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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Biffle wins exciting 3-way battle as Kyle Busch’s title hopes go Kaboom! at Dover

Associated Press photo
Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth battle for the lead near the end of Sunday’s race at Dover. Biffle came out on top for his second straight win

Now that’s what I call a race.

All the naysayers who have claimed that the COT has ruined NASCAR don’t have much to say today after one of the most exciting races of the year went all the way down the wire at Dover.

Dover’s always an exciting track, but this race exceeded my expectations for intrigue
-- 2-way and 3-way battles for the lead for much of the day … check
-- Pit strategy spicing up part of the race … check
-- Car issues causing serious points implications for many Chase drivers … check

If you couldn’t find drama in this race, you must be comatose.

First off, I must give props to Greg Biffle for his brilliant start to the Chase, winning the first two races and letting the world know he will compete for the title. He had a strong start to the season, then cooled off considerably as the Chase neared. After not winning all year leading up the Chase, he’s taken the first two races as we head to Kansas City, where he won last year. Last year’s Chase wild card was Clint Bowyer, and this year’s appears to be Biffle. He’s chosen the perfect time to start showing his full potential. Many people forget Biffle finished second in the title hunt a few years ago.

It was clear Sunday that the Jack Roush cars had the rest of the field licked. Jamie McMurray was awesome early before getting in a wreck, and late in the race Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards put on one of the best battles for the lead I’ve seen all year. I bet Jack Roush was holding his breath during the whole thing, hoping they didn’t all wreck each other and destroy a bunch of good cars and their title hopes. Mark Martin, my pick to win and coincidentally a former Roush driver, was doing his best to catch the Roush trio as they battled, but had to settle for 4th place.

This kind of edge-of-your-seat racing is what makes the sport so popular, and I hope we see more of it as the Chase progresses.

The biggest story of the day, though, is that once-undefeatable Kyle Busch now has basically no chance of winning the Chase after his engine went kablooey on him. Yes, this is the same Kyle Busch who spanked the entire field all year en route to eight wins, 15 top-5 and 17 top-10s. Heading into the Chase, he was the clear favorite.

But just like any other sport’s playoff, you have to start strong or the regular season means nothing. A busted sway bar part and a blown engine to start the Chase will ruin anyone’s title’s chances, and Kyle’s going to have to perform at the top of his game for the next eight races to even get to mid-pack. It appears the party for Kyle-haters can begin, and those who were rooting for him need to get behind a new horse.

Another driver who can basically kiss his title hopes goodbye is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was basically out there making laps today in a junk car, and that’s not going to win you any titles. Something just isn’t working at the 88 team, and just two races into the Chase it’s painfully obvious they don’t have the goods to battle for a title. He’s only 129 points out, but the way they’re running I don’t see how anyone can realistically think he has a shot at the title.

Points update
Biffle’s back-to-back wins put him in a tie with Johnson for 2nd place, 10 points behind Carl Edwards. Right now, these three drivers appear to be the only ones with legitimate shots at the title.

Jeff Burton (82 back), Kevin Harvick (101), Clint Bowyer (106), Tony Stewart (113) and Jeff Gordon (118) could make runs, but they need to be quick about it. None of them have shown enough consistency this year for me to think they’re going to step it up now. Unless they make a move in the next few weeks that’s equivalent to what Biffle did in the first two Chase races, don’t expect them to win the Cup.

Pretty much out for the count are Jr., as I explained above, Matt Kenseth, who’s still 167 points back despite finishing 2nd today, and Denny Hamlin, who is floundering in 11th, 193 points out. Of course, Busch makes this group, too -- dead last with 210 points to make up.


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