By John Gardner
All the open-wheel series were off this weekend, leaving the spotlight for stock cars, sports cars and drag racing. NASCAR was at Texas Motor Speedway with the Nextel Cup and Busch series, accompanied by the International Race of Champions. Meanwhile, on the east coast, the American Le Mans Series visited their home track at Road Atlanta for the series’ second event of the season, with the SCCA’s Speed World Challenge on the undercard, and out west the NHRA was rollin’ big numbers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR: Deep in the Hot of Texas
Greg Biffle was the man with the plan in Texas on Sunday, coming from 41st on the grid to score his second victory of the season in seven events. Biffle destroyed his primary car in practice on Friday (yet another victim of a tire failure, a phenomenon that seems to be occurring with alarming frequency this year), but his Roush Racing team immediately rolled out a backup car that was similarly bullet-fast.
Biffle really stunk up the show on Sunday, leading 219 of the 334 laps (second-highest number of laps led was 45, by Tony Stewart, who grenaded a motor late in the race and sustained minor burns to his extremities). Chip Ganassi’s team had a good day, placing three cars in the top five. Jamie McMurray was second, Casey Mears fourth and Sterling Marlin fifth (no doubt inspired by recent rumors that he’ll be looking for a new ride next year). Mr. Consistency, points leader Jimmie Johnson, broke up the Ganassi party with a third-place finish in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.
Michael Waltrip was sixth, with Kurt Busch, Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rusty Wallace completing the top 10. Mears, who has had miserable luck this year, gambled with a two-tire stop in the closing laps and got out of the pits first, but Biffle blew past like he was brushing a fly off his arm just a couple laps after the restart and brought McMurray and Johnson along for the ride. And that, as they say, was that.
From Texas the series heads further west to Phoenix for a Saturday-night race.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 334 laps
2) Jamie McMurray, No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 334
3) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 334
4) Casey Mears, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 334
5) Sterling Marlin, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 334
Driver’s Championship: 1) Johnson, 1142; 2) Biffle, 1007; 3) Wallace, 905; 4) Kurt Busch, 897; 5) Jeff Gordon, 895.
Busch Series: Kahne is Able
Kasey Kahne passed rookie sensation Reed Sorenson with seven laps to go and picked up his first Busch Series victory since 2003 on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Greg Biffle provided a hint of what was to come on Sunday with a strong second-place finish, just .3sec behind Kahne, with Sorenson finishing third ahead of Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler, who shares Robert Yates Racing’s No. 90 Ford with Nextel Cup teammate Dale Jarrett.
Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Jon Wood, Kenny Wallace and polesitter Shane Hmiel completed the top 10.
Following the race, the No. 1 Dodge of Johnny Sauter, owned by James Finch, was disqualified for an illegal carburetor, and stripped of all points and money earned by its 14th-place finish. Look for an announcement of further strict sanctions against the No. 1 team later this week.
The Busch Series will join the Nextel Cup at Phoenix next weekend.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five: