Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings going into this weekend's event at Martinsville Speedway. Biffle was one of this week's guests on the NASCAR Teleconference. WHAT'S YOUR...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings going into this weekend's event at Martinsville Speedway. Biffle was one of this week's guests on the NASCAR Teleconference.
WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR MARTINSVILLE? "Martinsville over the years has not been my best track, but certainly the last couple of times I've been there I've gotten tremendously better. I remember the last race there I was bumping on the back of the 48 car for the lead, so that was a highlight of my career, if you will, and finished seventh so I'm really looking forward to going back this week. I don't know if I've ever really gotten the opportunity to win at that kind of place. Bristol, I would say the win would come there first before Martinsville, but I'm certainly not gonna count us out. I'm just looking to continue that top-five streak. That's really our focus and the reality is that if you put yourself in that top-five you're in a position to win, so it kind of goes hand in hand."
WHAT HELPED YOU GET BETTER AT MARTINSVILLE AND WHEN YOU MENTIONED BUMPING THE 48 AT MARTINSVILLE WAS A HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER DO YOU MEAN YOUR CAREER AT MARTINSVILLE? "Well, probably the highlight of my career at Martinsville. Everytime I've been there I've been a lap down or the brakes quit working -- things have happened and we have not run as competitive there as we have everywhere else in the series. So to be legitimately up front and beating and bumping the leader for the lead and running there, that was certainly a confidence-builder for me personally because Martinsville is in the chase. If I can't run in the top-10 consistently at Martinsville, it's gonna be tough to win a Sprint Cup title, and I felt like the last time we were there that we were capable now as a team and as a car and as a driver to compete in the top-10, so we just need to go back and do that again."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR 20TH-PLACE FINISH AT MARTINSVILLE TWO YEARS AGO IN THE CHASE WAS A REASON YOU FELL SHORT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Yeah, certainly if I would have gotten a 10th at Martinsville I would have won the title. Like I said, Martinsville has been in the past one of my downsides -- overcharging the corner, our brake package isn't sufficient enough, and Roush Fenway in general, I think that particular race Matt finished 18th, Mark finished 19th and I finished 20th. All of us as a group were not that good at Martinsville, and I still think we have some work to do as a group. We don't have three cars in the top-10 or top-15 normally. Normally, we're 10th on back -- all five of us -- so for us to get a little bit better and understand that flat track and front geometry and how to get our cars to turn really good in the center, which is what Martinsville is about -- a little paperclip place -- you've got to get your car to turn real good around the center of the corner and that's what makes it fast. If your car won't do that, it's like you've got one arm rubberbanded behind your back -- there's nothing you can do. You can't change your driving style. You can't loosen your car up. You can't really do anything. If your car just won't turn around there, that track is so small and so finesse, you're just kind of doomed. Whereas at Darlington, Texas, Phoenix -- any of those other places -- you can kind of change your line up. You can get a little higher getting in, get the car a little looser, try to burp the throttle in the center -- but all of that stuff doesn't work at Martinsville."
CAN YOU SENSE WHEN A GOOD WAVE IS COMING AS FAR AS PERFORMANCE? "You just work at it and work at it and work at it. This sport is so humbling and so tough. One day you feel like you're pretty good and the next day you're way behind. It is hard to keep a level head and a level playing field and keep consistency. That's the most difficult thing because when you've got something that's working and going, then all of a sudden it changes. It is very, very difficult to do that and we look at last year, you try to look at positive things. You try to look at the bright side, if there is anything positive. If you have a flat tire or something else, it's like, 'Well, we had a good car. We ran in the top-five,' or something to that affect. You always try to make a positive and build on that, but at the end of last year at Loudon, New Hampshire our first race there we were 49th-quick. We were the slowest car there. I had run in the top-five in all of the previous races, so that was the most disappointing point in my career almost was to be the slowest car at the race track ever and no light at the end of the tunnel. But at the end of the year we came back and ran top-10 most of the race and finished 13th. This is the COT races, we take the car to Dover and try to catch Carl at the end and finish second. We go to Phoenix and finish second, but five or six more laps we would have caught Johnson. Then the season was over and we picked up right in those footsteps this year right where we left off last year, but since it was in the chase and we were so far down in the points, those finishes and that run we made didn't really show up anywhere, so to speak. So, really, this all started toward the end of last year and that inspired us over the winter to really make sure we got it done this year."
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GREG ERWIN EVOLVED? "Greg is doing a great job. He's got an engineering background and he's been around the sport a long time, and his father has. He's got a lot of knowledge. Anymore, a crew chief has to wear so many hats. He has to be a team organizer. He has to be a travel agent. He has to be a cheerleader for all the guys. He has to schedule all the stuff and he becomes a business manager of a race team, so getting the car to go fast is one of the very top priorities, but running the whole team, not a whole lot of people can do that efficiently. Robbie Reiser has certainly been the model citizen when it comes to that. With him inside our organization, I think, helps us, but Greg has done a fantastic job and if we play our cards right, we're in this thing for the title this year. I feel like we've got it dead in the sights and we're on it 100 percent. He's motivated and focused. I've talked to him at 8 o'clock at night and we talk on the phone for an hour about what they found and what they're working on and what we're going to Martinsville and Texas with and we're staying in front of this thing. I think that's what's gonna make the difference in the long run."
DO YOU SEE ANY ADVANTAGES IN A TRACK BEING FAMILY-OWNED OR DO THEY HAVE TO BE PART OF THE ISC OR SMI FAMILY? "I certainly think that independently-owned tracks can prosper. I don't think it needs to be inside those two large umbrellas that own a lot of the race tracks. If you will, you kind of look at it as Hendrick and Roush or whatever -- one of the bigger teams -- I think there's room for track owners to promote the track properly and keep the fans happy and keep the drivers happy and keep NASCAR happy with the facility. I think there's an advantage there or that they can survive. Where the advantage comes from with the bigger places is they basically have a lot of information, a lot of models to go off of. I guess if they owned five or six tracks, they know what works and what to do and what not to do, whereas if you only have one that may be trial and error more so than the other guy having a wealth of more knowledge than you. I think it kind of boils back to looking at the big teams compared to the single-car teams. It's almost the same format when you look at it from that perspective, but I think it's certainly possible because the race track really kind of stands on its own when it comes to our eyes. When I go to Las Vegas or when I go to Chicago or Kansas or Darlington, I couldn't even tell you who owns them honestly. So I look at it as the track and the facility and the way it's laid out and the way it works."
SO THERE'S NO SENSE OF ROMANCE WHEN YOU GO TO A PLACE LIKE POCONO? "A little bit. Some of those places you know who owns them and you know that they're outside of that umbrella just because they're unique -- like Loudon was and some of the other places -- but, no, from a competitor's view, I drive through the tunnel and I think about where my motorhome spot is, I think about what garage stall we're in and I think about how the race track is gonna race this weekend and how we're gonna get track position at the end and come out of here with a top-five or a win. That's kind of my focus when I drive into a place."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT KIND OF HELP YOU'RE GIVING COLIN BRAUN? "We're certainly trying to help him. The thing about it is a driver today, I don't know what the proper word is, but he has to have the drive or the energy to want to be competitive, to want to be successful. To do that, you've got to lean on people, whether that's your teammates or spotters or whoever you can gather information from to try to help yourself. I was working in my shop on Saturday on my sand car trying to get ready to go to the desert and he called me. My cell phone rang and I answered it and they were at the race track. He wanted to talk to me about Nashville and get some pointers. I told him what I could about the race track and tried to explain the track as best I could to him. I told him what to watch for and what not to do. He's one of the few drivers that has called me on my weekend off. He's the only driver that's called me at home and basically asked me for advice about a race track, which I'm more than happy to do. That's what we're here for is to try and help these guys, but I'm not gonna get his number and call him in the middle of the day and tutor him about what he needs to do. He has to be the aggressor. He's got to be the car salesman running around trying to figure out what the right thing to be doing is and he's doing that."
DOES THE FACT HE'S FROM A SMALL TOWN IN WEST TEXAS HELP OR HURT HIM? "I don't think at this point in his career it makes a difference where he's from because he's inside a good organization and he just needs to use his resources to the best of his ability. I think that's the most important thing."
HOW DO THESE NEXT FEW RACES LOOK FOR YOU? "I think that we're obviously in really good shape right now. Our program is really, really running well. I'm really nervous about Martinsville this weekend. Like I said, that place has not been my best race track in the past, but I'm excited about it now because we ran so well there last time. That's why I'm excited about going back. Texas and Phoenix, I can't wait. I just can't wait. I want to win a race bad. I'm not saying I can't win at Martinsville, but it is more likely for me to win at Phoenix or Texas than Martinsville. Talladega, of course, you just throw the dice out there and see where you end up. You can't really predict anything there, so I'm looking forward. Martinsville and Talladega are our pivotal races coming up and the rest of them we're looking forward to winning one. I'm hoping the next four or five races we get a win under our belt."
WHY HAS THERE BEEN SO MUCH PARITY THIS YEAR IN THE FIRST FIVE RACES? IS IT THE CAR? "I think it's the car. The playing field has been leveled a little bit simply by the fact that there's less that we can do with this car. This is still all foreign ground for us. Even though we've run this car for a little period of time, there's still a tremendous amount we do not know about this car and are learning every day new things about it, so that can certainly make a difference. The other thing is if you get off a little bit, I mean before we were within an eighth-of-an-inch let's say on your splitter balance -- whatever, just ballparking things -- but this thing is 30-thousandths. You're talking about such a fine line and if something changes a tiny bit throughout the race -- the bump stop gets a little weak or soft or whatever happens and you change your tire pressure a little bit -- a little tweak here and there -- you can go from being one of the faster cars to trying to stay on the lead lap all of sudden. And we've seen that with the 48. The Gillette Evernham cars especially, like Kasey Kahne, I've seen him a lap down almost at every race and then at the end he's right there. Our guy has been like that, too -- David Ragan -- and all of a sudden, bang, they're right there. With the old car that would be a major adjustment, a major change to go from running that bad to running that strong and with this car the window is so small. You see a guy hit that window perfect. Burton hit it on the nail head and was in the right place at the right and then Carl got it just perfect at California. Kyle Busch got going good at Atlanta, it's just such a fine line and it's easy to miss it."
GOODYEAR IS GOING TO TEXAS WITH A TIRE COMPOUND THAT IS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FOR THE SIDEWALL. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT GIVEN THE ISSUES AT ATLANTA? "It's hard to predict what it's gonna be like when we get there, but I think they've changed the sidewall construction some and not necessarily the compound. That's what I believe to be the case and I think they've just learned. Goodyear is testing and learning just like the race teams are all the time and they've just come up with a better construction that's overall better than the one they had, so it just makes sense to apply that new construction everywhere they go now. They've found an improvement so certainly they're gonna use it everywhere and you'd expect them to -- that construction process. We used that tire at a Darlington tire test -- that's where I'm at now -- and the tire is great here. It's a little too soft, a little too much grip for this race track, but the tire drives real, real nice, so I'm pretty excited about going to Texas with that tire."
-credit: ford racing