A spate of late caution periods played into Greg Biffle's hands Friday night, as the driver of the #16 Ford held off Jason Leffler to win the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, giving team owner Jack Roush a 100th victory in the series.
Biffle beat Leffler to the stripe by 0.338secs in a green-white-chequered finish to win his second Nationwide race of the season and the 20th of his career. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick completed the top five.
Biffle and Leffler finished 1-2 on old rubber after 14 of 17 lead lap cars came to the pits for at least two tyres under caution on lap 181. The late-race strategic calls made the difference for both Leffler and Biffle.
"The pit and [crew chief] Eddie [Pardue] really won this race," Biffle admitted, "That call at the end, I was with Eddie on staying out. I thought everybody came in, and I thought I'd have new tyres right on my bumper. All I needed was a couple of cars [behind me on old tyres], because these tyres - once they cool down - I think I'd have been okay if we went green the whole way. Once I was out front, my cars was really good."
Leffler said he couldn't catch Biffle once he pulled away on the late-race restarts, and was more worried about Keselowski, who took on right-side tyres on his final stop, restarted fourth on lap 185 and passed Burney Lamar for the third position.
"We were running eighth there, and they all pitted," Leffler said, "We didn't even think about pitting - track position was so important. There was going to be about 20 laps left and, in these Nationwide races, it seems like, when you have 20 laps left, you're only going to run about five under green."
In a dramatic reversal, Kyle Busch, who finished tenth, wrested the series points lead from Carl Edwards, who came home 33rd. Busch leads Edwards by 47 points as the series heads for Talladega on 25 April.
The fortunes of Busch and Edwards turned radically near the midpoint of the race. Busch had lost two laps during a green flag pit-stop on lap 50 because of a slow leak in the right front tyre of the #18 Toyota, but regained one under green, passing Edwards on lap 95. At that juncture, Edwards reported a skip in his engine, which his team was unable to repair under caution. Busch regained his lost lap with a free pass as the first car one lap down under the fourth caution of the race on lap 109 and, moments after the restart on lap 114, Edwards brought his car to the garage, where the crew diagnosed a problem with a valve spring on the #60 Ford. Edwards lost 25 laps while the team, led by Roush, rigged a makeshift repair for the broken part.
While Edwards languished in the garage, Busch took advantage of his free pass, working his way back to eighth before NASCAR called the fifth caution of the race for debris on lap 149. He restarted eighth on lap 154 after a pit-stop and gained two more spots on that circuit, before John Wes Townley's crash caused the sixth caution. It was only in the closing laps of the race that Busch faded to his eventual tenth-place finish.
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service