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Biffle credits Earnhardt for surviving fiery December crash

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    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Greg Biffle was cruising around Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 204 mph when his tire exploded, sending him crashing into the wall. Knocked unconscious, he dislocated his right shoulder and briefly had blurred vision.
    The most vicious accident of Biffle’s career, the fiery December crash confirmed his faith in the improved safety standards NASCAR has implemented since Dale Earnhardt’s 2001 death.
    ‘‘I’m a firm believer that there probably would have been more than one death in our sport if it wouldn’t have been for the safety stuff that came from Earnhardt’s death,’’ Biffle said Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.
    ‘‘I know for a fact there is no possible way I would have survived that (crash) without what we have today.’’
    This week’s three-day testing session at Daytona is the first time Biffle has been back behind the wheel of a race car since the Dec. 7 accident, and he admitted being nervous.
    Although his shoulder has healed, he wasn’t sure what kind of limitations he might have with getting his helmet on, grabbing his seat belts and hooking up the safety devices — all of which require a full range of motion.
    Biffle said he was sore after Monday’s session but felt a little better Tuesday. He raised his arm above his head Wednesday to demonstrate how well he was doing.
    But he acknowledged Wednesday that the emergency response team that responded to him in Las Vegas was slow and unprepared to treat his injuries. Instead of taking him to the hospital or infield care center, Biffle said he was given a ride back to the team truck.
    After receiving no medical advice, Biffle said he drove out of the race track and immediately flew home to North Carolina to see a doctor. Once there, he learned the injury to his brain made it dangerous for him to fly.
    The accident destroyed his favorite race car (the one that won the past three season finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway) and limited his activity during NASCAR’s brief offseason.
    It did not diminish his love of racing.
    ‘‘We know it’s dangerous, but anything’s dangerous,’’ he said. ‘‘That stuff is not supposed to happen. You could say being an airline stewardess or being a pilot is dangerous, but everything in place, everything working properly, everything done the way it should be done and followed properly, it’s not dangerous.’’
    As he prepares for this new season, Biffle is focusing on building a relationship with crew chief Pat Tryson. Biffle was teamed with the veteran in a companywide Roush Racing shake-up, the fallout of a disappointing 2006 season.
    Because all five Roush cars made NASCAR’s Chase for the championship in 2005, with Biffle finishing second in the final standings, expectations were even higher for 2006. But only two Roush cars made the Chase. Neither challenged for the title, and Biffle finished 13th overall.
    He can rattle off reasons for the slump: Three engine failures and running out of gas another three times. Bizarre accidents and broken parts, and the race in Texas when Kurt Busch wrecked him — leading Nicole Lunders, Biffle’s then girlfriend and now his fiancee, to confront Busch’s wife in the pits.
    Although much of what happened last season falls under the watch of former crew chief Doug Richert, Biffle refused to point fingers and said he wasn’t opposed to keeping the crew chief.
    ‘‘Jack is the one, ultimately, who made the decision,’’ Biffle said. ‘‘He tried to put me with a couple of other guys. I said, ’Listen, I’ll stay with Doug. If you are going to make a change, if you want to put me with another guy, then you have to give me a valid argument that this guy is even better or this guy is going to win me a championship.’
    Still, Biffle was paired with Tryson, who put Mark Martin into the Chase the past two seasons.
    That doesn’t mean Biffle expects to cruise his way back into championship contention.
    ‘‘Certainly, it’s going to be a challenge,’’ he said.
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