Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, bounced back after missing last week's NASCAR Winston Cup race at Las Vegas by qualifying 20th for tomorrow's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. Biffle, who is one of six candidates for the 2003 Raybestos...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, bounced back after missing last week's NASCAR Winston Cup race at Las Vegas by qualifying 20th for tomorrow's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. Biffle, who is one of six candidates for the 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, spoke about a number of issues concerning him and his new team.
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Grainger Taurus
LAST WEEK WAS TOUGH, BUT AT LEAST YOU GET TO GO RIGHT BACK AT IT AGAIN THIS WEEK. "Yeah, it is and that's good for us. That's gonna help us some because we realized some problems that we had with the cars. Our cars aren't quite as good as they need to be and it's forcing us to be better and I think it's gonna be a positive overall."
YOU SAID EARLIER IN THE WEEK THAT YOUR TEAM IS A LITTLE BIT BEHIND WITH CAR PREPARATION. WHAT HAS CAUSED THAT? "All of the teams are behind at the start because of the new cars, but they did have chassis built up already. This is just part of the business of being a new team. When you start on January 10th, that doesn't give you a lot of time to prepare, especially when you consider how much time and preparation goes into Daytona. We're gonna suffer here at these first few races until we get some cars built up."
FROM A RAYBESTOS ROOKIE STANDPOINT, LAST WEEK WON'T HURT YOU BECAUSE OF THE POINT SYSTEM INVOLVED AS LONG AS YOU BOUNCE BACK THE REST OF THE YEAR, RIGHT? "Yeah, that's a good thing. We're happy that it's not gonna hurt us so bad there, but we know it's gonna hurt us in Winston Cup points throughout the whole year. The thing is, though, this is our first season to learn what's gonna go on here and next year we'll have points so what happened last week, hopefully, won't happen again."
THE FACT THAT THIS MARKS THE LAST RACE WHICH GOES ON LAST YEAR'S POINT SYSTEM, DOES THAT HELP YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "Yeah, it will but missing last week will hurt us in this year's points and, after this race, it goes off of this year's points so we're gonna be pretty far down there. It's going to depend on who misses races and who needs provisionals. I'm hoping it will be better, but it's certainly not a good situation by missing that race."
JEFF BURTON SAID LAST WEEK THAT THE BUSCH CARS AND CUP CARS ARE VERY DIFFERENT. DOES THE TRACK TIME YOU HAVE IN BUSCH HELP AT THIS LEVEL? "Track time is important as well as each race. We tested here in the fall with a Winston Cup car and tried to make the Winston Cup race but qualifying got rained out. We were sixth-fastest when it rained out and I felt we would have had a top-10 start in the fall here, so we feel like we're pretty decent at this race track."
HAS THE WEATHER COMPLICATED THINGS, IN ADDITION TO HAVING NO POINTS FROM LAST YEAR TO FALL BACK ON? "Yeah, it is pretty tough. When practice keeps getting shortened and we don't get happy hour, it seems like all kinds of things keep happening. I'm frustrated. I want to drive the car. I want some seat time. I want to get going and run all the laps in practice, happy hour and the race, so the rain is frustrating."
HOW IS THE PRESSURE TRYING TO QUALIFY FOR THESE RACES? "I've never really felt the pressure until last week when we missed the race. There's a little bit of pressure here, but we've got a pretty good car. We ran pretty good here in the fall with a Winston Cup car when qualifying got rained out, but I feel pretty confident we'll qualify in the top 25."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHANGE FROM THE BUSCH PROGRAM? "The biggest change is that we had a team that was together for a couple of years. We had tons of race cars that were top notch and the best that money could buy. What I mean by that is that we just had them refined. When I showed up at the race track, I knew that I had the perfect car. Now we're showing up and wondering how our car stacks up against everybody else's because they're all brand new cars and have never been to the track before. It's difficult to bring cars that haven't been to the wind tunnel or been tested anywhere. They haven't ever been on the race track."
THE BAR FOR ROOKIES HAS BEEN RAISED IN RECENT YEARS. HAS THAT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU TO PERFORM? "I don't think so. I think some of the rookie classes we've seen in the past have been extraordinary situations, especially Kevin Harvick driving the 3 car. I think that was a pretty unusual circumstance. Ryan Newman moved into Jeremy Mayfield's equipment and Jimmie Johnson got a lot of Jeff Gordon's cars and equipment to compete with, so those guys are in a lot different situation than us. We're in a brand new building with brand new cars and a brand new team. None of us have any experience working or going to the track together. That's truly what a rookie team has to go through and those are the pains we face. You just have to figure it out by doing it. You can short cut that process a bunch. I say over and over again that it's the team that is the most important. If you put me in the 17 car or the 97 car with their team and crew, I think you would see different results. I think you would see wins and top-five runs because those guys know what to do. It's the same with Jamie (McMurray) driving the 40 car. I drove the 55 and the 44 for a few races last year and I qualified in the top-five three times. That was the first time I'd ever been in those cars and the first time I had worked with those teams. It makes a difference when a team knows and has experience at these places. They can say, 'Hey, we've been to Atlanta six times in the past and here's what we've done.' These guys know what to expect, but we're looking at what we did in the Busch car or what our teammates are doing. We've got to bring that information over and get our cars and our team up to speed just as fast as we can."
SO IT'S JUST A CASE OF GETTING TO KNOW THESE PLACES? "We've got all the resources we need, it's just taking those resources and putting them into working order. We've got a library of information, you just have to know where to get it and know how to apply it each and every week. It takes a group effort. It takes really good race cars. Like Kurt was telling me last year, all of their cars have been to the wind tunnel before they go to the race track. They baseline them there and know right where they're at. I hear a lot of teams go to Kentucky on Tuesdays with every brand new race car before they go to the race track. That makes a difference."
HOW MUCH DID YOU LEARN FROM THE VETERAN TEAMS YOU WORKED WITH LAST YEAR IN CUP? "Not a lot. I learned from some of them. I'd come in and say, 'It's a little bit tight. It feels like it's doing this and that.' They're like, 'OK, we're gonna change this and this and this.' They're the ones that decide what to change. This year with our new team it's all me. If it's a little bit tight I'm like, 'OK, what am I gonna do? Maybe I'll try a stiffer right-front spring.' We don't have anybody to feed us information, someone who can say, 'Why not try this? Why not try that?' So it's me and Randy (Goss) guessing what to do. You can't run every scenario by your teammate. You can't go over there in the middle of practice and say, 'When I run in the corner it's a little bit like this and it feels like that. What do you think I should do?' And then go back and do that to your car and go out on the track. You can't do all that."
IN THE LONG RUN WILL THIS PROCESS MAKE YOU A BETTER DRIVER? "Certainly. It works both ways because if I come in and say, 'It's a little bit tight,' the crew chief is gonna say, 'OK, we're gonna put a 50-pound softer spring here and raise the track bar.' If I go out on the track and say, 'That's better,' I'm gonna log that into my memory bank. They made the change, they made the decision, but I know what it did so next time I'm gonna make that decision. It works both ways."
DO YOU FEEL GOING AFTER THE BUSCH TITLE LAST YEAR HAMPERED YOUR CUP EFFORT AND HAS PUT YOU BEHIND? "No. I think what took away from the Cup program was not having the funding to run the races. That's really what it was. We were focussed on the Busch championship, but we could have run six Cup races pretty easily. We ended up attempting three. It rained out here when we tried and we missed Michigan. The first one we went and qualified for was at California and we finished 13th."