Greg Biffle will be the first to tell you the fastest car didn't win Sunday's Auto Club 500, having finished fourth on the road in the second round of the 2009 Sprint Cup Series.
Nothing against Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing team-mate Matt Kenseth, who won for the second time in as many races, but Biffle will also be the first to tell you that driver error cost him the race.
Running second when making a pit-stop under caution on lap 209, Biffle slid past his mark in the pit-stall and parked the #16 3M Ford on the front tyre changer's air hose. The error cost him valuable seconds as he was backed up to allow the crew to complete the service and get him on his way again and, when the race restarted on lap 216, Biffle was twelfth.
Although he then regained eight positions in the final 35 laps, Biffle was disconsolate about blowing the chance for the win.
“They should fire the driver,” he sighed, “This thing was fast. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. I'm just sick to my stomach, man. It almost brings tears to my eyes to know that I let the guys down like I did.
“When you've got a car like that, it sucks to not win, and it sucks that it's your fault. If they'd have dropped a lug nut or something, it wouldn't have been a big deal. But, when it's your fault, it's really hard.
“This was a pretty fast car, but I just screwed it up trying to get greedy. You know, it was so hard to pass out here, and I was hoping to beat the #24 out and trying to give my guys every advantage I could. I stopped in the box, I wasn't out of the box, but the guy pulled the hose around. We had this problem before - it's just me stopping too deep in the box and I caught them off-guard and ran over the hose. This box is super-long anyway, but they didn't do anything wrong. It was my fault.”
There was scant consolation for Biffle in the general belief that the opening Fontana race usually provides a reasonable indicator of what drivers and teams can expect from their cars during the rest of the season.
“Yeah, they're [in trouble] if this is the kind of car I'm going to have all year," he reflected, having been consoled by his crew, “The guys know I'm feeling bad, but they're trying to keep me cheered up for next week.
"They know we can win at Las Vegas, [and] I'll keep working on it. I'm just mad because it always seems like I make a mistake, a little mistake here or there. I got in a little hot during qualifying and probably could've been on the pole – maybe. Just little stuff. I'm too hard on myself, probably, I guess.”by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service