KANSAS CITY, Kan. --- With his championship hopes already teetering on improbable, Greg Biffle had no choice but to go big or go home Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
And it didn't get any bigger than a victory in the Price Chopper 400.
After struggling in the first two playoff races, Biffle pinned his championship hopes on Kansas. He knew any comeback, no matter how remote, would have to start at the 1.5-mile track.
A one-third-mile victory over Jimmie Johnson not only got him back into contention, it triggered the kind of momentum and confidence that's been hard to find lately.
"We were down in the dumps about Dover," Biffle said. "Yeah, my confidence was really high coming in here, going to California, Charlotte. You know, I got a lot of confidence. We've won at a lot of these tracks before."
Biffle won at Kansas in 2008 and he was third here last year. But neither of those runs was as impressive as Sunday's.
"It's probably one of the best cars I've driven in years, probably dating back to 2005," he said. "I could push the throttle to the floor, just hold the wheel straight, drive up all the way off the corner, open the wheel up in the corner exit. The car just drove so easy the last 75 laps of the race.
"It was really nice to have a car driving like that."
Ford also came up big. The car company, which had only one victory in the first 28 races, offered a $100,000 bonus if anyone from the Ford camp could win.
"I hope they don't regret that," car owner Jack Roush said. "I hope they'll do it for the races that remain."
Biffle started Sunday's race in ninth place in the Chase, down by 140 points. Now he's eighth heading into Sunday's race at the Auto Club Speedway -- another one of his favorite tracks -- down by more manageable 85 points.
Johnson's finish, coupled with Denny Hamlin's 12th-place effort, vaulted Johnson in the lead by eight points. Johnson is trying to win his fifth consecutive championship.
"Honestly I drove 400 miles with my tongue handing out just sawing at the wheel trying to get everything I could," Johnson said. "It's a great position to be in, but it's way too early to think about it, to worry about defending. You just can't put your guard down. It doesn't matter if it's qualifying, the race. Until that checkered flag falls in Homestead, it's anybody's championship."
After starting the playoffs with a loose wheel and a 25th-place finish, Johnson now has bounced back with a win and second-place finish.
"We're making bad weekends into good weekends," he said. "We were able to pass a lot of cars today. All I can do is worry about my team and what we can do. I can care less where the 11 (Hamlin) was today."
Kevin Harvick finished third, followed by Tony Stewart in fourth, Jeff Gordon in fifth, Carl Edwards in sixth, Matt Kenseth in seventh and Paul Menard in eight.
Kyle Busch's championship hopes may have been damaged by a couple run-ins with David Reutimann. Busch finished in 21st place, a lap down, with significant damage to his rear suspension.
Busch dropped four spots in the standings to seventh. He's now 80 points behind.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's just hard to swallow something, a day like today, where we had a top-five car going."
Busch dropped from third to seventh in the standings and is 80 points behind Johnson.
Reutimann didn't admit that he intentionally wrecked Busch, but had no guilt for tangling with a championship contender.
"You guys can sugarcoat it all the time, but he wrecked me," he said. "You can tell me how bad he wants it, how hard he drives, how much he wants it above everybody else. That's all fine. I don't care if you're in the Chase or not. You need to think about who you're running over when you're running over them.
"If you're in the Chase, you have as much responsibility to drive with respect as I do, or anybody else."