Pepsi 400: Biffle scores shock victory

Rookie Ford driver Greg Biffle, who has struggled to show the form in the Winston Cup that he did in the Busch Series, won Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway

Pepsi 400: Biffle scores shock victory

The victory for Biffle was a refreshing anomaly in what seemed to be an endless rocket ride for the DEI cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip. They had won the prior five restrictor-plate races.

Biffle and four other drivers re-pitted for a top-off of fuel at the end of the caution period, which followed a big crash on Lap 75. Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Rudd and Terry Labonte emerged with tanks totally full on Lap 79, putting them in an end-game sequence of their own.

Favourites Earnhardt and Waltrip did not pit under that caution, as it came up out of their fuel window. Those two, along with the rest of the field, had pitted under caution on Lap 65. After a caution for the seven-car crash on Lap 75, most of those from 10th back pitted again, but only four teams, those near the back anyway, could afford to make the shrewd call to re-pit or a full tank. In the end, that move turned out to be brilliant.

Given the advantage, Biffle made the most of it. Bully boys Earnhardt and Waltrip had the lead at the restart, but without a caution to rest the pit sequences, both knew they were doomed. Both pitted on schedule under green on Lap 103, along with challenger Jimmie Johnson. Kevin Harvick, also strong, came in on 104.

All of those, however, needed a caution before the other group pitted to have a chance at winning, and no yellow came. Biffle came out in sixth, behind Kenseth, B. Labonte, Jeff Burton, Ward Burton and T. Labonte. Kenseth, who had pitted on Lap 76, made his next stop on Lap 116, along with W. Burton. J. Burton stopped on 117, and the Labontes, Biffle and Rudd came in on 119, giving the lead back to Earnhardt.

Earnhardt was a sitting duck, with Biffle second, Waltrip third and Harvick fourth. Earnhardt and Waltrip made their final stops on Lap 139, Harvick and Johnson on Lap 140, giving the lead to Biffle.

Biffle had 15 laps of protection from team-mate Kenseth, who also knew he had to pit again. Kenseth was able to confound B. Labonte, who charged to the front from seventh place, until Kenseth had to pit on Lap 156. From there, it was rookie Biffle vs. veteran Labonte.

Labonte, however, ran out of gas off Turn 2 on the last lap, leaving Biffle to coast to his first Winston Cup victory in his 23rd start. Biffle also has won championships in Craftsman Trucks and Busch (2002) on his way up the ladder with Roush Racing.

J. Burton finished second, Rudd third (his best of the season), T. Labonte fourth and B. Labonte fifth. Remarkably steady Kenseth finished sixth and maintained his 180-point lead in the season standings. Earnhardt, who finished seventh, is second, 180 back, jumping back past Jeff Gordon, who came in 14th. Gordon is 203 behind.

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