Michigan Win Affirms Biffle As Title Contender
Greg Biffle does not own a Sprint Cup victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race.
That could be on the verge of changing.
Biffle, normally a laid-back sort of guy and not one of Sprint Cup racing’s more demonstrative individuals, left Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon with fire in his eyes. He appeared ready to race at Bristol Monday if anybody wanted to advance the schedule.
Biffle roared into prominence late in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 and scored his second victory of the season, outgunning Brad Keselowski over the closing miles to not only emerge victorious but also retake the point lead he had held for 11 weeks earlier in the season.
And, perhaps most significantly, Biffle fired some shots across the bow of folks who might consider him outside the championship contender group. He pointed out -- not once but twice -- in his post-race winner’s interview that he and his team haven’t been considered among the sport’s top dogs this season, and he gave serious notice that he plans to change that by force of accomplishment over the coming months.
“I know in my heart what our team is capable of and what I am capable of as a driver on the race track, and I focus on that,” Biffle said. “I don’t really put a lot into what people talk about and the drivers they talk about and what the stories are.
“I pay attention to what we need to do as a team and not make mistakes and do what it is going to take to win this championship. If it is not a story and they don’t cover it, then that is fine, but they will be forced to after Homestead.”
Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts the final (and likely championship-deciding) race of the season in mid-November, the Ford 400.
Biffle has been in the neighborhood of championship contention in previous seasons but hasn’t been able to win a Sprint Cup trophy to house along with his Nationwide and Camping World Truck series titles. A Cup championship would make him the first driver to win all three.
His next step along that trail could come Saturday night at Bristol, one of the toughest tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit – and one that could be even more difficult to handle this week. After disappointing attendance at the Bristol spring race and continuing complaints from fans, track owner Bruton Smith made changes to the track surface between race dates, using specialized equipment to “grind” the top groove of the track in an attempt to force drivers to battle for less room lower on the track.
No one knows exactly what to expect at Bristol, although it seems a safe bet that a tighter racing groove will produce more wrecks and a more difficult route to victory lane.
“My most important race is my next one, and I will go to bed tonight not thinking about what happened today but worrying about what will happen at Bristol when we go into that ‘crashfest’ we are going to have down there,” team owner Jack Roush said after Sunday’s win.
Most drivers didn’t have a problem with the “old” Bristol. Track officials widened the racing surface slightly in 2007, giving drivers more room to race and generating more side-by-side activity at the tight and fast half-mile. But some of the excitement of bare-knuckles racing was lost, and the track’s races generally have had fewer multi-car accidents.
What will happen Saturday night?
“I just hope that they didn’t screw it up,” Biffle said. “It is a shot in the dark, if you will. You are just sitting back trying to make a plan, and you don’t know if it will work or not. It is that simple.
“Who knows if that is going to work? You don’t. We just have to wait and see when we get there. I think it is going to be exciting either way. I heard they ground the corner more than the straightaway so that when you come up off the corner you will go across that patch coming on to the straightaway, which may be difficult to do from the bottom groove. They carried it around maybe further than it needed to be, but we will have to wait and see when we get there how the race track drives now. I hope it is good.”
Carl Edwards, who will roll into Bristol desperately needing a victory to jump into Chase consideration, is among those who aren’t sure what to expect from the new landscape.
“Who knows what will happen?” he said. “Any time you change a track like that, there is no telling. It might make it a completely different race, and I guess in the end that is what they are trying to do.
‘I give credit to Bruton and those guys for trying to make the racing as good as they can and not [being] afraid to make changes. I think all of us go there hoping for a really good race. We have had some success there, so it is a track I feel like we can go there and win, and that is what we need right now.”
Source: Ford Racing