BIFFLE GETS SECOND STRAIGHT DARLINGTON VICTORY * Greg Biffle won for the 10th time in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career and for the second straight time at Darlington Raceway. * Tonight's win was Ford's second of the season and first since...
BIFFLE GETS SECOND STRAIGHT DARLINGTON VICTORY
* Greg Biffle won for the 10th time in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career and for the second straight time at Darlington Raceway.
* Tonight's win was Ford's second of the season and first since Matt Kenseth won at California in February.
* Ford has 572 all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins.
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
"I tell you what it was a tough night. This place never is easy. We started off really pretty good and I just kind of took my time and worked my way toward the front. On pit stops we worked on the race car. I got really, really good the first 25 percent of the race and then the middle part of the race my car fell off a little bit and I wasn't sure why. I got way too loose when Matt got up there and I let Matt and a couple guys go. We really worked on my race car and Doug did a great job in the pits and the guys did a great job on pit stops. We just didn't give up. We worked on the car the whole night and I kept the thing off the wall, which was really important, until about 15 or 20 to go. I got a little bit of it coming off of two over there, I got my stripe. I thought I was gonna get out here clean, but I got my Darlington stripe but it didn't hurt the car any and I kept getting it. There at the end I knew the 24 was coming, so I was kind of halfway pacing myself because I knew it was gonna be a shootout. I could get off of turn two and down the backstretch really, really good and I could put some distance on him, but I made a mistake two laps in a row and let him close in a little bit. Then the last lap I got off there really good, but he didn't really have a chance of catching me then. It was a great night for us overall. Kurt Busch gave me room to race. He was the last car on the lead lap and he could have raced me until the rest of the guys caught me and he ended up letting me go. It's just awesome to be back in Victory Lane."
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
TALK ABOUT GREG'S RUN.
"I felt like I had been letting Greg down this year. We broke a couple of engines. We had great engines. We didn't have an engine problem, I think, all last year -- certainly not with the 16 -- but had one engine problem on all of our teams. We had a couple of engine problems, which are inevitable, we had a couple of crashes and just had things happen. We ran out of gas once or twice. Greg has run good and Doug has done a nice job with the car. The team has done a great job preparing the cars and it was just a matter of time before we broke through, but if we would have let it get much further behind -- if we could make a good showing with Greg at Darlington, I'm not sure what the year was gonna hold, but I felt like if we got our year turned around and could be really on track by Charlotte, we would have plenty of time to do our business and we've been working toward that. It finally broke for us tonight."
TALK ABOUT THE ROLE TRAFFIC PLAYED AT THE END AND THE 21 CAR SPECIFICALLY.
"The thing you've got to remember is that your tires are so wore out that you can't even get out of the way. You see everybody slow down on the straightaway and let the guy go and get back in line because you can't really go in the corner side by side. If you do, you've got to be going so slow that you can't turn the wheel and you'll slide together. So what happens is if there are a couple lines of cars, the lapped car is trying to let him go, when it gets to the corner and you're the last guy and you're gonna go in that corner side by side, you've got to slow way down. There's just no possible way to do it and that's where I caught the 21. I caught the 21 towards three quarters of the way down the straightaway and I knew Gordon was five to eight car lengths back. I knew he was gonna have trouble. He was gonna catch the lapped car in the corner, which is trouble. It takes twice as long to get by him around the corner as it does on the straightaway. I knew that was gonna be key to spotting me a little bit of room for the last lap. It's just the way the cards fall. Jeff was gonna probably get to my bumper, but him to be able to pass me -- catching me is one thing, but him being able to pass me was gonna be another. It was gonna be a tough night for him to get by me because he's gonna have to try and use the bottom and it's just so hard to go around here by yourself, to try and pass a guy on the bottom -- I couldn't even pass lapped cars on the bottom. I was begging my spotter, Joel, to try and get me the top because the 22, Jeff Gordon wasn't even gonna come close to catching me but I tried to pass the 22 for three laps and I lost so much ground because he made me pass him on the bottom and I just couldn't do it, and the 96 was the same way earlier. He's trying to stay on the lead lap and if they don't give a little bit, you can pass."
DID YOU USE THE WALL TO POINT YOURSELF?
"Yes, I did. I did brush the wall. That's where I was beating Jeff and everybody was off of turn two coming down the hill. I would get it pointed up high early and I could come off there flat and I could see their car getting smaller in the mirror and I would just run the guys down in front of me. I wasn't that good over here in three and four, so that was my strong suit. A couple of times I got coming down off the hill, I say the hill, down off the corner and there are grooves in the race track and I've never really had this happen before, but the thing was kind of turning pretty good and then I felt it kind of go across that part of the race track and it lose the front. I actually didn't think I was gonna hit it and then I did hit it, so it sort of surprised me at the same time that I did get it. I think about everybody up there on the top did. I saw Jeff Gordon's car after the race, he pulled up beside me, and his right side was smashed in bad, I mean way worse than mine. Mine has some paint scratched up but his whole right front fender was rolled completely under. I don't know if he got it with a few laps to go or not, I don't know when he had his problem, but I did unfortunately get my Darlington stripe."
WHAT DID IT TAKE TO FIGURE HOW TO LEAD THE RIGHT LAPS?
"It's just your car staying with you and being at the right place at the right time. Tonight it wasn't a fuel mileage race. I'm curious to go back and see what kind of fuel mileage we got compared to our teammates because that's a benchmark for us. Tonight was strategy and our team engineer had a little bit of strategy and decided that, Doug and I, discussed coming a couple of laps before everybody else and taking a chance on whether the caution was gonna come. I felt it was a good decision to make and decided we'd try it. It just worked out for us."
DID YOU SEE THE SITUATION WITH THE 21 DEVELOP OR DID YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN?
"No, I didn't. It just happened to work that way. I had the bad break -- I caught some lapped cars. I'm trying to think of who I caught and I was struggling bad with and then they finally moved down on the back straightaway and they let me go and then they stayed down there and slowed way down and let the 24 go too. So it wasn't the next corner and then let Jeff go by. It's just the breaks of the race. It's where you catch those guys at and it just so happened that I caught the 21 going down the back. It's where Kenny was running. Kenny moved down out of the way and I couldn't look back to see where Jeff was because the car was so difficult to drive around this race track. It's so demanding. I look back on the straightaway. I can't really look back in the corner, so I don't know how that turned out. But I know Jeff was a ways back because I got a good run off the backstretch and he was a ways back. He wasn't close enough to get by the 21 before the corner. There was no way."
IS IT HARD TO MAKE DECISIONS LIKE SHORT PITTING WHEN THEY'VE GONE AGAINST YOU?
"I felt like I wanted to take that chance tonight. I felt like we had so much bad luck that it's not possible for us to pit two laps before everybody else and the caution is gonna come out. I knew it was gonna be tight. It was just a chance I was willing to take and it won us the race. I don't know, if I had to do it over again I guess I'd do the same thing. I just don't really know."
DOUG RICHERT , Crew Chief -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
"It was three laps. I probably was worrying a whole lot more than Greg was just because of what has happened to us this year and I expected the worse. Until you sit there and cycle it out, I always think the worst because of everything. Short pitting is ideally what you want to do, but it can also bite you in a heartbeat. The way the cautions were falling tonight, there were a couple of times where we actually were getting right down towards the end of a run of our own and two laps before I was fixing to tell him to come in I think the 32 blew a tire or something happened. I'm just thankful it worked out. However it worked, it worked."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE 14TH IN POINTS NOW AND IF YOU WERE HIGHER IN POINTS WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TOUGHER TO MAKE THE DECISION TO PIT EARLY? "I would have to say that being higher up in the points we would have made that decision easier than we did, but we were so close to pitting anyway. Really, we were gonna force everybody else's hand. They can't stand to stay out at three seconds a lap deficit. If they stayed out for two laps, it's six seconds they're gonna lose. It may be even more than that but I know it's a tremendous amount of speed difference, so we felt like everybody was gonna come and we may have a one or two lap advantage. I just saw the paper looking over Jack's shoulder and I was 14th. You would have shocked me if I wouldn't have looked at that already. That's pretty unbelievable that we're 14th in points. That's completely amazing for two weeks -- a fourth at Richmond and a win here. That's good news for us and bad news for them because we feel like we tested extremely well at Charlotte and we feel like we're one of the better cars there. We're looking forward to, maybe in the 600, of gaining some more points with a good top 10 run or maybe top eight and keep working our way up."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE 26 AND 99 AND ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THEM MAKING THE CHASE?
"We certainly felt we had as much to work with as we ever had. Personnel-wise we're good. As far as the way the cars are running, we're running better than we did last year throughout the organization, but today we had the problem of having both the 99 and the 26 lose an oil pump belt. The oil pump is not locked up, but the engine is damaged under that account, so it's a combination of how much the belt was tightened and how much debris went through the belt. We've got some special guards that deflect debris and we've got to go and re-visit all that. But certainly for this race track we didn't have the package that we needed. After they both had trouble, all of these combinations are the same on all five cars, I had my fingers crossed for Greg and for Matt and for Mark."
DID YOU PROMISE MOM A WIN?
"Yeah, definitely I'm gonna box that trophy up and send it to her. It's been a tough couple of weeks for me. I was gonna send my mom a plane ticket and surprise her to come here and unfortunately we had something that came up. She had been out of town all week and just got back on Thursday of this week unexpectedly. So unfortunately I didn't feel like it would be quite a surprise for her to be home for 10 hours and then have to pack her bag again to come here so it kind of spoiled my plan, but this certainly makes up for her not being here."
"My mother has been in the hospital for a week, Georgetta, and in the last five weeks she's been basically written off three times and she keeps coming back. She's stopped breathing and had some organs shut down, but tomorrow I'm gonna go fly up to my brothers and we're gonna go pick her up from the hospital and they told us we could bring her home and she could have dinner with us tomorrow, so that's gonna be real special."
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU WONDERED WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
"I really don't allow myself to think along those lines. I think positive. When my car wasn't that good and I started falling back a little bit and I was too loose, still, I'm running fourth and my goal is to finish in the top five in all these races from here to the chase. I felt good that nobody from behind me was gonna be coming. I still had some left and my race car was still decent enough to finish in the top five and that was the goal I had. I saw the 8 behind me a couple times and I knew we were quite a bit better than he was and that was kind of comforting. We just kept working on the car. To be totally honest with you, I thought about not messing with the 48 because I thought he had a fast car. I'd run up on his bumper and he would drive as hard as he could. Then just one corner I'd slow down a little bit and he would slow right down. So we were sort of playing cat and mouse. I backed off him a little bit and got a good run on him down the backstretch and got under him in three and four. I was surprised. He let me go and didn't want to race me anymore. I figured once I got out in clean air that my race car was gonna be a lot better and I'd be able to save my tires more for that long, long run. It worked exactly how I planned it to work. They did catch me at the end of that run, but I accomplished my goal of leading to the most laps and getting the five bonus points. That's what I had in mind at that point and not use up too much tire. It was just a good night overall for us."
WITH TOYOTA COMING IN WILL THAT CHANGE HOW YOU APPROACH 2007 AND BEYOND? "Well, we're certainly starting to think about what we could do to raise some more money. We're having initial discussions with our sponsors about what we think the challenges are going to be. I know there was a lot to do in the papers last week about the fact that Toyota was not spending their money on race teams and was not going to create the imbalance that would exist if one manufacturer did more than another, but they're giving their money to Michael Waltrip and to the other teams that they've got started so their fingerprints are all over what's happening. They are in fact raiding the garage and that's going to have an impact. The teams that stay together and the really key people in the organizations that believe in what they're doing and will give the teams time to sort it out will stick together. Toyota is going to have a problem, even if they get the people, just to build the teams and build their cars and get the result that everybody would expect them to get for the amount of money they're spending. I'm going to be one of the organizations out there trying to frustrate them, but certainly the money is a big challenge right now. I know we've talked to Ford about it. I've talked to NASCAR about it. One of the things that has made NASCAR competition so close and so interesting to all the fans is the fact that there is parity. There is parity among the driver's ability at the very top. There's parity technically among the teams and there's parity among the manufacturers with regard to what they've been able to do or willing to do with supporting the teams and with bringing technology. But Toyota has a chance of breaking that parity and we'll just have to see what happens."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE 97 POINTS OUT OF THE CHASE?
"That's pretty amazing to be able to make that turnaround in two weeks. I don't want to crack the top 10. My goal is to be leading the points. I know that's pretty farfetched, but I'm gonna continue to do the best we can and get ourselves to sixth or fifth or ninth or whatever we can do. Obviously we've proved that we have the ability to make up some ground and we've done that the last couple of weeks, but I'm completely surprised that we've made that big of an impact in just two races."
HOW HAVE YOU KEPT THE GUYS PUMPED UP?
"It really hasn't been hard because if you really look at the performance of the team overall, minus the finishes, we've led almost every race. We were competitive in the top five and top 10 of almost every race, even Martinsville, and we just didn't get the finishes that we probably really deserved. So you go back to the shop and you say, 'Look, hold your head high. We were running good when this happened,' or 'We were running good when we made a mistake.' When you're running bad and having finishes like we had the first part of the year, that takes a magician then to manipulate the people around you and get them to think that there's something there that there's not, but we've had something there all year long. It just took until last week and this week to really show and have people talking about it. I'm happy."
YOU JOINED SELECT COMPANY BY REPEATING HERE.
"I know a little bit of the history of this place and it carries a lot of history. I've learned probably only about 25 percent about this race track of all the things that have gone on here, but I know the repeat winners, there hasn't been a lot of them. I was watching the special before the race tonight and it's pretty neat to be able to come here and win back to back. This place is so hard. It's one of the most difficult places. I think the fans probably got their money's worth tonight. It was a good race all the way through. There was racing all the time so it's pretty neat to be with those select few."
DO YOU FEEL READY TO PUT TOGETHER ANOTHER HOT STREAK?
"I think so. I really do. I just had renewed confidence after Richmond, qualifying on the front row and then finishing fourth. I wanted to try and carry that momentum and excitement down here to Darlington, a place that we had won at and we did. We did tonight and I drove my butt off. I haven't worked that hard in a long time and they made me work tonight. They made me work for my money."
WAS THERE A TIME WHEN YOU GOT CARRIED AWAY ABOUT THE POINTS SPOT YOU WERE IN?
"I don't think so. I got the steak knife out and set it on the counter one night. I sat there and looked at it."
"There was a couple of days the next day that I did ask him if he had slit his wrist yet."
"That's Doug's famous saying. 'Did you slit your wrists?' If I did, I wouldn't be talking to you on the phone."
"Well, everybody can do stitches every now and then."
"We've had tough luck and you just have to be positive all the time. The way I do it is what happened yesterday was yesterday and what happens tomorrow I can control what's gonna happen tomorrow. I cannot control what happened yesterday and that's my philosophy. I can't change what happened at Phoenix. I can't change what happened at Talladega, but I know I can go to Richmond and try again and I know I can come here and try again and I know I can go to Charlotte next week and try. I can't change the past, so I always just look to the future. Even though it was a good race and even though we won here at Darlington, our focus is going to be Charlotte now."