KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Darkness finally ended the disaster at Kansas Speedway, where the Chase for the championship field imploded and the finish of yesterday's event was in question long after winner Greg Biffle crossed the finish line.
Biffle scored his first win of the season by winning a race that was stopped twice for rain delays, was shortened 85 miles because of darkness, ended under caution and saw six Chase drivers finish 29th or worse.
And when Biffle's sputtering car slowed before the finish line, title contenders Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson passed him and both believed they finished ahead of him.
"I don't know what happened, he didn't cross it the way I thought you were supposed to," said Kansas native Bowyer, who had to settle for second place on his homestate track.
"I know they're not going to pull him out of Victory Lane."
Johnson, who finished third to reclaim the points lead, said Biffle wasn't the winner.
"The biggest question mark right now is what goes on with Biffle," he said. "He clearly ran out of gas and I feel terrible for those guys. But if you can't maintain pace car speed, then the guys that can finished ahead of you."
But Biffle, who ended a 28-race winless streak with the victory, angrily dismissed their criticism.
"Their opinion really doesn't count, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "They're probably thinking, 'Oh, it ran out of gas, I coasted across the line, everybody went by me, I went into the grass and then they pushed it to Victory Lane.'
"That's not the case. The car runs right now you can go and start it. NASCAR told me not to start it. I was unbuckling, and trying to save my gas, because I knew the race is over. The field's frozen. The caution's out. And I didn't know they were going to go by me. So should I have bumped the clutch again, gave it a little more juice, so nobody would roll past me coming to the stripe?"
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Biffle was the winner because the race ended under caution, the field was frozen and passing is not allowed under caution.
It made for a confusing finish that was par for the course on this crazy day.
Rain caused two delays totaling almost three hours, Kyle Busch was wrecked early by the driver who got him fired from Hendrick Motorsports, and two-time series champion Tony Stewart gambled twice - the first one put him in position to win, and the second one took him out of contention.
When the dust finally settled, the points standings had been blown open for a Chase field that entered the event with the top six drivers separated by just 28 points.
Now Johnson has a six-point lead over teammate Jeff Gordon, and Bowyer is in third, 14 points out.
Stewart, who started the day just two points out of the lead, finished 39th and dropped to fourth - 117 points out.
Kevin Harvick finished sixth to jump four spots in the standings to fifth, 126 points out.
Busch, who came into the race 10 points out of the lead, finished 41st. He's sixth in the standings, 136 points out, and blamed his poor day squarely on Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt ran into the back of Busch very early in the race when he closed in on his rear bumper in an attempt to pass. The contact sent Busch sliding down the track.
Busch was furious at Earnhardt, who was hired in June to drive for Hendrick next season. The move cost Busch his spot with the elite four-car team.
"I left a lane for him on the outside because I knew he was going to have a good run coming off the corner. He ran me over for no reason," Busch said.
Earnhardt was apologetic, but the damage was done. Fortunately for Busch, most of the Chase field struggled, as well.
Matt Kenseth (35th) and Martin Truex Jr. (38th) wrecked on the first lap after the race resumed following the second rain delay. Stewart was involved in that accident, causing fender damage that his crew chief decided not to attempt to fix.
The damage caused a rub that led to the explosion of his tire. Kurt Busch (11th) ran into the back of him, sending him spinning into the path of Carl Edwards. Stewart was fuming after the wreck, angrily removing his steering wheel and throwing his gloves, helmet and safety gear as he exited his car.
Stewart, who put himself in position to win the race by not pitting for gas right before the second rain delay, declined comment as he left the race track.
Edwards, last week's race winner, finished 37th and lamented the sequence of events. He said his spotter thought Stewart should have pulled off the track for repairs when the tire rub sent billowing white smoke from his car.
"Tony had a tire rubbing for a long time, must have been going down or something," Edwards said. "He thought maybe Tony should have pulled in and fixed his car, but if our car started smoking, we would have been begging to stay out, too. So I see both sides of it. That's just how it goes, man."
Denny Hamlin wrecked shortly after, and Jeff Burton had an early fuel problem as Gordon, Harvick and Johnson were the only Chase drivers to have uneventful days.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Championship contender Tony Stewart will not be penalized for cursing on live TV following practice at Kansas Speedway.
The two-time series champion was talking to Robby Gordon on pit road following a Saturday practice when he was approached by an ESPN cameraman. Unaware the camera was live, Stewart said: "What? Get away from me," with an obscenity underlining his remark.
NASCAR traditionally fines drivers and docks points for cursing on TV, and series officials spent yesterday reviewing the footage to determine if Stewart should be penalized. After talking with ESPN officials, Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, NASCAR decided not to punish him.