This Week In Ford Racing
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, was in contention to win last year’s Brickyard 400 until pit strategy on the final stop of the day decided the outcome. Biffle, who ended up finishing third, spoke with Ford Racing Tuesday afternoon about this weekend’s race and how close he feels his team is to winning and being in contention for the Chase.
LOUDON WAS YOUR FIRST RACE WITH MATT PUCCIA. HOW DO YOU THINK THINGS WENT? “I think Loudon was excellent. We really played our hand the way we should have, but, unfortunately, the way it was dealt put us in a box with our fuel economy. That resulted in an 18th-place finish, which is unacceptable for the caliber of team that we have.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE IF YOU CAN GET THAT ONE WIN IT WILL VAULT YOU INTO A TOTALLY DIFFERENT MINDSET AS FAR AS BEING IN CONTENTION FOR THE CHASE WILDCARD SPOT? “Yeah, but at the same time it’s a real frustration because we feel like we can win every time we show up. It’s just that we haven’t gotten the opportunity or had the cards dealt to us the way they need to, so there’s a lot of frustration. And that’s what makes it even more painful is we know we’re one win away from jumping up three or four spots in the points and being there for the wild card. We’ve got fast race cars. We’ve got a competitive team. Matt is a great crew chief. Unfortunately, what it’s come down to is fuel mileage. But one of these days a caution is gonna come out with 25 or 40 to go and it’s not gonna be a fuel mileage race and then we’re gonna be there. Like Indy last year. Indy was not a fuel mileage race. It was a four-tire or two-tire strategy. We decided to take four and a lot of guys took two and that made the difference, but we finished third and we were upset about it. If we got a third today, we’d be jumping and waving our arms. That’s the difference between a year ago and now.”
THIS IS A BIG RACE ON THE SCHEDULE AND NEXT TO DAYTONA ONE THAT EVERYBODY REALLY WANTS TO WIN, RIGHT? “Yeah, and we came so close last year. We feel like we’re capable of winning it. We kind of proved that last year and we feel like we’re coming back with even a better car. Matt has done a lot of homework on it, so we feel really confident. I certainly think we can win this race. I feel good about it.”
THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF CREW CHIEF CHANGES IN THE LAST FEW DAYS. DO YOU SENSE THE STRESS AND PRESSURE GROWING AS THE CHASE DEADLINE DRAWS NEAR? “I think so. It was obvious that the direction we were going we weren’t gonna make the Chase. But maybe Matt can make enough difference or his voice will be heard that we’ve got to do something. The urgency is now to do something and he’s down there working on those cars until 7 or 8 o’clock at night trying to make the difference. Matt will get done anything in his power to make us the most competitive. Our engines have great power. Our cars are good and fast, so we’ll just wait and see how it all turns out.”
Matt Puccia, crew chief of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, will climb atop the pit box at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for just his second race in charge of the team. Puccia talked with Ford Racing Tuesday afternoon about the transition to his new role, what it will take to make the Chase and more.
IT HAS BEEN A COUPLE WEEKS NOW SINCE YOU TOOK OVER AS CREW CHIEF OF THE NO. 16 TEAM. WHAT HAS THE TRANSITION BEEN LIKE FOR YOU? “It is a great opportunity and I am grateful to Jack Roush and Robbie Reiser and Greg Biffle that they trust me. It is a great opportunity for me and I plan on capitalizing on it. We have a big goal in front of us here as far as making the Chase and I think it is very achievable. I know we can do it. We need to win races and be able to contend for the championship at the end of the season. It has been good. What I have been doing the last two weeks has been a lot of work getting used to the team and the cars and equipment that I have and what we need to do to make improvements to be better. I have sat down with Greg several times and we are constantly talking about what we need to do to get better and how we are going to get to that point. The team has been great to work with and they have welcomed me and welcomed the change. The team seems like they have a little more pep in their step and I am just really looking forward to going to Indy. Indy is going to be a big race for us. This organization has run good there in the past and the 16 team has run good there in the past. There is no reason why we can’t go out here and do our best this weekend.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HARDEST THING DURING THE TRANSITION? IS IT MOSTLY GETTING THE FEEL OF THE DRIVER AND THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU? “It definitely is but fortunately at Loudon it was good and we got a chance to work together there for the first time. I have been around Greg in the Nationwide series and I have been following him, following what he likes for stuff and how he likes his changes and communicates with the guys and vice versa. I kind of knew what we needed to do and being able to go to Loudon was perfect. I think our communication there was really good and during the race and practice it was really good. We were able to do what we needed to do. This weekend we will be one more step ahead of it going into Indy. I am looking forward to it.”
WHAT IS THE KEY FOR YOU GUYS TO GET INTO THE CHASE. IF YOU MAKE IT INTO THE CHASE, WHAT IS THE ONE REASON WHY? “Consistency. Right now we are inconsistent. We need to get top-fives right now. If we aren’t there winning then we have to be top-five. One good thing about looking at our schedule from here on out to Richmond, there is no race that we can’t win. That is obviously the big picture, to win, but if we can’t win we need to be top-five every week. We have to get those points. You gotta be able to lead laps and get the points for leading the most laps. You have to get as many points as you can and be in a situation to win whenever possible without gambling to the point where you aren’t getting top-five or top-10’s.”
INDIANAPOLIS IS UNLIKE THE REST OF THE TRACKS IN A LOT OF WAYS. WHAT CHALLENGES DOES IT POSE TO YOU? “Indy is a great track and we have historically run really well on it and on big tracks. Our whole organization has run well on there. The challenges I guess this weekend is to qualify good. It is a relatively short race. It isn’t a long race, so you have to qualify good and have good track position and a good strategy going into the weekend, that all plays into it. Your changes during the race have to be well thought out and well delivered. You have to keep up with the race track because you aren’t going to get a whole lot of chances to work on the car. It is kind of like a Nationwide race because you are limited on the changes you can do because you have limited pit stops. It is going to be good. Track position is going to be huge this weekend.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU RELY ON OLD SET-UPS FROM PAST RACES AT INDIANAPOLIS GIVEN THE SUCCESS THE ORGANIZATION HAS HAD THERE OVER THE YEARS? “They had a lot of success with what they had last year. We look at that and look at the changes that they made last year and what affected what. The tire we are bringing back is pretty close to what we had last year. It’s going to correlate a lot to what they ran last year and set-up wise it is what we were in last year. Greg has run some laps there already this year with this tire in the Goodyear test. We have a lot of data to look back on and took all that into consideration and came up with a good game plan for this weekend.”
INDIANAPOLIS IS ONE OF THE FAMED TRACKS IN MOTORSPORTS. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE SITTING ON TOP OF THAT PIT BOX THERE THIS WEEKEND? “Indy is a spectacular race. The history of that race track is incredible. I have looked forward to being at the Brickyard 400 for years and years but at the same time it is just another race. You still have to beat 42 other drivers and approach it that way. Indy is like Daytona where it has so much history and it would be incredible to win that and get some momentum going on this team, that is just what we need to get going on this race team. I am looking forward to a good run this weekend and getting some momentum going.”
By: ford racing