Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion, led the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series with six victories last season and finished second to champion Tony Stewart in the final point standings. Biffle held a Q&A session in the ...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion, led the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series with six victories last season and finished second to champion Tony Stewart in the final point standings. Biffle held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center to discuss the season ahead as testing continued for February's Daytona 500.
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
YOUR FIRST WIN WAS HERE. DOES THAT CONFIDENCE STAY WITH YOU? "Yeah, it really does. We ran extremely well that race -- ran up in the top five -- and it was a particular situation where we had to stop and put tires on and fuel. We avoided an accident and slid the tires, so that set us up for the run to the end, but we had a really fast car. Then we came back and sat on the pole with that same car, so there's a lot of confidence. We haven't been able to find that magic again. It's clear that some teams can get it and then lose it. The 20 team has been really fast on restrictor plate tracks and so has the 24, so those are kind of the two guys on top and we're all trying to catch them right now. Our National Guard car is running decent. We feel we're around seventh or so -- heads up without any help -- but the wind is kind of playing havoc now on us, so it's really hard to see any changes in the race car with the wind."
IS DAYTONA AERO OR HORSEPOWER HERE? "Power means way more here than it does at any other non-restrictor track. Like when I won Michigan, I remember they dyno'd the cars and I was 24 horsepower off of the 24 car and then like 16 off of the 88, so horsepower there is really irrelevant. It's how the car handles and how you can really use the throttle. Here, three or four horsepower are very crucial. It makes a big difference so it's hard to answer that question because it's a little of both. You need the car as slick as you can get it to get through the air as best you can, but if that guy's got five restrictor-plate horsepower on you, it's gonna be really hard to beat him because it's hard to make up that five horsepower in drag. But horsepower in restrictor-plate racing is kind of the king because you can suck up to the guy, you can pass, you can drive out there in clean air if you've got the power, so I would say the power here makes a bigger difference than anywhere."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE DIFFERENT LEVEL OF EXPECTATIONS FOR YOU? "I've had that question a few times, 'What are your expectations this year compared to what happened last year?' And you start thinking about it and it's like, 'Gosh, I hope I can do the same thing I did last year,' because that was quite an accomplishment to win six races and finish second in points. Obviously, my goal is not to finish second in points. My goal is to win the title, but I'd have to be thankful to end up -- obviously, the first thing is to make the chase, we've got to get in the chase. That's gonna be our main focus and then from there it's gonna be get to the last 10 -- or lock ourselves in and then worry about the last 10. I'd prefer to start the last 10. Right now, I don't want to run the first 26 races, I want to do the last 10. It's nerve-wracking. I'm thinking about it now. 'What if we get involved in a wreck,' or 'What if we have something happen?' In that last 10 it's like, 'OK, now you've got to look forward to 2007, and then you've got to look forward to 2008, so the window is very small for the margin of error in that 10 races -- whether it's mechanical, a tire issue, anything. The guy who has the least amount of trouble is the guy that's gonna win."
HAVE YOU DONE ANY RACING WITH JAMIE YET? "I'll have a better idea of that question after Las Vegas because that's more where the driver kind of interacts with the setup of the race car and other drivers while you're testing. Here, I hate to say it, but we're almost like test dummies here. You see a lot of guys filling in, have other drivers driving their cars. In fact, I got out of doing the Busch test because we can't really do anything to make the car go any faster, so I can't really talk to Jamie right now about the way his car is driving. When we get in drafting trim, yeah, I'll be able to interact with him some, but, really, what tells the tale and where we can start seeing how each other works is at Las Vegas -- when we get into an atmosphere like that. I've talked to Jamie before and I talked to him before he came over to drive for us and I think he's gonna fit well in the program. I think he's gonna do good."
HOW DOES IT FEEL KNOWING YOUR STIFFEST COMPETITION ARE YOUR TEAMMATES? "Yeah, that's good and bad. That's good that we have great equipment and we've got good cars and we've got good people to try and learn from. It's bad that those are the guys that we have to race against. You always like to treat your teammate a little different or better than everyone else. It's hard to race them and not let them get five points and try to loosen them up aerowise to try to pass them. That's very difficult. I doubt whether we'll have five cars in the chase this year. That was pretty extraordinary last year. I certainly hope we do. I hope everybody runs that well, but odds are that one of us may have some trouble along the way. Matt barely made it last year. He came on really strong and didn't look like he was gonna make it for a while, so anything can happen to any one of us, but that was pretty extraordinary to have five cars in the chase."
HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU THINK ABOUT A LUGNUT AT TEXAS OVER THE OFFSEASON? "About every time I thought of racing. It's hard to go back and 'what if', but that's a pretty cut-and-dried situation. 'What if I didn't get involved in the restrictor plate wreck at Talladega. What if Tony wouldn't have spun out and wrecked at Charlotte,' he was running decent. There are a lot of 'what ifs' in there, but we were leading the race at Texas. We weren't just running wherever. We were leading and had that problem, so that makes it worse. That makes it pretty clear that all I needed to do was finish 10th at Texas and it would have secured the title for me, and for us to finish 10th there would have been pretty easy I think. So, yeah, I thought about it several times, but I look forward to this year to try it again."
ANY SIDE BET WITH CARL SINCE YOU TIED LAST YEAR IN POINTS? "I don't know. Not yet, but we're both in great situations. We've got great race cars. We've got a bunch of talent on our race teams, so it's just gonna be up to whoever has the right track position on the race track. We got beat by Carl a few times last year where we had a better car and ran better than him all day, but the Carl beat us because we made mistakes. Then we beat Carl when we shouldn't have. He was a little bit better than we were at Homestead and we got track position on him and were able to make that work, so it's all those gambles that can change the outcome. It's just who makes all the right gambles pretty much throughout the year to see who is gonna end up on top."
DO YOU REGRET SAYING HOW GLAD YOU WERE TO HAVE THE POINTS LEAD LAST JULY AND DO YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT HOW GOOD THINGS HAVE BEEN LATELY AT ROUSH? "I think that we've figured out on our race cars what's making them competitive and we're always searching for that little bit of an edge, so I think that's what's gonna continue to keep us on top is our guys are working like we're behind the competition right now. That's how hard they're working to try and make our cars better and better and better. When you're searching to find out what's gonna make you run in the top five or what's gonna make you competitive and you don't know what it is and you're searching for it, that makes it really difficult to try to get there. Like the Childress teams or some of the other teams that are trying to find out, 'what do we need to build to be the fastest?' We're trying to refine it and then, 'how can we make it better?' That's what we're focused on all the time. We won't be satisfied until we make it a lot better and better yet. So that's what we're building on, so I feel really confident that when the season starts we're gonna be a threat at California, for sure, and Atlanta and all those places again. We're gonna be right on top of the competition, I think."
ON LAST JULY. "I was nervous about this race and it was unfortunate that we got tangled up. We got in a wreck in every restrictor-plate race last year and that was tough. That was really tough. It takes a lot of excitement out of restrictor-plate racing for a driver to be in four restrictor-plate races and be in four wrecks. It seems like no matter what you do you're riding along minding your own business and then all of a sudden something happens or you're up front pretty close to the front and something happens. It is frustrating, but, hopefully, we'll lead the points sometime this year and hopefully we can lead it longer than one week."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW TESTING POLICY? IS IT MORE PRESSURE? "Yeah, I think it does. I understand what the testing policy is for -- it's to restrict the large teams from having an advantage with so many tests. I don't make the rules. They don't ever come and ask us how they should do it, but I feel like possibly it could have been a little bit better if they would have restricted -- and I understand there is a tire issue as well because I went and talked to them about it -- so they needed everybody together in order to manage the tires. But I felt it would have been better served if they allowed each organization to pick the five race tracks they want to test at, and then force all five cars to go to those particular race tracks. Because if you take the 14 and 01 team -- Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin -- let's say that organization needs to focus on their mile-and-a-half program. Give them a chance so they can go test three or four of those if they want to, and then work on those. Then if we need to work on short-tracks we can go and do that. It won't give an advantage where we have five teams and we have one guy go here and one guy go there and then we can test every race track and have the date. I think the testing policy they needed to do something because it was unfair for a team to have five cars because we look at Matt's test data from Dover and then I can modify it because I know how Matt drives and how I drive. So I can modify it a little bit and be light years ahead of not going there and testing. So they needed to do something. It might have better served -- they're trying to help the small teams -- if they let them go where they needed to go versus making the whole series go the same place."
MORE PRESSURE? "Absolutely because you're only gonna have one restrictor plate test. You're only gonna have two mile-and-a-half tests all season, so you've got to bring all your stuff and figure it out."
WHAT KIND OF TEAMMATE IS NEWMAN GETTING IN KURT BUSCH? "Kurt was extremely good at sharing information. He's really knowledgeable as a driver. It's like we almost get more information from the team engineer and the crew chiefs, but the information is through them. I think it's gonna benefit Ryan Newman to have a teammate like Kurt, not that there was anything wrong with Rusty, but that relationship -- as I understood -- wasn't that great and didn't pass a lot of information. So this may help Ryan with the information flow, might start on a clean slate so to speak. It might help them both, but Kurt is a great driver. He'll do good in that organization."
WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU LOST MOMENTUM LAST YEAR AND WHERE WOULD YOU RANK YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR? "I would rank us in the top five, for sure. Put us in the top five. We won all those races at the beginning of the season. We won five of the first 15, which was extraordinary, but when we got later in the season it seemed like the race tracks we were going to had changed a little bit. Maybe our aero platform wasn't as good as our teammates were and maybe they found something that worked a little bit better on a slicker race track, which is what you get in the later months of the year. They may have found something that worked a little bit better, which we're gonna investigate that, but the problem is that testing now is such an issue. It makes it difficult to prove out those things, and then it's the right place at the right time. We finished second I don't know how many times -- Bristol and Chicago to Matt and a lot of other places. We're just missing those wins by just a little bit and that's normally how it goes, but earlier in the season we were just in the right place at the right time every single time. So I'll be happy if we come out this year and win three races. That's about average for a season, really, if you're running very well and up front and make the chase. You have to think that you're gonna be able to do that."
CAN YOU TELL A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THE FUSION FROM THE TAURUS? "Yeah, there's a noticeable difference between the Fusion and the Taurus. The Fusion, I think, is gonna be a lot better car for us. We're still just in the preliminary aspects of figuring it out and we had pretty much optimized the Taurus. We had been racing that car for a long time, well at least I hadn't. Dale Jarrett and guys like that have been racing that car for a long time, so I think this Fusion is definitely a better race car. It doesn't correlate, but I think it's a lot better street version car as well, so I think Ford has done a great job in bringing that new car out. I think it fits for our series really well and I think they're gonna get back in the car market with that car."
WHAT ABOUT THE WIND TODAY? "It's definitely had an effect today. I mean, we're making changes on the car and we go back out and make another run and it's slower. So it's like it should have been faster, but it's slower so it's really hard right now. The only thing we can do is look at what everybody else's times are and realize that everybody else is kind of slowing down a little bit, too. So that makes it very difficult to make a change in your car and it goes slower and you go, 'well, that must have been better.' So it is really difficult. That's what we have to deal with and those are the cards we're dealt. We'll just kind of keep comparing each car to each car. Sometimes you have to A, B, A -- meaning you have to put it back and see if it back repeats the time and then put your change back on again and verify it twice to make sure. But the line is so long on pit road. The line is extremely long. We're sitting out there for I don't know how long -- a long time. So that's making it tough, too."