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Driver looks for end to bad luck

| Saturday, May 13, 2006

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Greg Biffle didn't break a mirror, hasn't walked under a ladder and doesn't recall crossing paths with any black cats.

He is NASCAR's unluckiest driver this season, and has no idea how it happened.

He needs his fortunes to change soon if he's going to have any chance of making the Chase for the championship, and Biffle hopes it happens in time for him to defend his title tonight at Darlington Raceway.

"I think for sure I can win this race," Biffle said Friday. "I have at least a top-five car, or maybe better, so that puts me up against just a handful of people for the win.

"We're coming off a good run that we really, really needed, and I just need a little momentum to turn this thing around."

Biffle qualified ninth for tonight's race. Kasey Kahne won the pole -- his third straight at Darlington. Ryan Newman qualified second, and rookie Clint Bowyer was third.

Biffle is still riding high from his fourth-place finish last week in Richmond, Va., when he started on the pole, went a lap down and fought his way back to his highest finish of the season. When he climbed out of his car, he celebrated like he'd just won the race.

"That was so huge," Biffle said. "You have no idea how much we needed that."

Actually, everyone is well aware of how badly Biffle was in need of a boost.

A year ago, he could do no wrong. He was runner-up to Tony Stewart in the race for the Nextel Cup championship, missing out on the title by 35 points. And he won a series-high six races -- three of them, including his Darlington victory, came in the first 10 events of the season.

But he's been unable to catch a break this season.

Biffle's been the driver to beat at least five times this season, only to have a broken part, flat tire or empty gas tank spoil his day. He cut a tire in Daytona, and his engine blew in California and Talladega. He ran out of gas on the last lap in both Atlanta and Phoenix, and he was wrecked by former teammate Kurt Busch in Texas.

Add it all up, and Biffle is 20th in the standings, 522 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

But Biffle thinks he's still got a chance to make the season-ending Chase, and he's probably right. He's got 16 races left to either race his way into the top 10 or cut his deficit to 400 points or less to be eligible to race for the Nextel Cup title.

Stewart, a notorious slow starter in each of his first seven seasons, has won two championships.

And Matt Kenseth, Biffle's teammate, was in a huge hole at this point last year but raced his way into the Chase with 10 top-10 finishes.

"Anything can happen, and obviously everything has happened already to us," Biffle said. "But I am pretty confident we'll get in, because everything goes in cycles.

"This is a bad cycle, but I know when it turns, it is going to turn straight out and we are going to be tougher than nails every week. We are going to win races and no one is going to be talking about the start to our season."

So, how does he go about getting himself in• By doing nothing at all.

"For Greg, just don't change anything," teammate Kenseth said. "They've been running great. Greg really hasn't made many mistakes. They've just had some bad fortune, some bad things happen.

"So, I think you just don't change anything, you just go out there and do it."

Biffle is buoyed by the fact his Roush Racing team has been very good this year with cars capable of winning. It would be a completely different story if his No. 16 Ford was struggling each week.

"It's not like we're struggling at some places, running good at others and just can't get a good rhythm going," Biffle said. "We're good everywhere and just haven't been able to make it to the finish. So that's the one positive part about all of this."

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