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Year in Review: Slow start in Chase cost Biffle chance at winning championship

December 12, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Year in Review: Slow start in Chase cost Biffle chance at winning championship
Year in Review: Slow start in Chase cost Biffle chance at winning championship

Do away with the first three races in the Chase and Greg Biffle might well have been NASCAR's Sprint Cup champion instead of settling for fifth place in 2012.

Biffle won twice, had 12 top-fives and tied career-bests with three poles and 21 top-10 finishes.

"I know in my heart what our team is capable of and what I am capable of."

--GREG BIFFLE

Greg Biffle

2012 Statistics
WinsFirst 26Final 10
Top-Fives102
Top-10s156
Poles21
DNFs00
Laps Led63487
Avg. Start9.012.3
Avg. Finish9.311.6

He led the Sprint Cup standings after 15 of the first 26 races, including 11 in a row early in the season. No other driver was running at the finish in all 36 points races and no driver had more lead-lap finishes than Biffle's 32.

Ultimately, it all came down to three lousy weeks at the most inopportune time for Biffle, who began the Chase with finishes of 13th, 18th and 16th, quickly falling 51 points behind the leader and erasing any real hopes he had for contending.

"Leading the points for over half of the regular season -- not to mention getting two wins -- that was a big time statement for first-time full-time crew chief Matt Puccia and a lot of the team guys," said Biffle, who was never lower than fourth in points before the Chase began.

"To finish fifth and lead in points longer than anyone in our first season together is no small accomplishment. On the one hand, it's a little disappointing that we didn't win the title or get closer than we did. So, [the season] was kind of bittersweet."

Biffle and the No. 16 team certainly had their moments.

They were dominant at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where they led 275 laps this season. Biffle won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and also won for Roush Fenway Racing at Michigan in the 23rd week of the season to regain the points lead. In all, heal led 721 laps -- his most since 2006.

Although Biffle improved his average finish from 16.8 in 2011(the only time he's missed the Chase in the last six seasons) to 10.2 this year, he was pretty well resigned to his fate after the third race of the Chase at Dover.

"It's not like there are two or three guys we need to catch up to," he observed. "That's a pretty tall order, to beat all those guys by six or eight positions seven races in a row. That's going to be hard."

Even with six top-10 finishes in the season's final seven races, it proved downright impossible. The damage had, indeed been done.

Despite crashing his primary car in practice and being forced to the back of the field in a backup car for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway, Biffle clawed his way to a fifth-place finish, enabling him to climb to fifth in the final standings.

Now, entering the 2013 season, the former Nationwide and truck series champion, who turns 43 on Dec. 23, finds himself clearly defined as Roush Fenway's best hope. Long-time teammate Matt Kenseth is off to race Toyotas for Joe Gibbs Racing, Carl Edwards failed to win a Cup race in 2012 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be running his first full season of Cup.

"I know in my heart what our team is capable of and what I am capable of," Biffle said, after his victory at Michigan.

With a year together under their belts, the time might just be right for it all to come together for the 16 team.

Watch all of Biffle's highlights from 2012 and flip through his year in photos below.