An Interview With: GREG BIFFLE, JACK ROUSH and MATT PUCCIA
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined in the Samsung Mobile Media Center by tonight's winner of the Samsung Mobile 500 Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Filtrete Ford. This is his first win since Kansas of 2010, snapping a 49 race winless streak and ironically your teammate Matt Kenseth snapped a 46-race winless streak in this race last year. It is your second win at Texas Motor Speedway, seventh top 5 anyone finish at Texas Motor Speedway. You have a 19 point lead with the win you secure a spot in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. A great night for you. Talk about it.
GREG BIFFLE: Man, that's a whole lot of stuff that just happened. I'll tell you what, I could say it's about time, but hard work pays off still today, and that's what this is about, the team and Matt Puccia putting together the guys he has, the engine shop, how hard they've worked on the fuel injection and the engines and all that. I am just thankful to get the opportunity to drive these cars as fast as they are. We knew it was a matter of time we were going to win one of these things. We've been running so good. We had great pit stops, we've had good cars. Vegas we were off a little bit, and that ate at us a little bit because that's a good track for us. So we came here and really focused on our car to get it driving the best we could.
I'll tell you what, catching the 48 car at the end, I had to dig deep. It was all I had to be able to get to him, and it seemed like when I got to him it was too easy. I don't know if he used up his tires or the traffic -- he had trouble, I think a little bit of trouble in traffic. That's when I could close in on him. But over all it was a good night for us.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by winning car owner Jack Roush. This is the ninth NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for Roush Fenway Racing at Texas Motor Speedway and the third time Roush Fenway Racing has swept the Nationwide Series race and Sprint Cup Series race in the same weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Jack, you have quite the collection of cowboy hats. This is your 18th career victory at Texas Motor Speedway, the most by any car owner. Talk about the success you have at this place.
JACK ROUSH: Well, it's my pleasure and my honor to share the moment with Matt and with Greg here. I realize how hard they worked and the path that Greg and Matt have both taken individually to get where they are in the business, to be able to win a race at this level. They both worked hard for it, and they don't take it for granted and assume that it's easy any more than I do.
You know, we had the opportunity to test a great car here, a great tire here with Greg earlier in the year, and the tire that Greg helped Goodyear develop I think was a factor in the fact there was so little trouble in the race tonight. I was not surprised that it went as many cautio-free laps as it did. I think somebody brought it to my attention there wasn't a single wreck tonight - there was a couple debris cautions - and that's unprecedented. But it's a testament to how well the cars throughout the field are prepared and how well they're driven and what a good tire we've got.
We're real happy to be part of the Ford program, to share with Ford's engineers the understanding of the automotive principles that are involved in getting these cars right, and for my part, you indicated this is the third time we've had a sweep. I don't know if this is my last sweep or not but I'm going to remember this one for a while.
THE MODERATOR: Matt, talk about the success that you've had early on in the season with Greg.
MATT PUCCIA: Yeah, it's everybody involved. You know, we just -- at the end of last season we sat down and established what our weaknesses were and what we needed to work on, and we went to work. Robbie Reiser has done a lot for us and this team, and we assembled a good team here, went to work on our cars, and it's showing. We started the season off and we're running really good and the team is focused and we're ready to go into the rest of the season.
Q. Greg, that really got strung out for most of the race there, there was hardly any side-by-side racing tonight. First of all, does that surprise you at this place, a place that's had so many wrecks and so much has happened, and two, when Jimmie gets the lead and there's this long green-flag run were you concerned you wouldn't be able to catch him?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I was worried about that. I closed in on him a bunch in the pit stop. I beat him to pit road for the final pit stop of the day so I closed in on him a little bit. When we got back going again I decided to tighten my car a little bit more, started getting a little free at the end of that run. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew we were close on fuel, so for about eight or ten laps there I took care of my tires a little bit. Somebody leaned in my window before the race started and told me a story about what a driver did before to win here, and I just thought about it and I thought I could save a little bit of tire, and it was going to be a long run at the end of the rest of the day, and I was a little short on fuel. So I kind of lifted a little bit early and kind of let the car roll down in the corner. When he started catching a little bit of traffic that's when I started going and just pushed as hard as I could and was driving the thing sideways around the corner trying to catch him, and I could tell I was catching him. He had a little bit of trouble with traffic, so that was the combination that -- I was closing in on him pretty good and then he started catching those guys that he was going to pass. I don't know why he -- I think he just slid up off the bottom. He got loose getting in, and I was able to turn under him and get the left front down on the grip and just put the power down and was able to get by him.
I was surprised I didn't have to deal with him anymore, though. I thought he was going to be right there, and he was for a little bit, but once I -- my car drove so different out front, it was a little bit freer. I made some mistakes there early and I had to adjust my driving style a little bit for being out front like that, then I was able to pull away from him.
Q. Greg, this was a race where you not only had to be fast with all the long green-flag runs but your team had to be pretty much flawless, and that hasn't always been the case for you the last couple years. What does that say about your team and how much confidence does that give you?
GREG BIFFLE: That gives me huge confidence. I knew that from about the third race, that these guys, the guys that Matt had put together, we kind of held the handcuffs on them a little bit last year until we got to the end of the season, and he revamped the entire team over the winter. I really, really like my guys. They're doing a great job. They're really focused. They all work really hard, and they care about this team, and that's good to have. Lots of energy. No matter how we run, they're pumped up, and that means a lot. You're right, there wasn't any mistakes. I almost got caught speeding coming onto pit road tonight two stops before the end. I had an axle hopping pretty bad and was a little bit sideways and I had to slow down in the zone and try to give some time back because I was too fast when I crossed. I'll be curious to look at the lap times and see what I was in that section. But you're right, we had to be perfect, and that's what we did.
Q. Could you describe, when you haven't won in 49 races and you're chasing down Jimmie Johnson and you see him having trouble with traffic up ahead, it strikes me that sometimes in those circumstances you might get so preoccupied with watching him, watching your prey then you are from a little ways back. You had to smile when you saw him having a hard time up ahead of you but then when you got to him you went by him very quickly.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I was foaming at the mouth. When you haven't won in a long time and you've got a guy that's -- it doesn't matter. It didn't matter who it was, whether it was a five-time champion or what. I was driving my heart out. I was doing all I could do. I kept moving up the track, down the track, up the track, down the track. I found a little something with about 40 to go down in Turn 3 and 4, where I saw the 48 putting his left front tire on the racetrack and I drove across there one time and I found some grip right there, so I started driving that line and I started closing in on him instantly. He was beating me down there most of the night, and that was probably line sensitive and I didn't pick up on it until late, or at least my car responded when I moved around, kept moving around and I found something. Because I could beat him down in 1 and 2, I could beat him all the time, but down on 3 and 4 he'd kill me across there. I was loose in, I'd slide the nose and then the wind kept blowing the car coming off of Turn 4. I just couldn't get it coming on -- I watched him and he was just smooth as a sail. I knew his car was a little better than mine. But you know, I kept putting pressure on him, and that's what it took. I drove up behind him getting into the corner down there, and his car was loose and it moved up and gave me the opening.
Q. Could you reflect a little bit on your progression at Roush Fenway from the Truck Series to gaining this big win, and then look ahead at your anticipation going to Kansas where you and your guy could very well win two in a row?
MATT PUCCIA: Yeah, Jack gave me this opportunity in the Truck Series and I got my first win with Roush in 2008 with Erik Darnell. It's been a great progression with the company. I've been really fortunate for Jack and Robbie and everybody giving me this opportunity. Looking ahead to the season, what we've built and what we have in front of us, we've got some good racetracks coming. We've got Kansas and Richmond and Talladega and Darlington and we look ahead there's not one race I can't say we can't go and run good and be in contention to win every week, so we're looking forward to getting going the next part of this little stint here.
Q. Greg, do you feel like you needed a win to validate your place at the top of the standings?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, it certainly doesn't hurt. But I think you could have looked at the way our season has started. Unfortunately how Daytona finished for us and how we ran at Phoenix and how we ran at Vegas. Bristol really isn't a -- wasn't a good race for us to grade us on. We had a bump stop fail at Bristol. We probably would have finished fifth at Bristol. That race aside, you know, we have run really, really strong, and probably deserve to be at the top. Martinsville, arguably we should have been in the top 10. We missed a couple opportunities to get the lucky dog and get back. The field didn't get realigned properly.
Out of all the races, yeah, but to win like this and put a bunch of ground on the guys -- all the cars behind us, that certainly makes a statement, I think, for all the people that were wondering if this was kind of a fluke that we were still leading the points this far in.
Q. For Greg and Jack, how have you persevered over 49 winless races?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it'll wear on you. You know, it'll take years off your life. I've probably lost several. But you know what, I've been doing this deal a long time, and what kept me going or what keeps your spirit up is when you ran good. You lead laps, you qualified good or you run good or you're leading a race and you've got to stop because you can't make it on fuel (run, not ran) and you put two tires on and everybody else does four or you stay out and everybody pits behind you and you get waxed.
Eventually you're going to win again. When you can't run very good, when you're running in the 20s and you're not fast and competitive, then there's time to worry about how you're going to win because if you're running 20th and that's the best you can run, you're not going to win, and what has gave me confidence over the last 49 races is we have run good, we just haven't completed the deal. We haven't finished. That's why we didn't make the Chase last year. We ran plenty good enough. No matter what we did we couldn't finish where we had run, and that's been the difference this year is Matt makes the right decisions on pit road and makes the right calls in the team, doesn't make mistakes and has the cars prepared right, and we're qualifying better and all those things. That's what keeps you going.
You know, I've been where I won six or nine wins in a season and you cherish those moments because you don't know when the next one will be.
JACK ROUSH: I ditto that. In my case, I count a race whether it's good or bad, by how many small victories I can find. If the pit stops are good, if the crew chief's decisions were good, if the engine ran good, if the driver did a great job recovering from some adversity, I consider that a win. On the other hand, if we break apart or we miss an opportunity that was clear to everybody to see, then I consider that a loss, and I take that to heart.
But through the drought, as I think of it, there was lots of encouragement. We didn't come back and find that we needed to really revolutionize or to replace and tear up our hardware package. It was really an unusual thing when we went after the team the way we did last year and said, you know, we just got great people but they're not just working together as well as they need to and we need to organize ourselves differently. That's a rarity that we do that. But that certainly was the key to getting the momentum that we've got going right now.
Q. For both Matt and Greg, what do you think finally getting a win with Matt can do for your program, and Matt, do you feel more excited or relief right now?
MATT PUCCIA: There's so many emotions going through me right now, excitement definitely. The team is -- I can't say enough how much everybody has worked and Greg has worked and everybody on this whole team has worked to get to where we're at today. You know, it's built momentum. It's going to keep us going into this next little bit.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'll tell you what, it's been 49 races, like they said. It's been documented, since I've won. But I'll tell you, I don't find more satisfaction in getting guys their first win than anything. You know, I'm so happy for Matt. You know, he's worked so hard. He's a great guy. He's got great character and he works, and this is what his life is about, racing. He's worked his way up from the Truck Series, and first time as a full-time crew chief he's leading the points and now has his first win. But there's a lot of guys, some of the guys on the team that I think Richie, the car chief, this is his first full time Cup deal. Richie came from the Nationwide shop as a car chief. So you look at the experience level and the depth of this team, and it's pretty -- it's not very deep compared to some of these teams out here.
These guys are doing a phenomenal job with the tools that they have. They're definitely taking advantage of the tools they have. I'm just -- you know, I wanted to win more for Matt than I did myself. I know I hadn't won in a long time, but I wanted to get a win for him.
Q. All night long you guys were going 42, 43 laps on fuel runs. Was that just everybody being super conservative because you ran 50 at the end.
MATT PUCCIA: Yeah, it's just the tire falloff was so much. Goodyear brought a great tire, but some of the Toyotas weren't getting the fuel mileage we were getting and they has to stop that much shorter, which forced our hand a little bit to have to stop and that's why we stopped. We got down to that last run there and there was such a small window we had to get into 282 there. But the first we'd go was 284. So it was a really small window, but we had to press that issue there at the end.
Q. Matt, last night you kind of peeked your head into the media center in the middle of the Nationwide race. Were you lost or something, or were you just kind of getting an eye on where you might be sitting tonight?
MATT PUCCIA: Yeah, I was just trying to find out where my seat was going to be. No, actually I stayed for the Nationwide race last night to see what I could learn there on the tire that we had there and what the wears were looking like, and actually my ride was in here, so that's why I came in here.
Q. Greg, could you share a little bit more detail about the story you were told before the race, and did they tell you that with about 20 to go Jimmie had hit the wall?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah. Well, this goofy guy leaned in the window and told me that Ricky last night was -- they were having right front tire trouble so he kind of took care of his tire there on the last run of the day and felt like that's what made the difference for him, was able to beat those guys on those restarts, kind of saved him a little bit.
You think about that as a driver, and I would have probably done that anyway, but I knew my only chance of beating the 48 was to get him at the end. You know, I wasn't going to catch him right there. He was a little better -- I could beat him on new tires for about four laps, then he'd beat me for a while, and then like lap 15 or 20 I could reel him back in, so it was really give and take. I thought I'm going to take care of this a little bit and try to be easy on it, push the gas down real slow and not try to get the car sideways where it would take life out of the tires. So just really tried to not give up distance to him but tried to be real smooth and real easy on the tire.
That only lasted for about five or eight laps and I got tired of that, so I started driving as hard as I could to catch him. I could see where I could catch him, and I moved around the racetrack and found a spot in 3 and 4 that, like I said, I could do a little better down there, and that's really what I needed.
I can't remember what else you asked me.
JACK ROUSH: You can't imagine how hard it is to say something that's interesting and relevant to one of these drivers before the race starts. They've got their head on something else when they get ready to go. They generally look at me when I walk up to them and say, here he is again, what's he going to say tonight?
Q. Greg, your thoughts on why this race was so clean.
GREG BIFFLE: You know, this tire made the cars drive a little bit better. The cars -- I say the cars drove better, but they slid a lot on the racetrack. I mean, it was very hard to drive tonight with the wind blowing the cars around and the way the cars slide. It's hard to -- object this size of track, once it runs green for a while, it gets spread out, and the cars get so aero tight or aero sensitive when they're around other cars, you typically don't run in packs. You know, I'm surprised that somebody didn't get sideways or underneath somebody because that can happen when these cars are sliding around a lot. I almost hit a lap car tonight because he pointed me to the bottom and I'm loose in, and I thought that he was going to leave me more than just one lane. He left me one lane, and that was it, and I -- that's when I was running second earlier in the race, and I jammed on the brakes because I was going to wreck. There was just no way I was going to turn down in that -- I was right on him, and he let out of the gas, and I started to turn and my car started to get sideways, and I knew I wasn't getting in that hole under him.
The cars are getting better. The teams are getting better. And you know, people are just crashing less, I guess. Tony wrecked in practice if that's any consolation. I mean, I don't know. I came close a few times tonight, but I am surprised that nobody made a mistake, you know.
Q. So the wind was no factor?
GREG BIFFLE: The wind was a huge factor, yeah. The wind was hard. That's probably why nobody wrecked because everybody was so -- I got a hole wore in my hand from holding onto the steering wheel. It was tough. The wind was blowing you all over the place. I was swatting flies all night long. The wind was blowing the car back and forth and over. That could be a factor in why there was no accidents. You would think that would cause one. Well, it made it so you couldn't really race side by side with a guy. I was nervous coming off Turn 2. I wouldn't run up on a guy coming off the corner like I normally would. I'd leave more room because I wasn't sure when the wind was going to blow my car one way or another. It kind of gives up sight for us coming off the corner and then it would quit. I was cautious when I was around cars, and I think probably everybody else was tonight.
Q. With about two or three laps left I think you asked your spotter if that was the 48 in your rear view mirror and he was about three seconds behind. Were you imagining every worst-case scenario and hearing every creak in the car at that point?
GREG BIFFLE: I never looked at the track the last three laps, I just watched the fuel pressure gauge, so I was just concentrating on that. But what I wanted to do was run as slow as I could but not let the 48 catch me, and so if that was the 48, I wanted to keep an eye on him and start running slower and slower and slower and watch his progression, you know, how close he was getting to me. So I just wanted to know if that was him or not. I didn't think it was, but I wanted to make sure, I wanted to verify that wasn't him. I was pretty sure it wasn't, but I just wanted to make sure.
And it kind of spooks you when you can't see him because you would like to be able to look up and judge where he's at and keep slowing down. I was trying to save some fuel in the last five laps, so I didn't want to try and push hard and pass the 18 and the 11. About the last ten laps or whatever, I just kind of backed off a little bit because the 48 wasn't coming.
They told me that he got in the fence. I was just praying that there was no debris and there wasn't going to be a caution because I didn't want to come and put tires on again and try with a bunch of wolves around me with four new tires. I was comfortable with the lead I had and I was hoping that there wouldn't be a caution.
Q. You made it look so easy winning the Truck championship and the Nationwide championship, and we've talked over the years about you becoming the first guy to get NASCAR's triple crown. Did you ever think it was going to be so hard to get that next one? I mean, did it -- back when you were younger, did it seem so much easier than it appears to be now?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, when I moved from the Truck Series to Nationwide, it was a huge step. It was much, much harder. And when I moved from the Nationwide to the Cup Series, I had no idea that the competition was going to be what it was.
I knew it was going to be hard. But man, it's tough, and there's a lot of great drivers in this sport and a lot of good equipment. But I knew it was going to be hard. But this year is my year, so I'm going to keep after it all the way to Homestead.
Q. Greg, the last 234 laps went without a caution. Were there times where you were hoping for a caution and then were there times when you were saying, oh, gosh, please, no caution? It seems kind of crazy that you could go that long without one.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it does. You know, you get going inside the car and you don't realize it's been that long. You come with a green flag pit stop and you go and you just don't think about it when you're in there, I guess. So I didn't really realize it had been that long. But I could have used a caution a few times to work on the car, but certainly once I got by the 48 I was praying for no caution. And before I got to the 48 I was hoping there was a caution so I could restart up beside him and try and race him for position. But you know, once I ran him down and passed him, I was praying that there wasn't going to be a caution.
Q. You're a two-time winner at Kansas so this has to be -- going from this mile and a half to the mile and a half there that you've won twice, can you talk about your mindset now?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah. You know, a couple things I was hoping for. One, I was hoping to be the points leader when I left Martinsville and go on vacation for a week off, and that came true, and then I was hoping my best opportunity to win was going to be Texas and Kansas were the next two racetracks. I knew I had to tough it out through Martinsville, and I believe that we can win at Martinsville in the near future. But I thought here and Kansas would be two racetracks that stuck out. Talladega anything can happen; Richmond. But here and Kansas, so hopefully I'll make it two for two. I feel really good about next week, I really do.