Six-and-a-half years ago, on a hot December afternoon in the
Arizona desert, Benny Parsons was walking through the garage area
at Tucson Raceway when he met a young driver, named Greg Biffle,
who was competing in the Winter Heat series. The two
chatted--Biffle told Parsons, a former Winston Cup champion, that
he built race cars for a living and got into racing himself by
zipping around short tracks in his hometown of Vancouver,
Wash.--and then they parted. Parsons never expected to speak to
Biffle again, but then he saw the youngster get behind the wheel
and dust the field. Oh, my, thought Parsons. Biffle had his
racing rabbi. "It was like a professional playing with amateurs,"
Parsons alerted owner Jack Roush to Biffle's talents, telling
Roush that the kid had as much potential as any driver he'd seen
in 40 years. Roush signed Biffle in 1998 to drive for him in the
Craftsman Truck Series, but it wasn't until last Saturday night
under the lights at Daytona that Parsons' vision came to fruition.
Thanks to a key pit stop on Lap 120 of the Pepsi 400 in which he
topped off his tank during a caution, allowing him to finish the
race without pitting again, the 33-year-old Biffle took the
checkered flag. Though the victory was his first in Winston
Cup--he's also the first rookie to post a W this season--Biffle
is hardly a stranger to Victory Lane. He won the 2000 Craftsman
Truck Series championship and the '02 Busch Series season title.
"People from the West Coast don't get that many opportunities,"
said Biffle, the first Washingtonian to win a Winston Cup race
since Derrike Cope took the checkered flag at Daytona in 1990.
"Benny Parsons really did a lot for me by talking to Jack."
Before Saturday, Biffle had only one top 15 finish and was 25th
in points, but his unlikely win propelled him to the top of the
rookie standings. (He holds a 59-point lead over Jamie McMurray.)
NASCAR's rookie class of 2003 isn't nearly as impressive as last
year's, which featured Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman, who
between them won four races and finished fifth and sixth,
respectively, in the points standings. Still, on Saturday night
Biffle accomplished something that no other rookie had since
Mario Andretti in 1967: He won at Daytona.
COLOR PHOTO: RUSTY WALLACE/GETTY IMAGES (TOP) A stop on Lap 120 let Biffle (below) run to the end while hiscompetitors pitted again.
COLOR PHOTO: SHERRYL CREEKMORE/NASCAR/AP [See caption above]