Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, hit a variety of topics during his Q&A session at NASCAR Media Day, including whether or not electric or hybrid vehicles will one day be circling Daytona International Speedway. IS IT TOTALLY OUT...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, hit a variety of topics during his Q&A session at NASCAR Media Day, including whether or not electric or hybrid vehicles will one day be circling Daytona International Speedway.
IS IT TOTALLY OUT OF THE QUESTION TO ONE DAY SEE HYBRID VEHICLES IN NASCAR? "Oh no, absolutely. That's a big statement -- down the road and how far -- but the thing you have to remember is you're talking about a whole different era to try and regulate. You're trying to regulate an electric motor, a battery-power system, electronics. Some of that becomes so technical and so in-depth that in a racing condition, that would be very, very hard. I'm not saying it can't be done. It certainly could be done and certainly some day, who knows? I'm sure I won't be racing then, but it's four times and something that accelerates the car."
COULD YOU GENERATE ENOUGH HORSEPOWER THAT YOU WOULD NEED IN RACING? "Today, no. Eventually, sure. When we get better and we understand electronics better -- they're learning. I don't know a lot about this, but they're building big, huge freighters -- ocean-going freighters -- I've read a yachting magazine because I like to read through there and dream a little bit -- but they're powering those with electric motors now and a diesel generator that produces the electric power. How many horsepower are those things? Several thousand horsepower or whatever, so that technology exists, but it's big, heavy and bulky. When you get a battery the right size that is nuclear or something, and you can plug it in, then..." COULD SOMETHING LIKE THAT SAVE THE AUTO INDUSTRY? "It will be a matter of time. I think we all know that it's gone from 10 miles to the gallon -- or eight or six or whatever -- to 15, to 18, to 20, to 25, to 30 miles to the gallon in a regular gasoline car and now it's hybrid and then we're all electric and all this other stuff that's happening like Hydrogen power. People are dabbling on the edge right now and it's a matter of time. Then it will probably take years for that technology to be bred into performance -- probably street performance and then maybe someday to the race track. You never know."
WITH ALL THE ECONOMIC TURMOIL, WAS IT UNSETTLING AS A DRIVER TO SEE THE FOUR CAR CEO'S ON CAPITOL HILL? "That was a difficult time for all of us to watch because our sport is auto racing. I can't be greedy, but the one thing about it is I am fortunate that I am in a Ford. Ford is positioned much better than all the other car manufacturers and I'm very thankful of that, but it certainly could easily be the other way around. I care about all of the manufacturers because they're our friends -- they're in this sport with us."
SPECIFICALLY THE DOMESTIC AUTOMAKERS. "Yes. We care about what everybody's outcome is, but I'm thankful that Ford is in the position they are. I'm thankful that they have positioned themselves over the last year for this. You can't predict the future, but they certainly saw the slowdown and tried to get positioned correctly and they've got some great small cars. I think the main thing is getting people back in those cars to drive them, to try them out. Go drive a Toyota Camry and then come and drive a Ford Fusion and give me your opinion. I want to know. Ford has done such a great job and the other thing I'm really happy about, too, is that Ford has the SYNC and all that technology with the iPod and the fuel and all the stuff is real easy to use. Nicole had a vehicle, and I won't mention it, that had a navigation thing in it and we never got it to work. We had to be computer programmers to try and figure it out, so this kind of stuff is so user-friendly that it's really neat."
LOOKING AT THE SHOOTOUT FORMAT, DID CHANGING IT DE-VALUE POLE QUALIFICATIONS? "I would say that other than you get the first pit box pick, it doesn't have any value anymore, in my opinion. You look at a guy that gets the pole, like McMurray at Homestead, guys are celebrating. I was so excited when I got the pole at Darlington, the team was all high-fiving each other and why? Not because we got the pole, but because we're in the Bud Shootout. We're in the Bud Shootout, we take a third car, we learn for the race. This is a very, very high-profile, prestigious event. We have the Bud Pole Party that is televised on TV where you get to pick to see where you start. It's a big deal. It's part of our sport that has made it as exciting as it is. The Bud Shootout is still gonna be an exciting race, so from an external standpoint of people looking in, it's still just as exciting as it always is and always will be. But for us on the inside, it took the excitement out of it." BECAUSE YOU HAD TO EARN YOUR WAY IN. "You have to earn your way. Everywhere in America you've got to earn your way. Nothing is free."
WHAT'S THE MOTIVATION TO WIN THE POLE NOW? "Well, you've got your chest out, you start on the front row and they talk about you on TV and you get the first pit box, so there are a lot of prestigious things about winning a pole."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENT TIERS OF TEAMS WILL DO TO THE QUALITY OF RACING THIS YEAR? WILL IT HURT TO HAVE THESE LOW-BUCK CARS IN THE BACK? "I don't think so because you're still gonna have qualified drivers in them and, let's face it, these guys are respectable drivers and understand competition on the race track, so I'm not really worried about that aspect of it. I think the other thing is it's good for those guys to have that opportunity because it got to be looking like that opportunity wasn't gonna be available for some guys anymore, and that's kind of come back around. Unfortunately, how tough times are and the economy and some of the consolidation, it's given teams opportunities again to get back in at that level. It won't be any different than last year when Michael Waltrip and all those other guys were fighting to stay in the top 35. There are gonna be the same battles this year for those teams."
DO YOU SEE ANYBODY IN A POSITION TO BREAKTHROUGH WITH THE BIG FOUR TEAMS? "It's hard to say at this point. I haven't paid that close of attention to exactly who is doing what and who is where, but certainly if they get some technology partner, where they can understand some of the car setups and things like that, they have a chance of competing at a top-10 level."
BRIAN FRANCE SAID IT WOULD BE GREAT TO SEE SOMEONE EMERGE LIKE ALAN KULWICKI DID TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP. IS THAT EVEN FEASIBLE IN THIS DAY AND AGE? "That's gonna be tough. I hate to say that nothing is feasible, but it is gonna be very hard just because of the depth of our teams. We've got so much technology and so much equipment -- well-funded -- it will be hard. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it would be very difficult."
CARL WAS PICKED AS THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE TITLE. DO YOU SAY, 'WHAT ABOUT ME?' "No, we certainly want to be considered when it comes to that. We don't want to be overlooked. We don't want it to be the Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson and Carl show. We definitely want to be in the mix. We feel like we've earned that spot, finishing third in points last year, and missing the chase by one spot two other times. It wasn't like we finished 20th in points. We missed it by one spot and with the new format we would have made it in '06. We would have been the only one to make it. Carl and Tony Stewart both missed it, and myself, in '06, but I would have made it in '06 under the new format. In '07 I missed it by one spot, still, so I think we've earned the right to be one of the guys that can be considered for the title, and when we get there, anything can happen. But certainly you've got to pick Carl because of the performance he put down in those last four races. They're a threat to win every week."
DID IT SURPRISE YOU THAT JIMMIE WASN'T PICKED? "I think a lot of people like to play the odds game. What are the odds of him winning four in a row? I'm not counting him out. I wasn't the one who said he wasn't gonna win it (laughing), but I'm just telling you that's the way people will look at it. They'll think, 'Aw, he's already won three in a row, he won't win four.' How many he has won in that past doesn't have an impact on how he's gonna do today."
HISTORICALLY, PLATE TRACKS HAVEN'T BEEN ROUSH'S STRONG SUIT, BUT YOU GUYS SEEM TO BE BETTER IN THIS NEW CAR. DO YOU FEEL MORE COMPETITIVE HERE? "Yes, just because those other guys were a little sneakier than we were. They were a little better at finding that little ounce of power. They've dedicated three and four-man teams to work on restrictor plate cars year round. We never put that kind of emphasis on restrictor plate cars. Well, now that NASCAR has really, really tightened the box and made a common car, we've caught up considerably. There are still things probably that we don't know about -- some special oils and bearings and some things that have bled over from the old car to the new car that maybe we are not 100 percent on that technology, but we've definitely got a lot closer."
BUT YOU FEEL YOU'VE GOT A LEGITIMATE CHANCE TO WIN THE 500. "Absolutely. I was running third or leading the thing, or running second with five to go last year. I ran out of guts, but not this year. I'm going. I'm gonna drive out there by myself, I don't care. I'm going this time if I get the chance. I ain't settling for third."
THIS TEAM HAS ALWAYS BEEN GOOD ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS AND THOSE ARE PROMINENT IN THE CHASE. "Yeah and that was our weak point last year. We finished 11th at Charlotte. I don't know where we finished at Atlanta, but it wasn't as strong as we wanted. In the spring we were chasing down Kyle for the win and then fell back and ended up finishing fourth. We were a little off on those mile-and-a-halfs right at the end of the season a little bit and that's something we need to work harder on and improve a little bit on. That's one spot we need to be a little stronger. We're really good at mile-and-a-halfs, but at the end of the season we needed to be a tick better."
IF CARL HADN'T HAD THE ISSUES AT TALLADEGA AND CHARLOTTE. "He probably would be the champion. That's tough to sleep at night. Our team, we left a wheel loose at Texas and we were running third and probably had a good chance to win. That's our track We won in the spring and here we are back running third with the same car and we've got a right-rear loose."
HOW CONTRITE WAS HE ABOUT RUNNING INTO YOU? "He felt bad. He knew he got himself wrecked and you would just wish you could go back 100 times and do it over again. Let's face it, if we wouldn't have been involved in that wreck, we possibly could have been in a different one. You can't say it was just because of that. We were all trying hard."
BUT IF YOU HADN'T BEEN IN THAT WRECK, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT THERE. "I would have been a little closer. I would have been second, but, there again, maybe I would have finished 15th or 20th or something if I wouldn't have been involved. Maybe I would have won, who knows? But typically if you get an average finish, then it would have bumped me up a spot, but I wouldn't have beat Jimmie. Now if Jimmie would have been involved in it and I wouldn't have, now you're talking (laughing)."
-credit: ford racing