An interview with: Greg Biffle
MELANIE HANNS: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the NASCAR CAM video teleconference in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway. Joining us now is Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16, 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing and a winner at Pocono in 2010. Wins are keeping you right now as you sit just 5 points outside the Top 10. A victory this weekend would put you in a prime spot for a wildcard spot for the choice. Greg, can you tell us how important a wildcard spot is to you and what it does to add to the excitement of getting into the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: It's very important, as you know there's a lot of tough guys right there or right behind me, so even if I get to tenth or ninth, I'll be locked into the chase temporarily. There are a lot of races left and a lot of good guys fighting for that spot.
So a win certainly being up near that Top 10 or 12 in points, a win would certainly secure you a fairly comfortable spot as a wildcard, although we have two guys with wins now, so it may, in fact, take two wins. Two wins would probably guarantee you a spot if you stay in that top 15 in points.
MELANIE HANNS: Before we go to media questions, we've got a fan question from Twitter. Scott McLaughlin wants to know what upcoming race are you most excited about?
GREG BIFFLE: I think the upcoming race I'm excited about is Michigan. Michigan is so much fun. I love that racetrack. It's always the fuel mileage, always the strategy. We can race four wide on a downforce configuration. No other racetrack on circuit can we do that except we see it at Michigan.
I really like that place with the win in there and the Truck Series and the Cup Series. I like track.
Q. I wanted to ask you, we found out earlier today that you guys are doing something with your charity for the tornado victims. Can you tell us more about that?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, all of us are doing what we can to help the victims of the tornado. There have been so many weather events and so many tornados all over the place. Not just Missouri or Joplin, and so quickly we forget about the flooding that had taken place. We've got a lot of requests in from groups needing help to either relocate or rebuild or use temporary facilities.
We're an animal based foundation where we help household pets, and we've done a lot. We've helped several groups all over the place from we were getting bombarded by the first round of the hurricane or the tornados, and then the flooding, and now Joplin. We're doing certainly what we can. Everybody's doing their part to help.
The Red Cross is doing a tremendous amount for those people. So we applaud everybody that's helping with that and want everybody to think about looking at the American Red Cross as a way to help.
Q. On the racing side, it seems like more and more this year both on the Nationwide and Cup Series we're seeing fuel mileage races play out in those closing laps. What can you attribute that to? Is it based on the new car design?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, it's funny because anything -- any racetrack, any race can become a fuel mileage race if the conditions are right just like a storm. If the conditions exist, it can become a fuel mileage race.
So, for instance, at Charlotte and Kansas, we have a caution flag with just, you know, three or five or just outside of the window where everybody can make it on fuel. You know, if that caution flag comes out at that particular moment and then no other cautions persist or come after that caution, it becomes a fuel mileage race automatically.
Now, any time that caution comes out, if it comes out five laps later, doesn't matter what racetrack it is, it's no longer a fuel mileage race.
So to answer your question, it's really just a chance of luck when that caution's going to come out. It could be this weekend at Pocono; it could be Michigan. Even we've seen fuel mileage races at Richmond, even. It all depends on what lap the caution comes on. And ironically enough, two weeks in a row, it's come, you know, three or four laps before the whole field can make the rest of the race on gas.
Q. Last year in sports illustrated you had some pretty strong criticisms of Pocono, the track. I'm just curious what your thoughts are now. They've put up more safer barriers; they put up a catch fence along the back straightaway. Do you feel better about racing there now, safer perhaps?
GREG BIFFLE: Absolutely. Probably ten years overdue. The racetrack, I applaud them for taking action. But there are other racetracks that need to. There are a few other places that we don't have Safer Barriers all the way around yet or on the interior part of the racetrack. We have a split in the wall where the safety vehicles come out from that could be better aligned.
The reality is whoever has the most wins.
If you look at all the wrecks over the years, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Steve Park, and all the other wrecks. You look at the wreck that I had with Kasey Kahne and I think it was Mark Martin. Then you look at Elliott Sadler's wreck. At some point it's screaming out that we've got to do something.
Certainly to have taken action, we're extremely happy about that to get that change and make that change before something bad happens.
Q. You talked earlier about the wildcard. There are so many potential things that can happen with those two spots now with even a guy like Keselowski winning, if he wins again and gets in the 20th spot, he's certainly a candidate. Does this make all of this more interesting for you as a driver? Do you keep up with the numbers more the way things have changed now?
GREG BIFFLE: I mean, I think that we do. Basically what they've done is it's easy for us to calculate. You've got to be Top 10 in points like the start of when the Chase came around. You've got to be in the Top 10 to be locked in. That's plain and simple.
We know that 11th and 12th is going to go off of wins. So we knew that at the beginning and we're still aware of that. So Top 10 you're locked in. 11th and 12th will come by who has the most wins. And that can change, obviously, up until Richmond.
Let's say I have one win, Jeff Gordon has one win, Keselowski has one, and I'm ahead of all of them in points. We go to Richmond, and Keselowski wins, or Jeff Gordon does, it automatically changes that night who gets in.
The reality is whoever has the most wins. We've talked about emphasizing on winning forever. People think if we emphasize more about winning, we pay more money to win, we give more points to win, we do whatever, people will try harder. We try as hard as we can every single week to win. It does not matter. That's what 43 guys show up for every weekend. A lot of people don't believe that, but that's what we show up at the racetrack for.
And fans wanted to see guys like McMurray. He had three spectacular wins. They felt like he should be in the Chase or other guys that had two wins and didn't quite make it. They knew that Jeff Burton and all these other guys didn't have any wins but were consistent and were a solid team and ran good every race. That's what it takes to win a championship. You must perform every single week, not every once in a while.
So we've changed it to where wins will get you in now. But once you're in the Chase, you have got to perform on a consistent level otherwise you'll never win the title.
Q. Though you can't know all the factors, if you're a couple weeks out of Richmond, would you feel more comfortable with your position if you were, say, 8th in points or if you were say 15th and had a couple of wins?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I think depending on who you're battling against. You know, you're nearly guaranteed up until -- because I say we're two weeks away and you're the only guy with two wins, it's all circumstantial.
But I would take the two wins because I'm locked in because maybe I'm in front of that other guy. But maybe there's a guy 13th in points and maybe he wins and bumps me out. If you're the only guy with two wins, then you're pretty much safe because two guys aren't going to win at Richmond or maybe the last couple of races. It would be pretty ironic for both guys ahead of you in points to win.
So to answer your question, two wins would be a safer bet than 8th, because if you had engine failure or a flat tire or wheel come loose, you're kind of guaranteed with the two wins versus 8th in points and had a bad night and somebody else had a Top 5 run and leap frogged you in the points.
So, it's all about the math and the numbers how you want to set the board up. If you're going to give me only two wins and everybody else has one, you're probably pretty safe because that means two guys would have to win and be higher than you in points.
Q. I wonder if you could talk a little about NASCAR allowing you guys to shift again at Pocono and what that kind of does strategy-wise and will do for the race?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean long overdue. I really applaud NASCAR for giving us the shifting back. It was kind of -- it sort of got caught under I'm going to call it oxymoron-type of rule. Because we tried to do a gear limit to limit the engine guys from getting way out of whack, which we totally needed to do.
But Pocono sort of fell through the cracks because it is a little more like a road course than a true oval. And really to be aggressive and for the car to perform properly at that track and in order to make passing more capable, we really needed to shift at that racetrack.
So they made a rule that said your third gear ratio has to be this, except for road racing you can kind of have whatever you want within this range. Well, Pocono probably should have fell under that in the beginning with at least one or two option third gear.
But I'm certainly grateful that they gave it back to us because certainly you're going to see a better race at Pocono, more passing, and you know that's what the car's needed and the engines. We needed that gear to be able to shift at Pocono.
Q. Follow-up question if I might on the new qualifying procedure and the importance that places on the first practice session on Friday?
GREG BIFFLE: I was a proponent of that. We kind of pushed NASCAR for doing that a little bit because what happened was it was hard to get kind of a practice schedule, a practice plan in place for us as teams. We weren't sure what the weather was going to do or the first session or second session. You're forced to try to get a fast lap.
Yet that's not the optimum time to do qualifying runs. You want to go out with the coldest temperature, the greenest racetrack to try to get a fast lap and then switch to practice race trim and then switch back to qualifying more in a temperature and environment that you're going to qualify in.
So it was sort of difficult for us to align all of the stars, if you will, when it came to that procedure. So now it's more cut and dry. We're going to take the first practice session of the day and we're going to make that the one preceding qualifying. That is the one you have to run the fast lap in; that way it's much more clear for us. We don't have to jockey between practice sessions.
We're looking at the weather. Is it going to be cooler mechanics session, it may rain. All of that is out the window now. Now it's business as normal for us. I like this new procedure of just having one practice session. Everybody knows what it is. When it's over, that is the lineup. We don't have to wait for the second practice session to see where we're at.
Q. In some of these fuel mileage races recently some guys started getting their tanks full of gas. Obviously you had your issues with that earlier in the season. I was just curious if you feel like you've gotten your issues all good, and are you surprised that people are still having trouble with it?
GREG BIFFLE: No, I'm not surprised people are still having trouble with it, and we still are. None of our teams on a consistent basis are getting the cars what we call full of gas.
Just because the system we're using, I'm not going to call it flawed, but it's not the optimum for trying to put 18 gallons of fuel in a car in 11 seconds. It's challenging, and it has a lot of challenges for plugging the system in, not getting air trapped in it.
... this a chance of getting it perfect every time.
If you move the can two degrees it will allow fuel to get into the returning air side. It spills a lot of gas on the ground. You know, it's a difficult system to get down. With anything new, they'll be next generation or next, and we'll hopefully get it better over time.
I think being green is very important and recapturing the vapor is. It's just this system is challenging for teams to get the cars full of gas. That's really what it boils down to. You can put tires on the car.
The pit crews have gotten so good, they can put four tires on the car faster than we can put the fuel in. It's tough to sit on pit road and wait for fuel versus going and getting that track position. That's why some guys are coming up a hair short on getting the cars full.
Q. Do you feel it's just circumstance on whether you get your car full or not, or is there a way to do it? Do you just have to wait longer on pit road or is there a way to do it to make sure it's full of fuel?
GREG BIFFLE: It's mostly circumstance. If the fuel guy got off the wall perfect, you stopped exactly right dead in front of him. He hit the connection perfectly the very first time. You know, when the guy jacked the car up, he didn't get a little gap in the O-ring from the returning air side to the fuel side. He turned around and got the second can just in time. You can get it full right when the four tires are about getting done, you know, one second longer, three quarters of a second longer than what the tire change is.
So that's what it boils down to is this a chance of getting it perfect every time. And you know how circumstances are. You're going to have things. Guys are a little slow on that side. You know, maybe you stopped a little long or short. You've got traffic getting in and out of the pit box. There are all kinds of things that can change you by one second and you're not full of gas.
Or if that thing gets sideways a little bit and lets fuel into the air side, it traps it. It stops it from fueling the car completely at that point, and you will not get any gas in the car. You have to grab a second can in order to restart the flow. So that's the worst case when something like that happens.
MELANIE HANNS: Thank you, Greg for taking the time to do this, and we wish you well with everything that's going on with your wife right now and the baby coming.
GREG BIFFLE: Thank you. I'm excited. I've got four weeks left and hopefully a couple wins between now and then will be quite nice.