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Will Biffle and Edwards make it to the Talladega finish line this time?


The remains of Greg Biffle's 2008 Talladega car. This ain't victory lane (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    By Mike Mulhern

   The last time here teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle had things going their way down the stretch….only to make that one mistake that typically proves so costly.
   Biffle and Edwards appeared headed toward a 1-2 finish down the stretch that afternoon, only to have an Edwards' bump-draft move with Biffle trigger an 11-car melee with just 14 laps to go.
    Biffle this time may again have one of the cars to beat, and he'll start right beside Juan Pablo Montoya in Sunday's Aarons 499 at 2 p.m. EDT.
    With as much grip as the new asphalt has here, and as smooth as it is, aerodynamics and speed are key: "It's all to do with the engine, and how hard these guys worked preparing the car and the body work -- and all the straight-line testing out in Arizona for a week or two," Biffle says.  "I don't know how many times they've been out there the past year.  A lot of hard work pays off when stuff like this happens.
   "The last time we had a restrictor-plate car this good was 2004 at the Daytona 500.  The thing about it is we're basically qualifying in race trim, so I feel good about the race. 
    "We've got a really fast car and an opportunity to run up front and stay up front. 
    "But certainly in a restrictor-plate race at Talladega, it truly doesn't matter where you start. At some point you're usually throughout the field and in the wrong line, or you’re stuck in the middle.
    "We've seen guys go from the back to the front here with only a few laps to go.
    "But we have a competitive car, and if I can keep it up front all day, I think we have an opportunity to get another top-five finish."
    And, heck, Biffle would just like to finish one of these. So conservative racing, he tried that last year here, and still missed:
   "I stayed out of the race until there was like 12 or 15 to go, and I could sniff the front of the pack. 
   "I think we were even with the leaders in three and four and got wrecked.
    "So I don't think there's a safe spot.  If you're out there on the track, you're vulnerable. 
    "You just try and do the best you can: pick the right people to draft with, try and stay in a good line…and just pay attention.


Last spring's NASCAR benchmark: Kyle Busch. But is he in a slump this spring? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


"There are two parts to the race --  One is making it to mile marker 498, and then the rest, two laps, with the right line and the right push.
    "You can get a lot of positions….and you can go the other way just as fast."
    So where's the right place to be with, say, two laps to go? Leading or challenging? 
    "You say you don't want to be leading on that last lap…but inevitably people are pushing and shoving back there for positions, and people don't cut each other breaks anymore," Biffle says.
   "A lot of times what happens is, throughout the race, a guy will give a little way, or give a position, work together, give a little room….but when it comes down to the last lap people don't give each other room anymore."
   And then there's the issue of blocking.
   Drivers trailing try to open up a gap on the leader in order to make a run. Then at the last moment, the leader, mirror-driving, will swerve and block.
   Of course that doesn't always work. Sometimes the challenger with a run won't back off.
    "You've got to be careful how much of a run the guy has behind you and how much you want to block," Biffle says.
    "Blocking is part of racing. You just have to be smart about how you go about it and not be too aggressive about blocking."
   Or bump-drafting, as teammate Carl Edwards now knows.
    "I've learned a lot," Edwards says. "What is it they say – that experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted?
    "So I've got a ton of experience.
    "We'll see how it goes."
    And drivers here seem extremely confident, even overconfident, about this 500, which typically is a bad sign. When drivers are scared, they tend to be more cautious.
   "In practice this thing was like a six-lane interstate -- You can drive wherever you want," Edwards said.
    "Nobody is having any trouble with handling…and no one can get away from anyone else. 
    "I guess 498 will be just surviving, and the last mile will be the race."
     And the last lap? Where to be?
    "I learned that last year at Daytona, with Kyle Busch," Edwards said. "We're side-by-side, and I'm thinking 'How are we going to get this to the start-finish line?'
    "And all of a sudden they're like 'That's the race.'
   "So you've got to be cognizant of that, for sure."
    And then there is the point factor. A driver can lose a lot of points in a flash here, which makes the racing a little more edgy: "I have fun when I'm in the car, but this is a different type of racing," Edwards says. "This isn't something where you can do some driving and get away.  You're part of the mess…and you just hope it works out."

More Talladega 'experience' for Carl Edwards (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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