SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 2, 2000) It takes a special event to prompt Jack Roush to set aside his trademark straw fedora. Thursday night was one such occasion.
Roush joined hundreds of members of the racing community in a packed ballroom at the swank Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series banquet, a black-tie affair held to honor the driving title captured this season by Greg Biffle.
While Biffle and his championship were the focus of the evening, the unofficial honoree was Roush, the owner who for nearly two decades has fielded entries that have become fixtures in Victory Lane celebrations on NASCAR's Winston Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck circuits. But while winning races had become commonplace for Roush Racing, winning championships was another story; until Biffle's dominating display over the final two-thirds of the year, Roush had never finished higher than second in the points standings on any of NASCAR's three highest-profile circuits.
So when it came time for Biffle to deliver the champion's address, he made special note of the significance of his title.
"You've given me a wonderful opportunity and I appreciate you standing behind me," Biffle said from the stage as he looked down at his owner, who was seated among a large contingent of Roush Racing employees in the audience. "I'm so proud of being able to give you your first NASCAR championship, and I hope to give you many more before my career is over."
Biffle wasn't the only Roush Racing driver with a standout season. Teammate Kurt Busch finished second in the points and was named the circuit's top rookie after a season in which he won four races.
But that wasn't enough to keep up with Biffle, who moved to the top of the points standings 11 races into the 24-event schedule and stayed there the rest of the way. By the time the season ended, Biffle had five visits to Victory Lane among his 18 top-10 finishes in the No. 50 Grainger Industrial Supply Ford F-150.
And for that, Biffle said, he is grateful to the members of his crew, who helped him set a standard of consistency that no one else on the circuit could match.
"You guys are the best race team in the business as far as I'm concerned," Biffle said. "I know things were tough at times, but none of you ever gave up, and to win a championship for you guys is the best gift I have ever been able to give. Danny, Lumpy, Scottie, Cowboy, Tony, Shew, Heiser and Ghent -- thank you so much for all of your support over the years and thanks for helping me become a better driver. Max, thanks for putting up with me and keeping me out of trouble on the track during the races.
"I'm going to miss working with you guys, but I can promise you that I will never forget any of you or what you have done for me. You are the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions."
The banquet capped a day of numerous personal appearances for Biffle, Roush and the crew.
One of the lighter moments came about five hours before the dinner, when the winners gathered at the "Crown P Corral," an old-style Western saloon and barbershop movie set built on the grounds of the Princess, for the champion's photo shoot. Outfitted in black tuxedos, the champions lined up in various poses to be photographed alongside the winning truck.
Later in the afternoon Biffle took part in a chat on NASCAR Online, using the occasion to announce that he hasn't run his last race on the circuit. While he has long planned to move up to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2001, Biffle said he also is putting together a program to run a limited number of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events next year.
"Ford is behind us," he said. "We're doing everything we can to at least come back five times next year."
But first, however, Biffle wanted to take some time to reflect on his achievements in NASCAR 2000 -- and celebrate them.
After Biffle thanked everyone from his family and friends to sponsors and series officials, he ended his remarks by inviting everyone in the ballroom to join him and the rest of the Roush Racing contingent at a championship party after the banquet.
"I hope no one has anything to do in the morning," a smiling Biffle said. -nascar.com