LOUDON, N.H. – Greg Biffle began the Chase for the championship as a long shot.
Winless for almost a year and seeded a distant ninth in the 12-driver field, few considered him a serious contender. But “The Biff” never counted himself out, believing a strong run Sunday in the opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway would put him in position to race for the Sprint Cup title.
Biffle used a self-described “textbook pass” on Jimmie Johnson with 12 laps to go to snap a 33-race winless streak and vault all the way to third in the Chase standings. He trails co-leaders Johnson and Carl Edwards, his teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, by just 30 points.
“I felt like we were a definite threat for the Chase if we made it because of the momentum we’ve had and how good the (Chase) race tracks are for me,” he said.
Johnson, the two-time defending series champion, seemed to have the first round of the Chase locked up after leading a race-high 96 laps. But Biffle was saving his Ford, hopeful that a late caution or two would give him the chance he needed to run Johnson down.
He got it when Patrick Carpentier spun late, setting up a restart with 13 to go. Biffle slid past Johnson on the next lap to grab the surprise win and leave Victory Lane with a noted swagger. It was his first victory since Kansas last September.
“They named me ‘The Biff’ and then they said I was a dark horse. Now I don’t know what else they’re going to call me,” he said. “The horse rode today, didn’t it?”
Johnson finished second and said he knew Biffle would make a run on him after David Ragan and Carpentier brought out a pair of cautions with less than 20 laps to go.
“Short runs is what hurt me the most. I felt a little vulnerable, and sure enough he got by,” Johnson said. “But the big picture, second place is not a bad day at the office.”
Edwards finished third and was followed by Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Chase drivers swept the top five spots.
Kyle Busch, the regular-season points winner, struggled from the start in a disaster of an opening race. He broke the sway bar on his Toyota just minutes after the race began, and struggled to keep his car off the wall. He was in a later wreck and finished 34th, 12 laps down.
After starting the Chase with an 80-point cushion, he tumbled all the way to eighth in the standings.