Biffle Flyin In Memphis

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Memphis Motorsports Park, Randy LaJoie figures, is the best place he can think of to earn his first NASCAR Busch Series victory this season.

After all, he is the defending champion of the Sam’s Town 250 at the .750-mile track. He’s like the track itself and the city, and he’s certainly hungry to get back to victory lane. So, why not Saturday’s race?

If he’s to do that, however, he’ll have to get there from the third starting position after a qualifying lap of 116.671 mph Friday afternoon. Series points leader Greg Biffle won the pole for the Sam’s Town 250 with a fast lap of 116.817 mph.

Johnny Sauter qualified second, followed by LaJoie, Shane Hmiel, David Reutimann, Scott Wimmer, Tim Fedewa, Stacy Compton, Mike McLaughlin and Ron Hornaday.

With five races remaining, Biffle holds a 168-point advantage over Jason Keller in the Busch Series championship standings. Needing strong finishes in every race to have a shot at catching Biffle for the title, Keller has never finished in the Top 5 in three previous races, but finished seventh a year ago and will start 14th.

Biffle finished 20th in his only Busch Series start at Memphis, last October.

LaJoie’s last victory, a thrilling one, came at Memphis last October. Jay Sauter appeared to be set to earn his first Busch Series victory when LaJoie got past him just prior to the white flag. He then beat Jeff Green to the checkered flag by .334 seconds.

Back-to-back victories at Memphis would certainly be sweet for LaJoie, who currently sits 10th in the Busch Series championship standings.

“I love Memphis,” LaJoie said. “It’s the birthplace of the blues, home of the King; what’s not to like? The racetrack has it all. It’s got character, attitude and history. I always have a lot of fun racing there.

“Of course, I’ve won there, so that makes it fun to return. The races this year are winding down, and we haven’t won a race yet this year. We’ll be taking the same car that we won with last year and hopefully we’ll put it right back in victory lane.

The track opened just four short years ago, and Green was the first driver to win at Memphis. Kevin Harvick has the only other Busch win there.

LaJoie finished fourth in 2000 behind Harvick, so he’s apparently found the secret to racing at Memphis.

“I’ve got a good feel for the track. It really matches up with my driving style. The learning curve wasn’t too big for the Kleenex® team there, and I think we figured out pretty quickly what to expect out of Memphis, and that’s why we’ve been successful there.

“We haven’t tested there this year, but we did last year. We learned a lot in that session and we’ll try to build on that. We’ve taken good race notes, so I’m hoping we’ll be even a little better than we were last year.”

Sauter, who qualified 36th Friday, is hoping to be “a little better” than he was last year, too. This time, he’ll be driving the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Rockwell Automation Chevy, a car that’s been to victory lane twice with Green this season.

Sauter will be making his 13th and final Busch Series start this season. He hasn’t been behind the wheel in a Busch Series race since Indianapolis Raceway Park on Aug. 3.

“This is a neat track to run,” Sauter said of Memphis. “It reminds me of Richmond a little…a lot of close, side-by-side racing. I’ve had a couple of good runs (at Memphis) so far and the biggest key will be just getting the nose around. If we can do that, we’ll have a good day.

“I’m real excited because this will be my last chance in the No. 21 car to get a win this year. This has been a great experience for me. These guys have been real good to me, and we haven’t always had the best of luck. I would like to reward them with a good finish.”

The green flag is scheduled to fall on the Sam’s Town 250 shortly after 2 p.m. ET Saturday.

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