes an increased testing schedule will produce better results on the race track. The No. 16 team has an upcoming test planned at Nashville in addition to the open two-day test slated for later this week at Kansas. Biffle was also one of the drivers involved in the Goodyear tire test at Texas earlier this week. He hopes all that work will pay off.
"We've gotten ... a little better grip on this thing," he said. "We felt like we were prepared. If we would have known we weren't, we would have been testing, but we felt like, hey, when this Chase starts, we're going to be a factor. We all believed it, and we all felt like it, and we were off a little bit."
They were certainly on Saturday night, when Biffle polished off back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time during the Chase. The bad news? Despite vaulting three places in the standings, he made up only six points on Keselowski, who finished 11th. The good news? He's running well once again, even if the resurgence perhaps comes too late to get him back in championship contention.
"All we can do is do the best we can, and whatever happens, happens," Biffle said. "If we get back in it, it's because they gave it back to us. That's really what's going to have to happen, and we're going to have to earn it for sure."
- Greg Biffle