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The Biff takes the Kansas pole, but what about the title contenders?

   Greg Biffle: Now can he upset the chasers on Sunday too? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Usually when the NASCAR playoffs begin, guys who aren't in the championship chase don't get much air play or headlines.
   So they've got to fight for what they can get.
   Like Greg Biffle here Friday – winning the pole for Sunday's 400….and beating a bevy of title contenders, including teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch.

   What to expect in Round Four of the chase?
   Well, the first thing is there have been seven races this season at these 1-1/2-mile tracks – and seven different winners: Edwards, Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart.
   All playoff drivers.
   And if anyone is counting, that's Ford, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Toyota, Chevy, Chevy.
   So what to expect Sunday?
   Well, the numbers say Gordon (qualified 10th) versus Edwards (2nd) versus Johnson (19th) versus Denny Hamlin (7th):  http://bit.ly/pUYIPY
   It's been a while since Biffle won….exactly one year ago right here.
   But he's had enough speed, if not enough luck, to win several times this season: "Michigan, Chicago, Dover, all of those I thought were places that we could have won at. Unfortunately at Michigan and Chicago, we had items break on the car."
    So while Biffle has one agenda, teammates Edwards and Kenseth have quite another.
  "It feels like we have been running chase races for a year," Edwards says. "The time has really slowed down.
    "We are only three races in, and it feels like a lot has happened."
    Well, it's been Tony Steward, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch so far.
    Edwards calls Martinsville, Talladega and repaved Phoenix his three wild cards in the chase, and he seems most worried about those three.
    "So this race, for our team, is an opportunity to capitalize on one of our strong points -- these mile-and-a-half tracks," Edwards says. I
   "This week, and next week (Charlotte), we have to do everything right, so that we have a little insurance for those bad days that are inevitably going to come."
    Speaking of repaved Phoenix….and repaving this track, and repaving Michigan, and repaving Pocono, and maybe repaving Watkins Glen….what's this rush all about, really? After all some of these tracks clearly don't really need repaving.
   Apparently there is a tax deduction issue at stake somewhere here, for entertainment facilities like this, with a deduction that might not be available next year.

   Edwards senses this chase is unlike the others, in that this one seems to have more elements of unpredictability.
   "Richmond was unreal," he said, pointing at his surprising second place run there a few weeks back. "We were as fast as we have ever been there, and I was really excited to go to Loudon (a similar track) and then Martinsville.
   "But at Loudon we really struggled (finishing eight and never leading). Eighth-place was a gift; we should have been 15th or 20th.
    "So now I am a little nervous about Martinsville. If we can pick up just a tiny bit of speed there, we will be good; otherwise that will be one of the tracks we just fight and claw for a top-10.
   "I believe the pressure does crescendo (as the playoffs go on). You are going to see who can handle pressure if there are four or five guys going into Homestead (the Nov. 20th finale).
   "We saw a lot of that last year -- There was pressure on three guys (Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick)."
    Which really struck home with Edwards midway through last Sunday's Dover 400 – when he got penalized for speeding on pit road. That dropped him out of contention for the win and pushed him back to 20th.
    "As close as it is, I realize as a driver everything you do can determine the outcome of your championship. That is why that penalty last week was so crushing to me. I knew right then that if I ended up finishing 20th when we had a car that could win, that was going to be very difficult to accept.
    "I don't think you will know who the favorite (to win the title) is until about a third of the race through in Homestead. Then you will see who is running well enough to win it."


   A most bizarre story here: Nationwide multi-team owner Steve Turner (an amazing five teams, in just his first season in NASCAR) just fired driver Reed Sorenson….while Sorenson is in the thick of the battle for the Nationwide championship with tour leader Ricky Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler.
   Turner hasn't explained his reasoning. And Sorenson had little to offer himself.
   Stenhouse: "That was definitely a shock.
   "When I first heard about it, I thought it was maybe for next season. Then I found out it was for this weekend.
    "He won Road America, and has run really strong.
    "But I guess really you don't know everything that is going on over there within their organization."

   Todd Berrier Update:
   The veteran crew chief, who hasn't been to the race track since team owner Richard Childress promoted Luke Lambert to the job as Jeff Burton's crew chief, is reported to be considering a job as general manager at Tad Geschickter's team, where Bobby Labonte drives.

   The France family's International Speedway Corp. says its board of directors has authorized the repurchase of an incremental $80 million of the Company's Class A Common Stock. This authorization is in addition to the $4.8 million remaining under the Company's existing $250 million Stock Purchase Plan as of October 6, 2011."
    The stock buyback plan, Lesa France Kennedy, ISC boss, says is because "We remain confident in the strength of the motorsports industry, in particular NASCAR….this new authorization signals confidence in our business strategies both today and looking forward."




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