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Upon further review: Biffle, Gordon, and that last Shootout lap...yet more crashing, JJ goes to 500 backup...and Danica gets some official NASCAR laps

  Greg Biffle doesn't seem too pleased with Jeff Gordon's Shootout 'push' (Photo: Autostock)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Greg Biffle versus Jeff Gordon?
   Well, maybe so.
   In the moments right after Saturday night's last lap crash, in which Gordon was bump-drafting Biffle into the third turn....and Biffle crashed.
   Gordon said he was pushing Biffle as hard as he could.
   In a brief post-Shootout comment, Biffle said he wasn't sure what had happened but that he might have had tire going down. He was one of the few who had not stopped for fresh rubber under the previous caution.
   Now Biffle says, after looking at the game film, Gordon pushed him too hard, into the spin.
   "I had a suspicion, when I took the green, the tire might have been soft," Biffle said Wednesday. "But when I went across turns one and two it felt fine.
   "That kind of foils the idea I might have had a tire going down.
   'I wasn't sure what happened, until I saw the tape, the replay. Things happen so fast, there is so much adrenalin, it's noisy and loud....
   "But upon further review, it appears the 24's bumper (Gordon) was against mine as I entered the (third) corner,  so it's obvious why the car spun out."
   And the crashing continued during Wednesday afternoon practice for Thursday's twin 150-milers: Mike Bliss lost control off the fourth turn in heavy traffic and hit Joey Logano; both men are expected to go to backups. Jimmie Johnson, right behind the two, tagged Denny Hamlin in the incident and Johnson says he's going to a backup 500 car too. Michael Waltrip's car was banged up in a separate accident. And Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann had to go to backup cars after yet another accident Wednesday.

  Jimmie Johnson has to go to his Daytona 500 backup, along with several others, after some wild crashing in Wednesday practice. Joey Logano is also going to a backup (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Saturday's Shootout finish, though a standard green-white-checkered finish after a late-race crash, was a bit confusing, even to winner Kevin Harvick.
   Up till now NASCAR has made just one attempt at a green-flag finish when it lines up cars for a two-lap restart.
   Now, though, it looks like NASCAR is considering not just one attempt to make a green-white-checkered finish but may expand that to two, according to Gordon.
    Well, as aggressive as drivers seem to be, under NASCAR's new 'let 'em race' policy, such a change could be interesting.
   "We were pushing like hell; I think you will continue seeing us being aggressive like that," Biffle says.  "The 'edge' is until the guy in front spins out."
    Biffle's no-stop Saturday strategy? "My thinking was 'I've got nothing to lose right now. There are no points, or really anything on the line.'
    "And I wanted track position, because I knew if something happened on that restart -- highly likely -- being out front is going to be the place to be."
    Reviewing the Ford engine game plan here again:
   All Ford teams ran the new FR9 in practice and qualifying for the 500, and all will run the FR9 in Thursday's two 150s.
   In Saturday's Shootout all Ford teams in the field ran old engine.
   In the 500 Bill Elliott and the Woods will run the FR9, and it's possible a couple of others will too, depending on what the teardowns after the 150s show. However most Ford drivers are expected to run the old engine in 500.

  Danica Patrick made her first official NASCAR laps in Wednesday's Nationwide practice, 26th on the speed chart; Tony Stewart was fastest at 184.695 mph (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Doug Yates, the man in charge of the Ford FR9 engine program, says it's debut last fall at Talladega went well: "Matt Kenseth was running second, until the end, when we ran out of gas. So we had a shot to win the race."
  And then with the 'old' engine, the 452, in Saturday night's Shootout, Yates pointed out "We had a shot to win the race, with Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne. And Carl Edwards led the whole first segment.
  "So we're in a good position to be able to go back and forth between the two engines."
  Just when all of Team Ford may switch over to the FR9 is still up for study. "It takes time to build up an inventory, and that's something we've been trying to really be smart about," Yates said. "There are economic concerns you have to work through. And the other engine runs really well."
  Still, so far the new FR9 remains something of a mystery.  "We were hoping for big changes...but we didn't see it in qualifying, and that was disappointing," Biffle said.
   However in race trim Biffle seemed happier: "The Shootout was a good test for us.  My car drove fairly well.
   "I was a little disappointed after qualifying for the 500 that our car was as slow as it was.  We're still not sure why it was so slow. But I was on the front row at Talladega last year.
    "So Saturday I was pretty disappointed, and the outlook wasn't that great...and then in the Shootout the car drove really good.  You could tell it was off a little bit on speed, because the guys were pushing pretty hard from behind. But the car drove good, and we were able to keep our track
position in the top-five fairly well. That made me pretty optimistic for the 500."

   Biffle is not a shy, conservative driver, and last fall at Talladega he may have been the most aggressive. And last week Biffle said he again planned to test NASCAR's limits....though he probably didn't quite expect the results Saturday night.
    "Everything I saw on Saturday night was pretty aggressive...but yet everybody kind of maintained control," Biffle says.
   "I saw a few times when there was concrete flying, when a guy pushed somebody, and they got squirrely and hit the outside wall.
    "One difference between here and Talladega is Talladega is really smooth and really wide-open and a lot more room.  It's a lot easier to
push there -- certainly around the corner, in the corner, off the corner."
     But here....."my car is sideways through the tri-oval by itself, without anybody on me," Biffle says.
    NASCAR's next change will be the new 'old' flat-blade rear spoiler, coming in late March. That will change the way a driver attacks the track, Biffle says
    "We were one of the first cars to have the spoiler on, at Texas, (Goodyear tire testing) with Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers.
   "I feel like the car turned a lot better on corner-exit, and that's been the big problem with this car – that on corner-exit, the nose really wants to push.
    "The (new) spoiler shifts the center of pressure forward and makes the car turn better on exit.
    "So I think it's going to be an improvement, not only in driving but in racing.
     "The car is going to race better. We're going to be able to get under guys, pass more -- more like the old car.
    "And I encourage NASCAR to make sure we try different (spoiler) heights and widths before we put the water in the concrete and let it set up."
    That should come at the big test at Charlotte in late March.
   "Now is our chance to explore some different combinations," Biffle says.


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    Matt Kenseth (17) gets a big push from teammate Greg Biffle (16) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Lets see, NA$CAR has cut purses. Now they are considering changes that will certainly lead to more torn up race cars. Do they still claim they want to reduce the cost of racing?

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