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So it's a Monday 500: Rain forces postponement of Sunday's Pennsylvania 500

Greg Biffle walks across a mini-river in the garage on a makeshift bridge on a flash-flood-watch Sunday in the Pocono Mountains
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Mountain rain won the battle Sunday, and NASCAR was finally forced to concede the day to Mother Nature, postponing the Pennsylvania 500 until Monday noon.
    So Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the guys scheduled for a meet-and-greet with President Obama Monday afternoon at the White House will have to wait a little longer for that honor, with Sunday's race postponement forcing a Monday White House postponement.
   NASCAR officials fought aggravating rain all day, with jet dryers and even bulldozers, but to no avail, calling it a day at 4:17 p.m. Every time NASCAR thought it might have a shot at getting the race in, sprinkles or showers would strike again, amid the nagging issue of 'weepers,' water seeping up through the track.
    That means Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin will get a little more time to ponder the edge that the rival Hendrick teams have shown most of the season, and maybe they can follow up their Brickyard performance with another good run here.
    Because of Friday's rain NASCAR set the starting lineup on the Sprint Cup standings, with Tony Stewart on the pole. But Stewart crashed in Saturday practice and will have to start at the rear of the field; so the front row for the green at noon will be Rick Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Johnson.
    Biffle may have the strongest team in the Jack Roush camp right now, and he showed that at Indianapolis. But can he make the playoffs?  
    Biffle and Erwin were doing just fine up till Sonoma, where they finished 28th….followed by 18ths at Loudon, N.H., and Daytona, and a painful 31st at Chicago.
   "We certainly know we need to continue to run like we did this at Indy….and we feel we've been a team capable of running like that," Biffle says.
   "We have run like that actually this whole season. But a lot of issues: troubles on pit road, troubles with the car, track position.
    "So we needed to get back on track, and we did that at Indy.
    "We like this track, we really like Watkins Glen and Michigan (the Sprint Cup tour's next two events). If we can keep these top-fives up, that's what we need to do to get in."
    With his fourth at the Brickyard, Biffle slipped back into the top-12, which, if he can hold that the next six weeks, would put him in the title chase.
    "The bad part is that Juan Pablo (Montoya) and Kasey Kahne are good here, and of course they run good at the road courses, with Kasey winning at Sonoma," Biffle says. "So those are kind of the guys we're racing for the chase spots.
    "And Kyle Busch (14th) is not out of it.
    "We know we can't make mistakes."
    And tiny mistakes can make such a big difference, especially mistakes on pit road, as Juan Pablo Montoya showed at Indy.

Tony Stewart's crew covers his Pocono car (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


"It's easy on Monday to figure out what you should have done…it's hard when you've got about 20 seconds to decide," Biffle says.
    "Indy was great; we did a flawless job.
    "But we missed that quickie yellow at Chicago; we dropped a catch-can and got a pass-through penalty. We took the wave-around, and the caution never came out. Then the next time we pitted, the caution came out.
    "So 'Woulda, shoulda, coulda.'
     "Those are the things we're going to have to avoid. That's the toughest part of this game."
    And this track hasn't been that kind to Biffle either: "The last race we ran second most of the day, or third, and led some of it. Then we didn't have good enough fuel mileage to make it in the end. So we had to make an extra stop, versus Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and all those guys."
   And Biffle finished 11th.
   Can Biffle get better gas mileage this time? He had to give up third place at Indy and slow down enough to make it to the finish, which aggravated him.
   "We've been working hard on mileage," Biffle says. "There's nothing you can do if your car doesn't get the fuel mileage it needs.
    "We hope it doesn't come down to fuel mileage; we hope it comes down to pure racing. And we know we're going to be in the top-five."
    Finding that Hendrick edge? Five of the top nine in the standings are Hendrick-powered. Biffle is hanging in there 11th.
   "We're looking at the films, we're looking at their cars, trying to pay attention," Biffle says.
    "They're a little bit ahead of the curve right now.
    "But it's not a big chunk; we feel like it's real small. And we're trying to hone in on what that is.
    "We feel we're gaining on it.
     "We ran decent at Indy, but Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson were faster. We were a little better than Tony Stewart, which gives us some confidence.
    "But still the two Hendrick cars were beating us. We've got to figure out how to beat them."
   "That's a good question," Biffle concedes. "This track and me have a love-hate relationship we're trying to work through.
    "We run good here every single time we run here. I think it's a lot of fun to race on, I love the way it's laid out.
    "I can't remember a time we've been here that we haven't run in the top-five. But we could never finish."



Sporadic rain showers, sometimes hard, sometimes just sprinkles, coupled with 'weepers' in the cracks in the asphalt, finally proved too much (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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