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AUTO RACING ROUNDUP

Fast finish for Biffle

Late caution helps him earn victory

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Greg Biffle's chances of winning a race he dominated appeared gone after his Roush Racing team made some late-race changes.

But a timely spin by Mark Martin and four fresh tires were all Biffle needed to win last night's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Darlington Raceway in overtime.

"The second-to-last run there we tried some tire pressure things and got my car way too loose," Biffle said. "I thought, `Why in the world would we wait until the last run to try something?' It went the wrong way, but we recovered from that."

Biffle, who led 176 of 370 laps on the treacherous 1.366-mile, egg-shaped Darlington oval, fell behind on a late pit stop, but got another chance when Martin spun, bringing out the 12th caution flag just five laps from the scheduled finish.

Ryan Newman, who had taken charge late in the race, chose to stay on the track while Biffle and several other contenders pitted for tires. When the green flag waved again for a two-lap shootout, beginning on Lap 369, Biffle, taking advantage of those fresh tires, charged from fourth. He passed Carl Edwards, Ken Schrader, and finally Newman before taking the white flag for the last lap.

Biffle went on to win easily, adding the Dodge Charger 500 to victories earlier this season in California and Texas. Biffle's No. 16 Ford beat the Chevrolet of runner-up Jeff Gordon, a six-time Darlington winner, to the finish by 0.989 seconds -- about 6 car-lengths.

"We were going to end up second," Biffle said. "I feel bad for Ryan Newman. He had a really strong car tonight and that's a tough decision to make."

During the competitive race, Biffle fended off a series of challenges from Newman, second-year driver Kasey Kahne, Gordon, and series points leader Jimmie Johnson.

The 35-year-old driver from Vancouver, Wash., gave team owner Jack Roush his fifth victory in the first 10 races of the season.

Kahne, who started from the pole and led 60 laps, finished third, followed by Martin, Newman, Jamie McMurray, and Johnson, who charged back after making an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 260 and falling to 23d, a lap off the pace.

Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started 39th, finished eighth, just ahead of Edwards.

Despite dominating the race, it looked as though Biffle was going to wind up an also-ran when Newman, who had been watching the battles up front most of the night, shot past into the lead on Lap 323 and pulled away to leads of more than three seconds.

Newman, who has not won since last September at Dover, was out front by about 30 car-lengths and seemingly on the way to an easy victory when Martin, running in fifth, spun on Lap 363, bringing out the yellow flag and setting up Biffle's sixth career win.

"Man, I wish we could have beat Biffle out on that last stop," Gordon said. "The first guy on four fresh tires was going to win it."

Gordon moved into second place in the season standings, 127 points behind Johnson. Biffle is third, 148 behind, while Busch, who crashed on the first lap of the race, wound up 37th and slipped from second to fourth, 229 points back. It was a very successful night for the track that lost one of its two Cup races this season and has been rumored to be in danger of also losing this event as part of NASCAR's continuing expansion to new tracks in nontraditional parts of the country.

Formula One -- Hoping to win his fourth straight Formula One race, Fernando Alonso clocked the second-fastest time of the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session in Barcelona, just .016 seconds behind Toyota's Jarno Trulli. Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren was third, followed by Toyota's Ralf Schumacher in a tightly bunched field.

The real test comes today, with the second qualifying session followed by the race.

Alonso managed only 11 practice laps in the morning, fewer than half as many as others in the field.

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