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Biffle opens Chase with win in Loudon
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            LOUDON, N.H. — Greg Biffle snapped a 33-race winless streak with a late surge past Jimmie Johnson in the opening race of the Chase for the championship.

            Johnson, the two-time defending series champion, seemed to have the first round of the Chase locked up after leading a race-high 96 laps Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But a pair of late cautions gave Biffle a chance, and he seized it by passing Johnson with 12 laps to go for the surprise win.

            ‘‘I was holding back at the end there, and then we got those cautions there and it closed me up to Jimmie Johnson and gave me a shot at him,’’ Biffle said.

            It was Biffle’s first victory since Kansas last September and bumped him from ninth in the Chase standings to third, 30 points behind co-leaders Johnson and Carl Edwards.

            ‘‘The horse rode today, didn’t it?’’ Biffle said.

            Johnson finished second and said he knew Biffle would make a run on him after David Ragan and Patrick Carpentier brought out a pair of cautions with less than 20 laps to go.

            ‘‘Short runs is what hurt me the most,’’ Johnson said, ‘‘I felt a little vulnerable, and sure enough he got by.’’

            Edwards, Biffle’s teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, finished third and was followed by Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Chase drivers swept the top five spots.

            Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., a pair of drivers not running for the Sprint Cup title, finished sixth and seventh. Chase drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.

            Kyle Busch, the regular-season points winner, struggled from the start in a disaster of an opening race. He broke the sway bar on his Toyota just minutes after the race began, and struggled to keep his car off the wall as he tried to nurse it to the mandatory first caution at lap 35.

            Busch barely made it and fell two laps off the pace — one lap because of a penalty — and restarted in 43rd place. He was in a later wreck and finished 34th, 12 laps down.

            After starting the Chase with an 80-point cushion, Busch tumbled all the way to eighth in the standings.

            Stewart, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, also had a strange day but was able to salvage a top-10 finish. He ran up front early and was in second when he bumped into Johnny Sauter as he left his pit box during a routine stop.

            Stewart had to return to the pits for a quick repair, dropping to 35th when the race restarted on lap 89. He motored through the field into the mid-20s, but was later assessed a penalty for speeding off pit road.

            ‘‘Sorry, guys,’’ he radioed his team after the second pit-road penalty.

            ‘‘Don’t give up, yet,’’ crew chief Greg Zipadelli coached him. ‘‘We’ve still got half a race to go.’’

            The errors came a week after Stewart was critical of Zipadelli’s crew for a slow pit stop that cost him the lead and possibly a win at Richmond. Still, he jumped one spot in the standings to seventh and trails the leaders by 73 points in his final season with JGR.

            Joey Logano, the 18-year-old phenom who is replacing Stewart in the No. 20 next year, had a long race in his Cup debut. He pulled away on an early pit stop with the jack hanging from his car and had to return for a penalty that mired him in the back of the field. He finished 32nd, three laps down.

            Earnhardt and Burton are tied for fourth in the standings, 50 points back, while Hamlin is sixth.

            Clint Bowyer, who used a win in the Chase opener here last season to roll to a career-best third-place finish in the standings, tumbled four spots to ninth after finishing 12th on Sunday.

            Harvick, Gordon and Matt Kenseth round out the top 12.