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Optimism drives Biffle in Nextel Cup

Optimism drives Biffle in Nextel CupFORT WORTH, Texas — For Greg Biffle, the real Chase for the Nextel Cup championship begins Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

With three of the 10 races remaining in NASCAR's playoff-style title race, Vancouver, Wash., native Biffle is third in the standings. He trails leader Tony Stewart by 75 points and second-place Jimmie Johnson by 32.

Many observers have all but handed the title to 2002 champion Stewart or two-time series runner-up Johnson, drivers with a higher profile than Biffle.

But that seems fine with the driver of the No. 16 Ford.

"Let them have the attention. I believe we've got a great chance to win this thing," Biffle said. "It could get real interesting."

Ryan Newman won another pole Friday — his eighth of the season and 35th overall — but crashed on his second lap and will have to move to the rear for the start of Sunday's Dickies 500. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was second in qualifying, ahead of Chase contender Matt Kenseth.

Biffle qualified seventh, and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was 15th of 43.

Later Friday, Newman claimed the pole for the O'Reilly Challenge 300. He will be going for his record sixth straight NASCAR Busch Series win today.

Biffle ended last season with a victory in a Nextel Cup race in Homestead, Fla., and got off to a fast start in 2005 by winning five of the first 15 races. One was a dominating victory in April on the 1 ½-mile Texas track.

The Roush Racing driver cooled off, and is winless in his last 18 races. But Biffle is the most recent winner at two of the three remaining tracks on this season's circuit.

Biffle, the only driver to win championships in both the Busch (2002) and Craftsman Truck series (2000), said he likes his Nextel Cup chances.

"I believe that we can win these races," he said. "We've got our best race cars and I'm prepared. And we've had some success [at Texas] in all three NASCAR series."

As a dark horse to win, Biffle isn't feeling undue pressure. "We're going to do the best we can," he said. "If we can win, we're going to win. If we can run in the top five, we'll run in the top five."


• Paul Tracy pushed his car so hard in practice, he came dangerously close to missing Friday's qualifying round for the Mexico City Grand Prix.

Tracy crashed twice before the qualifying session for the Champ Car season finale. The Canadian recovered and posted the day's second-fastest time, with a lap of 1 minute, 27.962 seconds.

American A.J. Allmendinger secured a front-row start for Sunday's race with the fastest lap of 1:27.349 at a speed of 114.822 mph. Sebastien Bourdais of France has clinched the season title.

• Todd Bodine won the Silverado 350 NASCAR truck event at Texas Motor Speedway.