It was, as Greg Biffle said over his radio at the checkered flag, an “awesome freaking drive.”
Improbable was more like it. Biffle ended a self-imposed three-year retirement from NASCAR by winning Friday night’s 23rd annual SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle, who last raced in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2004 and last won in 2001, scored his second series victory on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quad-oval in a one-off appearance in place of team owner/driver Kyle Busch.
Biffle, the 2000 series champion, outlasted two-time series champ Matt Crafton by 0.963-of-a-second at the wheel of his No. 51 Toyota Tundra fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports. Tyler Ankrum finished third after celebrating his graduation from high school during pre-race ceremonies, followed by Grant Enfinger and Harrison Burton.
“It means a lot to me, Kyle giving me the opportunity,” said Biffle, 49, whose last Truck Series win was at ISM Raceway in Phoenix in 2001. “This series, a lot of competitive trucks here and these (KBM) guys make the difference. Just excited to be here, just so thankful to drive great trucks. This thing was really fast.”
The win was sweetened by a $50,000 bonus for winning the opening round of NASCAR’s Triple Truck Challenge that continues next at Iowa Speedway. “It’s great,” Biffle joked. “I’ve been off work a long time.”
The race produced a record 13 caution periods, three more than the previous record.
Crafton said he needed a few more laps in his No. 88 Chi-Chi’s/Menards Ford to catch Biffle. “We made hay with him and got there and just really got tight,” said Crafton, of his ThorSports Racing entry. “It really sucks to finish second.”
Ben Rhodes won Stage 2 over Stewart Friesen with Burton placing third. Rhodes, driver of the No. 99 Carolina Nut Ford, earned his first stage win of the season in a segment that saw Ankrum’s No. 17 RAILBLAZA Toyota slide sideways through the pits on a restart on Lap 75.
“I’m thankful for the pit strategy of my team, they got me track position,” Rhodes said after 15.9-second pit stop at the end of the segment. It was a wasted effort, as Rhodes lost power and veered to the outside as the green flag fell on Lap 95. Rhodes returned to the pits on Lap 96 – during the race’s record 11th caution – with what was reported as a transmission stuck in fourth gear.
Johnny Sauter, the defending event winner, won Stage 1 in a dash to the flag with Austin Hill following a short red-flag stoppage (1:16) to clean up debris after Angela Ruch’s accident in Turn 2. Enfinger finished the 40-lap stage in third. It was the third stage win of the season for Sauter, who locked up a spot in the Playoffs by winning on Dover International Speedway’s Monster Mile.
Sauter’s night went awry on Lap 56, however, when his No. 13 Tenda Heal Ford broke loose in the Turn 4 banking and slapped the wall with the right side. Sauter, the 2016 series champion whose five wins here is the most among active drivers, returned to finish 13th, one lap down.
Pole-sitter Todd Gilliland’s promising night took a hit when he spun out of the lead on a restart on Lap 69 and whacked the backstretch wall. Gilliland, who qualified on-pole at 184.761 mph earlier Friday, was pushed to the pits after his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota sustained heavy right side damage that disabled the battery.
“I got loose on the bottom and it’s not a lot of fun when it happens,” the third generation driver said. “I think we executed good until that. We qualified on-pole, but it still sucks we’re out of this race. I thought we were going to have something for ’em tonight. I need to be more patient, get smarter. We’ve got an important stretch coming up and need to keep the morale up.”