Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus, comes into this weekend's Pepsi 400 as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point leader for the first time. He held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus, comes into this weekend's Pepsi 400 as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point leader for the first time. He held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center Thursday afternoon to discuss his thoughts.
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HAVING FIVE WINS AND THE MOMENTUM YOUR TEAM HAS? "Yeah, we're real excited about it. We brought our Bud Shootout car, which we led a lot of the Bud Shootout and thought that we possibly had a win before the season started and had kind of a little hiccup on the pit stop and lost our track position. In any event, we feel like I have a really good car. We pushed it over in the corner and put a cover on it and brought it back here for this race in July. As far as this weekend goes, we feel like we're really prepared. We've got a great car and we're really ready. As far as this season, like I've been talking about, our team has just been really lucky. We've been in the right place at the right time. They're building good race cars and we're all thankful for the success we've had and we just hope it keeps up. That's what we're hoping to do. Our confidence level is absolutely so high. You almost start to think about the race tracks that we're really good at - like Chicago next week - what's gonna happen there that we won't actually win the race. It's almost that mindset - you look at it - if we do everything that we've been doing the way we need to do it , and we're taking a car that we've won two times with and that we feel will be very fast on that race track - and you sit back and think about what kinds of things are gonna happen and we are not gonna be in a position to win. When you start playing the offense and working the defense like that, I think your success keeps going and going and going. I think that's some of the mindset we've had going into a few of these races is we feel like we can win, let's just do the best we can and it's happened for us."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE BUSCH RACE HERE WITH 11 CUP GUYS COMPETING? "The Busch cars are so much different in restrictor plate trim because we have the roof rail on the Busch car. They suck up a lot faster. They drive side-by-side a lot easier than the Cup cars because it actually puts more downforce on the car, so the car is really dug into the race track a lot better. They're way easier to drive. With the roof rail put on it, it allows everybody - no matter how fast their car is - to participate in that drafting somehow. So a lot of times it becomes a little more hairy because you've got guys in there that maybe don't have that fast of a race car and not much experience right up in the top four or five, or right in the middle of the pack or something. To be totally honest, I don't care to restrictor plate Busch race that much. I don't enjoy it as much as I do the Nextel Cup because of that roof rail on there. A lot of people get in the draft and try to make a hole where there isn't one, so it's almost like it's backwards. We need that system on the Cup car, where you have better experienced drivers that can better execute where they put their car, but I enjoy just about every Busch race and I'm gonna learn something tomorrow night too."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO LEAD THE POINTS? "It's hard to put in words about how excited I am to be leading the Nextel Cup points. We've worked so hard for it and I've been thinking about it all my career of being on top of the points and we're finally here. We didn't have a stellar run at Sears Point, but we did what we set out to do, which was to stay on the race track, not have any mishaps, don't run out of gas, don't skid the tire on the curb, don't break the gearbox - all the things we set out to do, except for qualifying. Obviously, I went off the race track and started in the very back, which I'm still kicking myself for that. It still cost us. The 14th-place finish was a result of starting in the back. That's clear. We were leading the race at one point and felt like we had a decent car, but never could gain that track position back just because it's a road course. But we did what we needed to do there, which was not to lose a lot of points to the leader and being 14th and him having transmission problems."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LEAD THE POINTS NOW? "It means a lot to lead the points right now - to the team, to myself because of the fact that it kind of shifts the spotlight. We're on top now. We get to park one more slot up in the garage. We get to park next to the 97 car. That's one thing, I was gonna wait until maybe we captured the title to talk about, but I think it's kind of funny. I've won two titles and have not gotten to park in the top spot because we've moved on to different series, so, hopefully, if I ever do win a championship that I'll be returning the following year to park in the top spot. That means a lot to me."
ARE YOU STILL CONCERNED ABOUT THIS RACE? "I'm still concerned about this race, but not as concerned about the points anymore. All I wanted to do was lead the points. I don't care if I lead them for a week. If something were to happen Saturday night, it wouldn't be that big of deal because I know it would be a matter of time and we'll have it back again going through Chicago and some of these other race tracks. I feel like we're gonna be right there, so, yeah, we would like to be the leader leaving here, but, certainly, I won't be disappointed if we're not. As long as we're staying up there in the top two or three and having a chance every week at closing in or taking it back, I'll be happy. I really wanted to lead it one time prior to the chase. I'd like to be the leader when the chase comes, but I think I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish before the chase starts."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? "I feel 100 percent. We brought the Bud Shootout car and all that, but, let's face it, the facts are the Hendrick cars have been really, really fast and dominant on restrictor plate race tracks. My Bud Shootout car was really fast. I am confident, but what I'm saying is so many things can happen here that I don't want to get my hopes up that we've got this thing under control and get caught up in a 14-car wreck on Saturday night perhaps and then be in the dumps because we don't have the points lead anymore. I'm prepared for that. That can happen."
WHAT WOULD WINNING ALL THREE MAJOR NASCAR TITLES MEAN TO YOU? "It would mean a great deal. After I won the Truck title that thought was in the back of my head - to be able to win a championship in all three - and then once it came true in the Busch Series I knew that the last obstacle is the Nextel Cup title. I hate to say and I don't want to use the words 'if I don't win it this year, I've got several more years to try,' but I'm in a great spot right now to win the title or be a contender for the title. I feel like our team is in the right position. Our car lineup is getting stronger and stronger for the chase. That's what we're focused on and it would put, I don't want to say an end to my career, but it would cap off my career of goals I've set to this point. I don't think you set a goal like, 'I'm gonna win four Nextel Cup trophies or three.' My goal is to win all three and after I do that, I suppose the goal would be to repeat as the champion down the road or something. But that would be what I've worked all my life and all my career for is to win all three."
ARE YOU THE LAST DRIVER TO POSSIBLY ACHIEVE THAT GOAL? "I'm possibly the end of the era as far as, I don't know, it's hard to say. It may be the age, possibly, but I don't think I'm gonna be the last guy to race the Truck-Busch and Nextel Cup. I don't think so, and I'm optimistic that there are gonna be more drivers that you're gonna see in the future go from the Truck to the Busch and then getting a chance at Nextel Cup. They may not win a championship at every level, but Scott Riggs raced the Truck Series, he raced the Busch Series and now he's in Nextel Cup and has had some moments in the 10 car. He's run well. Scott's learning as a driver and he's getting better and that team's getting better, so he's a product of the system as well. Obviously, he doesn't have championships in either of the series, so does that make me different than him? I don't really think so. He's a product of the system as well - Truck-Busch and Cup. Yeah, he was and that probably has a lot to do with there wasn't a lot of young guys in the sport when I came in, and you're right, I feel that same end of the era. You sit back and look at the timetable and it's almost like I had something to do with the younger drivers because Benny Parsons - they hired me from the west coast. All of a sudden I won nine races in the Truck Series - more than anybody has to date in a single season, and won a championship. And then it was like, 'Where did he come from?'
"All kinds of owners were asking me, 'Is there anybody else out there you raced with that we can hire?' Then they moved into the Gong Show, which, keep in mind, I never sat in the driver's seat before I had a signed contract and hired. I sat in the driver's seat probably worked for Roush for four months before I drove a race car - or three months before I even sat in the driver's seat. We usually don't see that today either. I don't want to get long-winded, but then we had the Gong Show, where we hired Kurt Busch from. That was simply Jack was looking - he found me out there and Jack felt the same way - he's like, 'Who else is on the horizon as a driver,' and Kurt came and tested the Truck and I picked Kurt out of seven drivers and said, 'He's the kid that's got the best car control out of the group and I think he would fit.' So then we hire Kurt and Kurt does a great job. Then we hire Kurt's brother, 17 years old, to come drive the Trucks. Now all of a sudden he's leading a Truck race in Chicago and he's 17. Then the bottom dropped out of it. Then there are no more rules for age and it was all these young guys - these 18-25 year old drivers - is where all the new drivers are. I think that's kind of slowed up some right now. The Kasey Kahne's and Casey Mears', all those guys and that whole group, it seems like it's kind of leveled off."
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID YOU HAD A RESPONSIBILITY TO NOT LET 11 OR 12 OTHER CARS FINISH THAT HIGH. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY AS WELL? "Yeah. You've got to look at it from a competitive nature and that meaning, 'Do I want to race against 10 guys for the championship? Or do I want to race against 14 guys for the championship?' I'd rather race against two or three, so unfortunately they're making us race against 10 and that's all I want to race against. If Jeff Gordon is 11th or Mark Martin or any of those guys that are a contender threat, certainly we would like to see them out of the top 10. Nothing against those guys, but certainly we're being selfish at that point to not want to race against more than 10 guys. So, yeah. If both Jimmie and I had bad finishes, obviously it's gonna leap-frog a bunch of people into that thing. We're simply gonna do the best we can every week and gain as many points as we can. I'm focused on top 10s and top 5s, and if I win some more races, fine. If I don't, no big deal."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FIRST CUP WIN HERE? "That was a big boost for our team. We ran well. A lot of people say we won on fuel mileage. We were running third and fourth that whole race and got ourselves in a position. We were trying to avoid a wreck and I flat-spotted the tires and we had to pit. That set us up for only one more green flag stop to win the race. I remember crossing that checkered flag out there today. This place holds a special place in my heart. Number one, it's Daytona. So it has a big significance as far as that goes. As far as the Daytona 500 and everything, and then coming back here the very next visit and getting the pole for the Daytona 500 was a huge deal for us. So that win and the pole, it really made us feel like we had worked hard as a team and then kind of arrived at that point. But, yeah, Randy (Goss) and I weren't getting it done. And it was a matter of we didn't have good enough race cars at that point. I think he was a little over his head. We were way behind when the season started. I mean, that thing was in a down spiral before we even started down the runway."
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT HAVING ONLY A LITTLE OR NO PRACTICE AT DAYTONA AND THEN QUALIFY COMPARED TO OTHER TRACKS? "You've heard a lot of us talk about all the terms that we've used. You know, moving parking lot - sitting in gridlocked traffic on the freeway, the lane beside you moves up 10 cars and you jump over in that one and then it comes to a stop, and then that lane starts moving again. There's not a lot that we can do as a driver in those situations, and the facts are that when you're in those situations, you're putting yourself and your car possibly risking getting in an accident because things can happen. A guy can cut down and didn't see you. I didn't know that the 48 was inside of me and I moved down to get a draft off that guy and all of a sudden we caused a big wreck. Another thing is there's not a lot to be learned here. If we went out and practiced for three hours, the amount of stuff I'm gonna change on my race car and the things I'm gonna learn is gonna be minimal. I'm gonna learn a minimal amount of stuff.
"I'll probably mess with the front bar a couple of times - change the front swaybars up and down. That's about all I'm gonna do. NASCAR is handing us our shocks. NASCAR gave us our springs. Qualifying - there's no emphasis at all on qualifying, so really the practice here is not gonna be that big of a deal compared to Chicago. Now Chicago I need to get my car to handle right. I need to work on getting it down and not bottoming out. I need to try three or four different shock packages for the race track - things like that - different spring combinations in the back - softer, stiffer, whatever - raise, lower the track bar. Here, we've come here, the place hasn't changed, we're not gonna do a lot."
WHAT'S WORKING BETTER FOR YOU THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST? "We started this race team from scratch - below scratch. We started below ground level because our building wasn't done when the season started. We didn't have any cars. All of the guys on the race team had never raced in Nextel Cup before. The learning curve was so steep. That's been the difference. We've just learned and learned and kept learning, and then we started understanding what we needed to do. And then getting attitude in the race car, and then Doug started to get a grasp on the aerodynamics of the car. And then we had a fourth-place run at Pocono, and a sixth-place run at Indy, and then we went and won Michigan. Then all of a sudden the picture started coming clearer on what we were doing and what we needed to do, and we were starting to get bits and pieces of what it was gonna take to be competitive every week. And then we went to Kansas and nearly won. And then we came to Homestead and won. And then we felt like, 'We've got it figured out now. We've got ourselves lined up to where we know how we want the race car. We know what we're doing. We know what we've done to win these races.' And then, unfortunately, the season was over. Then we had to start this season, and I was worried about the spoiler. I was in John Darby's office up in the NASCAR truck begging him not to cut the spoiler off because we just got it figured out and now they're gonna go change the aero package. They're gonna go cut the spoiler off, but it didn't really affect our team from one year to the next. A lot of people feel like the reason we're having the success we're having now is because of that spoiler being off. But, really, if you roll the tape back and watch the tape of Miami and watch the tape of Kansas and of Michigan, it looks exactly the same as it does today."
HOW IS YOUR LIFE DIFFERENT ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS THESE DAYS? "I'm making more money (laughing). I haven't got any new TV shows or movies that I'm signed up for yet, but it's been great. The fan support has been incredible and the way the fans accept and embrace a guy that's having success. That's really fun. I've got to tell you, and I don't know because I don't sign autographs at Earnhardt, Jr's. trailer or Jimmie Johnson's or anybody else, but there are 20 guys or better - they hand out 200 tickets - there are at least 20 guys or better come through with 48 hats on or shirts or whatever to get autographs signed, and the same with Dale, Jr. and Jeff Gordon. So the fans, it seems like they can relate to every driver and be a fan of more than one driver, and that's kind of neat to see all the fans."
CAN YOU TELL HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE HAVE STARTED TO COME? "Oh yeah. It's just quadrupled. The souvenir truck, unfortunately, doesn't have anything for sale because it's all sold, which is probably a good thing, but a bad thing because new folks can't get anything. But they said it's up like four times what it sold at just the beginning of the season. And then you can see that same amount of fans - it's probably four to one or whatever you want to say - of people that recognize you. The Subway commercials and all have seem to have done a lot for that, but it's fun. I enjoy the spotlight. I'm not like Jeff Gordon or Earnhardt, Jr., where I can't walk down the street yet, but we'll see."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TESTING IN THE OFF SEASON AND THE IMPACT IT'S HAD ON YOUR YEAR? "We went to Kentucky one time right after the season was over. It was a few days before Thanksgiving. Every other team was at rest and we took our car that we won Miami with and compared it against another car that we had - a new build for this season - because we wanted a head start on the beginning of the season. Basically what we needed to do was we needed to figure out what style of race car we needed to build for Atlanta, Vegas, and California at the beginning of the season. So we had to go right after the season was over and say, 'We just won Miami with this type of car and this downforce package and balance and everything else. Is this the way we need to continue to work?' So we went right away and that set the precedence up to how good our Vegas and California cars were - that early test. But, other than that, we didn't test a lot."
HOW MUCH OF A BENEFIT IS IT FOR ROUSH TO HAVE SO MANY TEAMS TESTING AND SHARING INFORMATION? "It's really big, but a lot of the other teams have the same luxury. A lot of other teams, even two or three-car teams, will experience the same thing we do because we'll have three guys go to Dover or something like that versus only one. A lot of their test data looks similar, but it does help. Carl tested Dover. We looked at his notes. I saw some things I thought would work. I saw some things that I thought wouldn't work. It's funny, we actually thought we were gonna - here's where we're thinking we're gonna start and it really overlaid for where we were gonna go at - but it was reassuring that somebody had gone there and tested, and we felt like that was what was gonna happen."
HAVE YOU SEEN THE GONG SHOW LIST RIGHT NOW? "I haven't got a chance to look at the current list, but I got a lot of phone calls from people I raced with and there are a bunch of people out there that can drive race cars and are good drivers, and it's just having the right chance of getting in the right equipment. Certainly that's a high-pressure situation for those drivers to be in because a lot of them haven't driven truck-arm, radial tire, 3500-pound cars, or, in this case, the Truck. So they're up for a huge challenge. Once I moved to North Carolina it's hard for me to keep an eye on these drivers and what they're doing, so I didn't really have a lot of input because I hadn't kept in touch with what other drivers or what other guys have been doing."
WHICH TRACKS DO YOU FEEL THE BEST ABOUT AND THE WORST ABOUT AS FAR AS THE FINAL 10? "I'm excited about going to Martinsville. We're going there to test for two days and that's a place where I think, if we test for two days and get our car handling the way we need it and stay up front and keep track position, that's gonna be a key race track for us. The other race tracks - we go to a restrictor plate track in that lineup that I'm not real excited about that, but it's part of it. The biggest thing anything can happen. Typically, at Kansas or these other race tracks we don't see multi-car wrecks and that can change the format in a hurry, so I don't like to see that kind of a roll-the-dice track, which it can be. It can be a fun race and a good race, but I'm looking forward to Kansas. I feel like we left one on the table there, so I'm looking forward to going back to Kansas. Martinsville, I'm optimistic about. It hasn't been my best race track, but I'm optimistic about going there."
HOW SIGNIFICANT DO THESE LAST PRE-CHASE RACES FIGURE INTO HOW YOU RUN AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO KEEP JEFF GORDON OUT? "First of all, I mentioned Jeff Gordon's names earlier and it was specifically talking about him, but any one of those guys is a threat. I could name all of them. There are 10 guys or eight guys that are within that threshold and all of them can be a factor, so I wouldn't spell him out as a specific guy, but certainly he's done this game before. He's won championships. He knows what it takes to win championships. He's gonna be very tough, and basically all I'm gonna do is points race like I always points race - think about the decisions we make - think about the risks I'm taking on the race track to put myself in those positions that I could possibly lose a lot of points, and that's basically it. I'm not gonna concern myself with where anybody else is at, where they're at in the lineup. If I'm running fifth, I'm gonna do all I can to run fifth or better. I'm not gonna worry about the top 10. I'm gonna let it fall where it does, but I'm gonna run as good as I can, not make mistakes on the race track, and try to win some more races. Wherever the chase 400 points falls it falls. There's not a lot I can do about that. Of course, I'm just gonna get as many points as I can and that's all I can do."