Biffle On A Quest At Gateway

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MADISON, Ill. – Greg Biffle has been chasing Kevin Harvick all season in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Saturday night, Harvick will be chasing Biffle, at least at the beginning of the CarQuest Auto Parts 250 at Gateway International Raceway. On Friday night, Biffle turned a lap of 132.357 mph to win the pole for the race at the 1.25-mile venue. The pole was Biffle’s third of the Busch Series season, matching Harvick’s series-high total.

Harvick, who leads Biffle by 138 points in the series standings, turned a lap of 132.147 mph. Defending Busch Series champion was Jeff Green was third, followed by Bobby Hamilton Jr., St. Louis area native Kenny Wallace, Jason Keller, Jay Sauter, Clay Rogers, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Grubb.

The green flag is scheduled to drop on the CarQuest Auto Parts 250 shortly after 8 p.m. EDT Saturday.

Biffle, who has three victories in his rookie season in the Busch Series, was extremely pleased with his qualifying effort.

“A lot of times you come in and say, ‘it could have been a little better here or there', but man, it was a perfect lap for us,” Biffle said. “I didn't think the car could go that fast, but it just must have been perfect conditions, you know, perfect temperature and everything. The first lap was really fast, and I tried just a little harder on the second lap, but it just couldn’t have been better.

“We were pretty fast off the truck, but we changed a lot of stuff. We had to go with quite a bit of a different setup to get it to go. In qualifying trim, we made three runs and didn't have any more sticker tires to make a run at the end with. I thought it was going to be good on stickers, but I didn’t know for sure.”

Harvick, who once again is pulling double duty and driving in the NASCAR Winston Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway this weekend (he qualified 24th there Friday afternoon), headed straight to the airport following his qualifying effort.

“We knew we were only going to have this one shot at a good run since we decided to go with our race setup for our qualifying run,” Harvick said. “I’m not going to be coming back for a practice session tomorrow, so we figured that we would see what we could do with the race-type conditions. We only had that one hour of serious practice and wanted to try to run under the same sort of conditions we’ll have tomorrow night.”

Harvick earned his first career Busch Series victory last year at Gateway and will be going for his sixth Saturday night.

“I couldn’t be happier that we qualified so well,” Harvick said. “It just shows how much confidence that I have in the crew and how much that they have in me to be able to make such a good run under these circumstances.

“The biggest thing we wanted to do was see if we could get some more grip and we did. I was on the throttle pretty much the whole way around. The track was so much better tonight than it was this afternoon. Once the heat started to go away it seemed to hold so much better. I think we’ll do well tomorrow night if we have the same conditions.”

Green, who comes into the weekend fourth in the points, was also pleased with his qualifying effort. He has a pair of top-five finishes in the last two races at Gateway.

“Third is a great place to start,” Green said. “Going out so late, we thought that would give us a little bit of an advantage, but I think it hurt us more than it helped us. The track cooled off more and these tires are so hard. They may be a little too hard for this track, which has probably lost a little grip over the last year because of the hot sun here in the Midwest. “It’s just the tire doesn’t adhere to the track until you get some heat in the tires.”

Only one car failed to qualify, the No. 30 Chevrolet of Mark Voight. Eric Jones, Bill Hoff, Mike Harmon, Drew White, Dwayne Leik, Eddie Beahr and Joe Cooksey all took provisionals.

Just being behind the wheel of a race car this weekend is enough to bring a smile to Jeff Purvis’ face.

Winning Saturday’s CarQuest Auto Parts 250, however, would be just the lift his driving career needs right now.

Purvis, who was released by Joe Gibbs Racing a couple of weeks ago despite running seventh in the Busch Series points standings, is looking for a full-time ride. In the meantime, he’s driving the No. 21 Rockwell Automation Chevy for Richard Childress Racing for the next two races.

On Friday, he put that car in the 20th starting position for Saturday’s race at Gateway.

Purvis, who finished second at Gateway last year in the No. 4 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac, missed last week’s event at Chicago but hopes to impress some people with his efforts this weekend and at Pikes Peak International Raceway next weekend. He said he’s grateful to Richard Childress for the opportunity.

“I’m happy to be racing,” Purvis said. “I’ve been anxious to get in one of the (Chevy) Monte Carlos and see what kind of difference it has compared to the Pontiacs. I guess I’ll find out this weekend. It’s exciting to be racing with an organization like RCR. I have to admit I’ve watched the No. 21 car at the track and always wondered what it would be like to drive it. Now I get my chance.

“I know it’s only two races, enough to wet my appetite, but it should be fun. Richard (Childress) is somebody I’ve always looked up to and it will be an honor to drive one of his cars. And an organization like RCR speaks for itself. They know how to win races, and I think they brought me on to help them do that.”

Crew chief Gil Martin said he’s thrilled to have a veteran like Purvis driving the Rockwell Automation Chevy.

“The team is pumped up about heading back to Gateway,” Martin said. “We have Jeff in the car, who ran second to (Kevin) Harvick in last year’s race and probably had a chance to win. He gets around this track pretty good and we’ve got a car that’s capable of running up front, so we should be good. It might take a little while for him to get adjusted, but it’s to be expected. He’s a great driver.”

Andy Santerre, who has spent the first half of the season struggling to field his own race team in select events, was hired to drive the No. 11 ChannelLock Chevy, owned by the Highline Performance Group. Santerre qualified 35th and will run his first race since last month, when he finished 18th at Watkins Glen.

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