Biffle hangs on to potential Chase spot, barely

Greg Biffle in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Getty Images)

Greg Biffle in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — No driver sits more squarely on NASCAR’s Chase Grid bubble than Greg Biffle.

Although winless this season, if the Chase were to begin today, Biffle would be part of the championship field, based on points.

But the Roush Fenway Racing driver is perched precariously, 16th on the 16-driver grid, just nine points ahead of Kasey Kahne and 22 ahead of Austin Dillon. A victory by a still-winless driver in any of the next three races, including Saturday night’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway could bump Biffle from Chase contender to Chase observer.

If Biffle has anything going for him, it’s momentum with top-10 finishes in the last three Cup races.

“We’ve felt pressure all year because we haven’t performed to our standards at Roush Fenway,” said Biffle on Friday, displaying the team’s new Ortho fire ant paint scheme which will debut next week at Atlanta. “But we’ve gotten much better in the last six weeks. I think we’ve turned the corner.

“We’re seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s so much easier to show up at the race track and compete. We have a lot of confidence going into these last three races.”

Despite six top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes, Biffle has never won a Sprint Cup race at Bristol.

“This is a tough place – a really, really tough place,” he said. “We feel like we run in the top 10 about every time we’re here.”

Truth be told, Biffle has only one top-10 finish in his last six Cup races at Bristol (a ninth in last year’s night race). That makes for a fine line between racing for points and racing for a win, given his lack of security in the point standings.

“You take chances and (make) passes and all the things you can do, but at the same time, we know we’re on that bubble in points,” Biffle said. “I feel it’s gonna take a win, still, to get in this thing and that’s what we’re going for.”

Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said he expected Ortho to be the primary sponsor for about half of next year’s races. He noted that Roush Fenway was in discussions with Scotts Lawn Care (an RFR sponsor from 2005 to 2011) to bring Ortho aboard, even before Biffle’s longtime sponsor 3M announced it was moving to Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff Gordon for 2015.

Mark Martin left Roush after winning six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races with Scotts on the hood. Carl Edwards, who won the 2007 Nationwide Series crown with Scotts as sponsor, will be long gone from Roush Fenway next season. Biffle, second in the final 2005 Cup standings, has decided to remain loyal to Roush Fenway, despite its struggles in 2014.

“It’s easy to jump ship when the cycle is not in your favor,” said Biffle, whose 3M car sports a special Hire Our Heroes military paint scheme this week.  “I know everybody (at RFR) is working hard. We have the resources, and with a lot of people behind the organization, I know that we could get back to winning races. I think Michigan (last week) was proof of that.

“We didn’t win, but it was a ‘win’ for our organization. Ricky Stenhouse had a fast car. We had a fast car. We’re making improvements and we’re on our way to getting back to winning races.”

As if to prove the point, Stenhouse posted the fastest lap in Friday’s 50-minute final practice.  However, Stenhouse spent 19 of the 30 minutes of the first round in technical inspection. He was able to join the first session but failed to advance and will start 21st Saturday night.

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