At Phoenix International Raceway, something happened to Greg Biffle that hadn’t happened all year.
In Saturday’s Subway Fresh Fit 600, Biffle battled his No. 16 3M Ford Fusion all night, finishing an uncompetitive 22nd.
This marked the first time all year that the man known as “The Biff” finished outside the top 10.
While it’s not exactly an occasion that will be marked by great race teams of the past popping champagne, as members of the NFL’s 1972 Miami Dolphins do once the last undefeated team suffers a loss, the fact that Biffle is the Cup Series’ last driver to suffer a finish of 11th or worse is a true testament to how good this team has been to start off 2010.
It would seem Biffle has taken a page from the playbook of teammate and former Series champion Matt Kenseth and is going for a more consistent approach to racing this season.
Whether it’s by design, by accident, or by necessity, it’s working in the favor of Biffle, a driver who is usually known for his aggressiveness and love of a loose race car. He and Kenseth currently lead the series in top-10 finishes, both with six.
Only Jimmie Johnson with his three wins has more points. Kenseth currently sits second in the series standings. Biffle is third, 92 points back.
While stellar might not be the right way to describe Greg Biffle and the No. 16 team, they have been nothing short of solid and consistent.
This week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway, a track where the Roush Fenway Racing driver has enjoyed some memorable moments and a decent amount of success.
One of those memorable moments was in the spring of 2005, when he led 219 laps en route to his first Cup Series victory at the track and second of the season.
Biffle would go on to end the ’05 season with a Series-high six wins. He finished second in the standings, 35 points behind champion Tony Stewart, marking it as arguably his best Cup season so far.
Since then, the sailing hasn’t been quite as smooth for Biffle at Texas.
The following spring, after leading 49 laps, Biffle was wrecked when Kurt Busch made contact with him entering turn three, ending his day and relegating him to a 42nd-place finish.
While the wreck itself didn’t garner many headlines, the altercation that followed would. In a rage, Biffle’s then-girlfriend Nicole Lunders stormed down pit road to Busch’s pit box, where she then got into a heated exchange with Busch’s then-fiancée, Eva Bryan.
The altercation would be a headline getter and become the brunt of many jokes for weeks to come.
Since then, Texas has been a hot or cold affair for Biffle, with finishes either in the 30s or in the top 10.
With the Car of Tomorrow, however, he has shown that this is a track he shouldn’t be taken lightly at. After finishing 39th in the 2008 spring event, Biffle has reeled off three consecutive top-10 finishes, none of which were worse than eighth.
In fact, the entire Roush Fenway organization has been stellar in Texas Motor Speedway’s recent history.
Carl Edwards won the first two races at the track with the new car. Kenseth is a former winner who hasn’t finished worse than ninth there since 2006.
Couple the results that Roush Fenway has had at Texas with the momentum that, despite the hiccup last weekend, the No. 16 team is riding from the start to this season, and it’s hard to believe that Biffle’s top-10-less streak will last more than one race.
Another streak he carries into this weekend’s race is his winless streak. As of the checkered flag at Phoenix, he has gone 51 Sprint Cup races without entering Victory Lane. With Ryan Newman ending a similar streak of his own Saturday, Biffle might be licking his chops a bit at this upcoming chance to do some long awaited post-race burnouts of his own.
While this season’s Greg Biffle isn’t quite yet the one that caught fire in ’05, he’s one that can run up front at any track the Series goes to. That easily makes him a threat for the Chase. It also makes him a legitimate contender for the title.
Considering the way he’s run at Texas recently, don’t expect things to change Sunday.