Biffle races to Miami win

Greg Biffle, racing to win in the middle of a tense championship battle, fought through an overtime restart to take Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the last race in NASCAR's 36-event season. The race also decided the Nextel Cup season title, with Kurt Busch winning by eight points after finishing fifth Sunday

Biffle races to Miami win

Biffle, not a contender for the title (20th in points coming in), roared toward the front after making his final pit stop under caution on lap 224. He passed Jeff Gordon for fourth on lap 262, moved to third when Ryan Newman hit the wall on lap 264, bringing the final caution, and took second when Dale Jarrett ran out of gas just before the restart.

With the two-lap overtime shootout looming, Biffle found himself behind Tony Stewart and ahead of Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Busch, who according to the running count were within 16 points at the top of the standings. Any error by Biffle could have changed the outcome of the points race.

The error instead came under the hood of Stewart's car, with Stewart's engine vapour-locking on the restart at lap 270. With Stewart failing to go, Biffle swerved to the outside as Gordon shot to the inside. Gordon and Stewart bumped sides, and Johnson, seeing opportunity, swept by both to second place.

Biffle, meanwhile had cleared Stewart and taken the lead.

"I tell you what, that's about the toughest spot to be in ever in your life," Biffle said. "Everybody can put yourselves in that position and think to yourself, 'What am I going to do here and how to I handle myself?' I wanted to win the race. I had the car to win the race. We had the fastest car and led a lot of the laps.

"The 20 car [Stewart] just stopped in front of me, and I jerked the wheel to the right to try not to hit him. I got off the gas and jerked the wheel to the right to try not to him him. Then I got back in the gas and looked around to see if the 24 [Gordon] or 48 [Johnson] was going to be beside me. I didn't want to wreck them or run into anybody, so once I realised I was clear, I knew it was going to be clean sailing."

Biffle led the most laps after starting second. He allowed pole-winner Busch the lead at the start, giving Busch the five-point leader bonus, then took the lead on lap 5. He led the next 110 laps and 117 in all.

The race, however, became very jumbled and confusing from about the time of the fifth caution on lap 114 right through to the end. Adding to the confusion was the focus on the five championship contenders, with Busch leading Johnson by 18 points. Tyres caused problems for several teams, and teams began to pursue different pit tactics.

Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler and Johnson came out ahead of Biffle after the caution stops on lap 114. Biffle passed Newman for the lead on lap 147, but caution the next lap brought the cars in again, with Stewart taking the lead due to a fuel-only stop.

Biffle retook the lead on lap 171 but again was thwarted by caution. This time, Bobby Labonte stayed out, taking the lead, with Newman returning to the point on lap 184. There were 12 cautions overall

From there, the race seemed to come down to Newman and Stewart, who worked each other over for 40 laps before Newman's right-front tyre blew, pitching him to the wall on lap 264. That's when a chaotic race became a heart-stopper.

The race was full of strange events. A wheel broke off the right-front of Busch's car on lap 93, and he narrowly avoided the end of the pit wall as he tried to save the car. The wheel was not loose, but actually broke in the hub area and fell off the car, rolling the length of the front stretch.

Busch's car, luckily, was not damaged, and although he was sent to the end of the line for pitting illegally, he did not lose a lap.

Stewart received a setback when NASCAR penalised him for failing to restart properly when leading on lap 171. He was given a pass-through and, unsurprisingly, was furious.

On lap 114, after Busch had begun to recover from the broken wheel, his team bungled a pit stop, with his gas man standing idly, thinking another pit procedure was in the works. By the time the car was fueled, Busch had lost several positions and had to fight his way back from 26th. He eventually finished fifth, enough to take the title.

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