This Week in Ford Racing Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is coming off a third- place finish in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Biffle spoke about getting ready for the new season, which opens Saturday ...
This Week in Ford Racing
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is coming off a third- place finish in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Biffle spoke about getting ready for the new season, which opens Saturday night with the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
ARE YOU READY TO GET STARTED? "I am. I've been by the shop a few times this winter and there's not a lot going on - talk about last season and this season - but I had to go by a couple of weeks ago just to make sure that we're still gonna be racing in February. It's been awful quiet. I've really enjoyed that little bit of time off, but I went by the race shop and sat in the car just to get the feel of it - put the belts on - and made sure that we're ready to go for 2009 and we are. Ever since then it's been wide-open. We've done a couple of tests and appearances and all kinds of things going on, so it's gone from nothing to wide-open. I'm back in the swing of things."
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU MISSED YOUR CAR? "I did miss it. I had to go make sure that my seat was still in it and the sport was still alive because it's been so quiet, but not now. I've got something to do just about every 12 minutes it seems like, so from now to the Daytona 500 it's going to be really busy and excited about it. I can't wait to get going."
DO YOU SENSE AS DRIVERS THAT YOU'RE APPROACHING THE SEASON WITH A DIFFERENT MINDSET OF JUST BEING HAPPY TO BE HERE BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY? "Yeah, exactly. We all know how tough it is. One indicator is obviously the stock market and I've watched the ups and the downs and that drives a lot of businesses that drive jobs. And then you see it wide-spread that things are scaling back, so we are excited to get this season started and we feel like that's gonna create some excited and hopefully get some things going again. We know it's tough. We've scaled back. I've sat at home most of this winter and tried to save a little bit of money and just excited about getting racing again."
WITH NO TESTING IS THIS GOING TO BE THE BIGGEST WILDCARD VERSION OF THE 500? "There are two ways to look at that. One is we get a tremendous amount of track time at Daytona. It's the only race of the season where we run a 150-mile race just for the starting lineup, so with the amount of testing that we get and the 150-mile qualifying races, we get a tremendous amount of track time prior to the green flag for the Daytona 500. Now if we were going to California cold turkey, two hours of practice, qualify, and now we're going racing, that would be different. So the best place to go without having any testing is Daytona, I think. We're there for a week. We've got the Bud Shootout, a lot of cars are in the Bud Shootout, so that's gonna give us some time to get our feet wet right before we jump into the Daytona 500, so we're gonna get a lot of track time. In the past with the three days of testing, some people have said, 'Do we really need three days of testing at Daytona? How about two?' So now with none, I don't think it's gonna be that big of an impact."
BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TESTING FOR THOSE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS. "Right. If you look at it, the only test that we're missing prior to the season starting is the Las Vegas test, which historically we've gone there to get ready for California, Vegas, Atlanta - some of those places - so that's really the test we're gonna be missing, but I think it's gonna be business as usual. We're gonna start off where left off last season, use our notebooks. I think a lot of guys have gone tire testing for Goodyear. I know Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex - I think the list is pretty long of drivers that have actually gotten track time, including myself and Juan Pablo Montoya and a few others at Atlanta, so we've all gotten a little bit of track time, I think. It's been spread out through the sport, so we're not starting cold turkey."
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THOSE TIRE TESTS? "Those tire tests are very important to us and I think Goodyear does a great job with spreading them out throughout the sport. They are important for us to get them."
DARLINGTON WAS A RACE THAT SLIPPED AWAY FOR YOU LAST YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT PLACE? "I love Darlington. It's a great place and the race fans there are like none other. They're passionate about NASCAR and they're passionate about Darlington. That place just has so much history and one did slip away last year. The last time I drove in the Southern 500 - when it was named that - Terry Labonte won it and we let one slip away there, too. I love that race track and look forward to going back. We've got great programs, great engines, great everything and that was a unique situation where we had a failure there, but I look forward to it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ANTICIPATION YOU HAVE FOR THIS YEAR AFTER HOW YOU ENDED 2008? "I can't be more excited about the way I hope this season starts with the way last year ended - very, very competitive. The same guys are back again, great pit stops, Greg Erwin behind the helm and 3M - a great sponsor back on board and they've been very supportive of our program. That, to me, is exciting going to Daytona, California, Las Vegas to get our season started. The one goal, obviously, is to win races, but we want to try to win some races in the regular season and get us those seeded points into the chase and make the chase. That's job one - make the chase - but we feel very good about getting our season started."
HOW DO RACES 2-3-4 SET THE TONE FOR YOUR SEASON? "That's very important to get a good start for the season and those are good race tracks for us. They're mile-and-a-half bread-and-butter tracks and so is Bristol - we run very well there, I love that place - so the first five to eight races you really look forward to position yourself in the top 10 and hopefully a win and you feel like that's possible, and we're gonna work very hard for that."
HOW MUCH STRESS DOES IT TAKE OFF OF YOU IF YOU GET AN EARLY WIN? "It takes so much stress off of you because one, you've won that season and now you're just hungry for the second one, and you've kind of more or less proven yourself that you're back, you're here to compete, and it's so nice to go to California and win the second race of the season. That's really neat to do."
IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE FOR AN ESTABLISHED TEAM LIKE YOURS THAT HAS BEEN TOGETHER FOR SOME TIME VERSUS SOME OF THE TEAMS THAT HAVE JUST MERGED? "I'm hoping that's gonna be an advantage to us. We know there is some turmoil in some other teams. Certainly, we want to see our competitors healthy and competing in our sport because we know that millions of race fans want to see that race. They're gonna see good racing, but hopefully us being organized and not changing a lot from last season, hopefully, that's gonna give us a little jump start on some of those teams that may have a little stumbling block in some places as far as getting going, but the reality is the chase guys you're gonna be competing against are the same old guys and they've got their stuff together."
IS THE 48 STILL THE TEAM TO BEAT? "I think they're still the team. I believe that Hendrick's organization, we've closed that gap on them last year, but, obviously, didn't close the gap on the 48 team and it's hard to break momentum. They've been very good at overcoming adversity. Their beginning of the season last year wasn't as good for them. They struggled a little bit, but they really got their mojo back and got going toward the middle and the end of the season and that team is gonna be hard to beat over and over again because they're very good at retaining people, taking notes, and building on what they have learned. Even though you win a race, you go there and win, you still find parts and pieces of that race that you could have done better and how are you going to do better next time. That's the persistence and devotion that team has."
WILL THE PLAYING FIELD BE MORE LEVEL WITH THIS BEING ANOTHER YEAR OF THE NEW CAR? "I think so, and I think the limited amount of testing will put a small amount of unknown - not knowing what people are gonna show up with. That may change it a little bit. I know a lot of teams maybe spent a little more time testing than we did, so we'll see what that does."
YOU'VE COME SO CLOSE TO A CUP TITLE. WHAT CAN YOU DO TO TAKE THAT FINAL STEP? "I think just working hard. Hard work is always an ingredient to winning races and, let's face it, winning races is what you have to do. I won the first two races of the chase and still wasn't leading the points, so we know we're gonna have to win races. We have to make the chase to start with and we're gonna have to win when we get there and be tough and beat those guys. That's just what we're gonna have to do. I've got a second and a third and, hopefully, this time I'll be a first."
HOW IS THE COMPETITION WITH THE NEW CAR? IS THERE PROMISE WITH WHAT YOU'RE DRIVING NOW? "I think so. There's promise, plus there are so many ingredients to that that you've got to remember we're developing still and one is the tires. Goodyear was thrown a huge curveball with this new car with an extremely high right-side load. One thing I think is really exciting is I just got done doing a two-day tire test at Atlanta and one of the left-side tires they brought put a lot of drive-ability back in the car, almost like old Atlanta. The car would run the bottom a lot longer, the car turned down in the corner better, turned off the corner better, so I feel like we're making progress, not only with that car, but with the tires and so on. It's a work in progress. This is brand new for everybody and even though this is our third year, technically, we're still learning a lot about it and Goodyear is gonna continue to learn about it as well."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT TESTING AT A TRACK WITHOUT A GOODYEAR TIRE? "I can't comment on not using a Goodyear tire at a test because we've always tested on Goodyear tires, but we've tested on off-compound tires for a particular place and it's very hard to test with a different compound tire at a different place. It's hard to test at a Kentucky Speedway and learn something for Chicago or Kansas, it just is. It's hard to relate those two things, so with NASCAR saying we can't go to those places anymore, I think it's gonna be good for us."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO MAKE SURE THESE RACES PUT ON A GOOD SHOW? "I think everybody is working very hard to make sure that we put on a great race for the fans and a competitive show. I like everybody participating. We're going outside our normal things to do extra things for the fans. We just got done doing a fanfest at Daytona. We all flew down there and signed autographs and did all kinds of things. The race tracks are lowering ticket prices and hopefully the fuel stays down to where people can afford to make a trip to the race track. It's about the fans. That's what this sport is about. We're gonna put on competitive, fun races and I feel like this non-test rule may put even a little bit more excitement into the racing and kind of an unknown. What can we expect at California? We don't know because nobody has tested. Who is gonna be the cars to beat? We don't know until we get there. That's what makes going to California the second race on the schedule so exciting. I think the fans that go to the California race are gonna see a great race."
-credit: ford racing