How the race was won
Biffle Greg Biffle had one of the best cars in the field all day but lost a little ground toward the end of a run. He took a risk by pitting early in cycle, as a quick caution or a few more laps at the end of the race might have kept him out of victory lane. But the risk paid off and Biffle scored the win.
Story of the race
Redemption. Biffle and runner-up Jeff Gordon both needed big days, and they both got 'em.
Also, the relative tameness of the track too tough to tame. The Lady in Black was more or less kind to the field – with the possible exception of Kevin Harvick.
Give 'em credit
Biffle is rolling. The Chase is within reach. Gordon also was stout, but doesn't it seem the 24 needs one of those dominate-from-start-to-finish victories?
Ryan Newman. Sure, he drifted back a few spots in the latter stages of the race, but this was perhaps as solid an effort, from start to finish, as the 12 team has had all season.
Nice runs by others in the top 10 or 15, including Jimmie Johnson (keeps getting it done), Matt Kenseth (ditto), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (these guys seem to be for real), Kyle Busch (comeback continues), Denny Hamlin (big weekend), Reed Sorenson (nice rebound for the rookie), Robby Gordon (he deserves more finishes like this) and Ken Schrader (ditto).
Also, Fox. We've ripped the network for missing too many restarts to count, but they stepped up Saturday and caught more of the action. Nice work.
Finally, Darlington. It's been covered, but the track and fans continue to step up – though large chunks of asphalt knocking drivers out of the race, well, that leaves a bit to be desired.
What were they thinking?
Does Schrader also belong down here? Some might say yes. A run-in with Johnson on pit road – which wasn't Schrader's fault – all but dashed the 48's hopes of winning, and failing to move aside enough for Gordon to continue chasing Biffle hurt the 24's chances. Of course, Gordon only got that close because of lapped traffic holding up Biffle, so it's hard to complain too much. Biffle himself even said afterward that it's difficult for lapped cars to get out of the way, especially on older tires.
Then there was Chris Myers' Patrick Kennedy joke. Maybe funny and well-deserved, maybe inappropriate, probably not a big deal either way. But no surprise coming from Fox. Either way, give Myers credit for being gutsy.
Better luck next time
I don't think having to avoid chunks of broken track is what people mean when talking about the challenges Darlington presents. Surely Harvick agrees.
Carl Edwards. Terrific comeback from early woes for this team, but it just wasn't meant to be. Seems Edwards and Biffle rarely can both have good luck in the same race.
Jeremy Mayfield. He had a good run going – one he desperately needed – before mechanical failures did him in. Darlington also was rough on Mayfield's teammate Kasey Kahne, who early on looked poised to compete for the win.
By the way ...
The fifth green flag pit cycle of the season played a role in the outcome – just ask Biffle and Johnson. Could we see No. 6 at Lowe's in two weeks? All depends on the track surface/tire combo. Remember, those races were brutal caution-fests last year, but much has changed since.
Anyone else notice Biffle essentially thank Kurt Busch for not holding him up down the stretch? If we're so quick to focus on feuds between these drivers, it's only fair to point out when they play well with others.
Why is "Sweet Home Alabama" the score of those KFC ads? You don't fool us, KFC – we all remember what the "K" stands for.
Grading the race
There is a fine line between lack of cautions and incidents making a race boring, and too many of them making it unwatchable. At times, Saturday's race leaned slightly toward the former, but consider this: The race ended with a long green flag run which included a full green pit cycle, giving the field plenty of time to spread out. And yet, it still came down to the last ½ lap. That's impressive, as was watching so many top-notch drivers absolutely tame Darlington. Still, this one won't exactly go down as a classic full of daring passes and dramatic battles. Really, it was more or less just another race. Grade: B-
From the source
Greg Biffle: "I tell you what, it was a tough night. This place never is easy."
Jeff Gordon: "I didn't even think I was going to get to [Biffle] with five or six to go. Then all of the sudden, boom, I was right up on him with two or three to go and I wasn't expecting that, so [lapped traffic] goes both ways."