Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, announced a three-year extension with Roush Fenway Racing, which will keep him behind the wheel in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He spoke about the deal during a morning press conference. "Certainly I'm...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, announced a three-year extension with Roush Fenway Racing, which will keep him behind the wheel in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He spoke about the deal during a morning press conference.
"Certainly I'm very excited to announce that we've done a multi-year extension with Roush Fenway. It's a three-year extension -- 2009, '10 and '11 to drive the No. 16 car with 3M as the primary sponsor on it. 3M has stepped up. They had a multi-year deal to start with, but they came and re-upped, so to speak, re-committed to being on the car for those races. It was a long process. I weighed certainly all of my options out and it felt like the 16 car is where I really wanted to spend my next three years driving. A lot of things went into making a decision on where I was gonna be. One was Ford's commitment to the racing program and supporting us technologically, and Roush Fenway's commitment to put Robbie Reiser in the position that they did. I just feel like we're making all the right decisions at our company right now to win championships and races, and I like all the guys on the 16 team. We've developed a pretty good relationship. Greg Erwin and myself and all the guys, I feel like this is really the first year that the team has been together, so to speak. So we've made a lot of strides in this amount of time, and I feel like if we can continue to run like we are, we can make the chase and we'll be a threat in the chase, I think. If I can keep from driving off the race track while I'm leading, I think we'll definitely have an opportunity to win some races.
HOW SERIOUS WERE YOUR OTHER OPTIONS? "I didn't pursue the other options completely, like to a contract state or anything like that, but just talked with other folks in the sport. I respect all the guys in the garage area so much. There are a lot of great team owners and a lot of great people that are coming into this sport that there are a lot of opportunities out there. There were a huge amount of opportunities for me and I'm very lucky and blessed to have those opportunities presented to me. I just felt like what my primary thing was gonna be is figure out whether I wanted to be at Roush Fenway going into the future, first, and then if that wasn't gonna happen, then I was gonna figure out where I was gonna end up and I never got to that process. It hadn't narrowed down to what team is it gonna be, technically, or what not. I'd made the commitment to try and get the extension with Roush Fenway first, and if we weren't able to reach common ground there, then I would have to go and figure out where I was gonna be instead of there.
WHAT ELSE DID ROUSH FENWAY HAVE TO COMMIT TO YOU? "I think it was about performance, but it was about their commitment to competition, I would say. This sport has really, really shifted from put the car in the transporter and let's go to the race track and test for the day. So much has changed. We learn so much at the shop now with some of the simulation stuff we do and, of course, the seven-post, which everybody has now. It was Roush Fenway's commitment to keep that going forward and I saw that with our group and how hard we're working on that. I think that's what's made our difference from a year ago today. A year ago this week, hopefully I don't jinx myself because practice hasn't started yet, but I was last place on the speed chart at this track right here, coming off a third-place run here the year before. We were just that far off and we've come from there to where we were at at the end of the year when we ran in the top 10 the whole time. So that kind of commitment has continued within our organization. I'm not saying that any other organization hasn't made that commitment because obviously they have, but without going and investigating -- I think Dale Jr. did it the right way. He negotiated with DEI to the point that he wasn't able to negotiate a deal and at the media event I'm not gonna be at Roush Fenway going into the future and then I'm gonna see where else I'm gonna be. So that was the deal. I was gonna work with our organization until I felt like I wanted to go somewhere else and that never really crossed my mind through the whole process.
"I just see the commitment that they've made to getting our cars running good and winning races, and I have to admit one of the key elements was the addition we made with Robbie Reiser. That's one of the things I liked and I felt like we were making steps in the right direction by continuing to add engineers and people to go beyond just the crew chief and the nuts and bolts of the car, technically -- just push it in the truck, go test and see what you come up with. That used to work years ago, but it doesn't work anymore today to be competitive in this arena, and Roush Fenway is making the steps to look into the future.
DO YOU FEEL YOUR VOICE IS BEING HEARD WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION NOW? "Yeah, I think so. I just wanted to make sure that that was our No. 1 focus -- the competitiveness of these race teams, and it is and it has been. I'm enjoying being where I'm at. I've been with Roush Fenway for 10 years. The veteran guy, I suppose, at the organization and I'm excited to be there for 13 years. I'm looking forward to that. Jack and I have had our differences. I told him last Wednesday night at the ballpark that he had to put up with me for another three years and he laughed and told me the same thing because we've had shouting matches in the conference room and everything else about what we're doing, but I think it makes us stronger as a group and makes us better. We're both that passionate about winning races and championships and that's good.
DID YOUR MOMENTUM CARRYOVER FROM LAST YEAR? "Yeah, it is. We just knew we were behind in the COT car, the new car. We were behind last season, dramatically behind, and we made the commitment to try and catch up and it's so hard to play catch up, but we've been able to close that gap, I feel, to the Hendrick cars for sure, but we're still maybe chasing the Gibbs cars by just a razor of a margin, probably not much, but on top of that we're looking further ahead and that's what we need to do. We want to be the innovator for awhile. We want people chasing us and that was one of the decisions I made. I also want to say that I'm gonna be running the Nationwide Series next year with the Citifinancial group. We haven't made a decision on a schedule yet, but between 15-20 races I guess would be what we're looking at doing for next year.
WHY DO YOU THINK DRIVERS DON'T STAY WITH TEAMS AS LONG AS THEY USED TO? "I think one thing I see is that teams are somewhat consolidating, if you will. The bigger, powerful teams are really the ones, not the only ones, but really the ones that are the most competitive. If you look at your options -- where are you gonna go and win races and championships, from a driver's perspective -- and you see about three or four places that are really viable options, and then the rest of them -- I'm not saying you can't because Tony might possibly make an effort to go to a smaller organization and build that organization. I looked at that as well and there's something to that, and then there's always that intriguing fact that you look at Mark Martin went and drove the Ginn car and was leading the points at Martinsville and almost won the Daytona 500. So I'm kind of contradicting what I'm saying, but I think what you see is that people don't really want to do a bunch of moving around because in the old days there were a bunch of one and two car teams where you could drive anywhere.
ARE TEAMS LESS PATIENT WITH A DRIVER? IF YOU HAD GONE A YEAR OR TWO WITHOUT WINNING WOULD THIS SITUATION HAVE PRESENTED ITSELF? "That's a good question. I don't know that for sure. This is a performance-driven sport. I do know that I'm very lucky to have other opportunities, so that would indicate that people still believe I'm capable of winning races and putting the car in the chase, but certainly you can see that the trend is they want to perform or they're gonna make a change, I think. That's kind of scary, I guess. There's not a lot of job security in what we do. It's a performance-based business, unfortunately, and you have to be competitive."
WHAT GUARANTEES HAS THE ORGANIZATION GIVEN YOU THAT THINGS WILL TURN AROUND ON YOUR TEAM AS FAR AS MISTAKES? "I sit in meetings at the shop. We sat and watched the video from the Michigan pit stop, where the air hose got stuck on the front valance and it's a circumstantial thing. I stopped deep in the box on that particular pit stop, which could be a valid point where they said the air hose was further under the car than they wanted it to be. When he ran down off the wall he placed the air hose and I was two or three-feet deeper. We've looked at what we need to do to be better and, like I said, this was the first year, technically, for this team so you've almost got to look at it as this is our first season together. I feel like the guys are working very hard at being the best on pit road. We've had some parts issues with wheels loose and things like that that the pit crews took a pretty bad rap for because it wasn't their fault the wheels were coming loose. It was a hardware issue, so they got some fingers pointed at them, but there really, truly haven't been any mechanical issues other than the timing belt breaking and it's clear that was a part failure. You've got to look at Sonoma as well. The shoe is on both feet. They did a phenomenal job on pit road. Greg Erwin did a great job of calling the race -- put us in the lead. We had the right fuel mileage. They've worked hard on fuel mileage and all that -- put us in the lead, and then the driver drove off the race track on the first corner. So there can be finger-pointing in both directions on that deal and I think we're all committed to doing the best that we can. I feel like Jack and Robbie both have made the commitment, and Greg Erwin, that they will do whatever necessary to make sure that this car is competitive. I think there are some other teams in our organization that are not in worse shape, but they're working on it as well -- everybody is. That pit road is so important and we're all working hard to be the best, but there's always gonna be one, two, three through 43 and everybody is fighting to be that number one spot or number two spot all the time and my guys are committed to doing that."
WHAT ARE YOUR PROSPECTS FOR THIS WEEKEND AND THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT CHICAGO IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS? "Yeah, I love night racing for a couple of reasons. One, it's not as hot inside the car at night. Number two, as long as it's not Sunday night, we usually get a day off. But, more importantly, it's fun to race under the lights, so I really look forward to Chicago's race under the lights for the first time. Here, I'm really excited about this place because we ran 43rd a year ago today and then ran 13th at the second race, so if I can improve that many positions again, that puts us right up in the top five, so I don't know if we'll be there or not. But we definitely have been working on this car and our flat-track program and I think that we're gonna hopefully be in the top 10, top 15 right off and then continue to work on this thing for this weekend. I think we can come out of here with a top-10 finish, work our way up into the top-five and that puts you in position to win. I remember battling Kyle Busch for the win here and racing with Matt for third, so, hopefully, that's the case this weekend.
HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH HIGH GAS PRICES. ARE YOU FEELING IT? "Yeah, I think everybody has done their part to try and conserve fuel. I've heard all the stories and read all the things about the consumption rate and if it goes down a half percent or one percent that the price will come down and I've really committed. I've parked my bigger vehicles and I drive my cars more often, and don't drive as much as I used to. The guys that work for me around my shop or whatever, we're all conscious of making sure we only make one trip. If it's going to get something, we make sure that we get all the things we need at one time. It's hurt everybody. It costs us a tremendous amount to get to the race track now for fuel for the airplanes. We've got to transport all the guys to the race track and we've got the transporters going up and down road, so it's very expensive."
WHAT DO YOU DRIVE? "I have a Lincoln LS car that I drive and I also have a Ford truck that I drive some. I still use the truck when I need to use the truck and I drive the car more than I used to. The car gets 22 miles to the gallon and the truck gets 15-16 miles to the gallon, depending on if I'm towing something or whatever I'm doing. It's five or six miles to the gallon, but it makes a difference. I don't drive that much, so around town is basically it, but I feel like it's all our responsibility to do our part and make it the best we can. I'm considering going and buying the Ford Focus. I don't know if anybody has seen that car, but it's got the Microsoft Sync and it's got all this neat stuff in it. It's a nice car. I saw it this last weekend and it's a great car and gets really good gas mileage. So I'm not against driving something. I went to my local dealership and tried to look at an Escape and the hybrid is so popular that they're gone. I'm on board for the hybrid, electric or whatever."
IS TONY'S STATUS WITH THE 20 CAR HOLDING UP MOVES FROM OTHER GUYS? "Yeah, I was shocked to see that Tony wanted to make a change, but I understand Tony wants to maybe move into more of an ownership type of role and that's good for drivers in our category to look at. I enjoy running in the Nationwide races and the Cup races and then enjoy having a little extra time to do other things. So that ride could possibly be available next season, so it was a consideration when I was deciding whether I was gonna stay at Roush Fenway or not, but, like I say, I didn't really pursue the opportunities -- more than just what's possibly available. I focused on my program and was definitely gonna go knock on the door to see if they had found anybody.
HOW MUCH DOES A SHORT WEEK LIKE THIS AFFECT A DRIVER? "Our travel schedule wears on you, definitely. It doesn't matter if you're doing something personal -- vacation or not. Like this week, I left Sonoma. I stayed the night and left Sonoma Monday and went to Mexico to see my dad. I hadn't seen him since November and went down there for two days and came back to Charlotte Tuesday night and left Wednesday at 1:00 to go to Boston for the Red Sox game and yesterday I was in Baltimore at Citifinancial headquarters and then came here. So our travel schedule gets old after a while, but one thing about the Saturday night races is, like I mentioned, it does give us Sunday off. It is a short week and we need to be in Daytona early, but, at the same time, we have that Sunday off to kind of make up for that and that's good.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO PUT YOURSELF IN A GOOD POINTS POSITION, AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON MATT CLIMBING BACK INTO THE TOP 12? "It's not surprising to see Matt back in the points hunt. That team is very strong. They're always a contender and you can never count them out. What we need to do as a team is not make mistakes. It's not getting the air hose hung up on the splitter, not drive off the track, not get a pit road speeding penalty -- it's those kinds of things we need to do for the next 10 and then, obviously, the next 10 to win the title is what we need to do. Winning races is one of our top priorities. We want to win because we know that gives us points when we start out the chase. We know we're behind a little bit with three and four and five wins -- whatever is up there -- but we know that can be overcome in finishing positions in the race. We're certainly not locked into the chase by any means, but we need to continue to just have good top-10 runs like we've been doing. If you look at the last three races, I hate to dwell on it, but if you look at the last three we've given up almost 200 points -- probably 180 points just with simple mistakes. I got caught speeding at Pocono. I went from running second behind Kasey Kahne to finishing 15th, so we had an easy top five. And then at Michigan we got the air hose hung up on the splitter running fourth and finished 20th, and then this weekend I drive off the track leading and finish 11th. Those are simple issues that we can't continue to make those mistakes and win a championship, for sure, but with the competition level in this sport, we can't continue to make those mistakes and make the chase, either. So we know that's what we need to do is eliminate our mistakes more than run any better than we're running. We know we're running good enough, we just need to finish where we've been running."
-credit: ford racing