Greg Biffle led every lap of the caution-free first 20-lap segment of Friday night’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Clint Bowyer needed an early caution in the second segment to validate crew chief Brian Pattie’s four-tire call.
Though they arrived at the finish line through different routes, Biffle and Bowyer earned the two transfer spots into Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET) and will compete for the million-dollar top prize.
Ninth-place finisher Danica Patrick also made the field for NASCAR’s glamour non-points race at the 1.5-mile speedway, as the first multiple winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.
Biffle, who put a Roush Fenway Racing car into the Sprint All-Star Race for the 16th straight year, ran away from the rest of the field in the first segment, beating Bowyer to the stripe by 1.583 seconds, and took his car to the garage.
“I’m really excited,” said Biffle, who started second and traded paint with pole winner Paul Menard before assuming the top spot on the first lap. “We’ve worked really hard and we had good track position. We qualified well. It seems like we’re getting our cars a little bit better.
“We know we still have work to do, but when it got out in clean air it was pretty fast, and we were able to hold off Clint and have a pretty good lead. I definitely didn’t want to see a caution flag. I wasn’t ready for a restart and mix it up again, but we’re pretty happy with the car…
“I’ve never been so excited to win half a race in my life.”
Martin Truex Jr. was one of four drivers who changed two tires during the break between segments, and the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet took the lead after close-quarters racing to start segment No. 2. But a caution for J.J. Yeley’s spin out of Turn 4 slowed the field on Lap 22, and put Bowyer in position to take advantage of his four fresh tires.
After two laps of breathtaking three-wide racing, Bowyer surged past Truex and Kyle Larson to take the lead for good. His winning margin over second-place Menard was 1.521 seconds, as Truex fell back to third and Larson pitted under green with a cut tire.
“You definitely don’t want to be known as the winner of the Sprint Showdown, but it’s better than going home,” quipped Bowyer, who like Biffle has suffered through an extended victory drought. “I’m glad we’re a part of that show… I almost did a burnout.”