NASCAR Teleconference August 12, 2008 An Interview With: GREG BIFFLE JACK ROUSH HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's video teleconference. It's in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan ...
August 12, 2008
An Interview With:
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's video teleconference. It's in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. That's the 3M Performance 400 Presented by Bondo. Sunday also will be the seventh event in the Race to the Chase. That's the ten-race stretch of the season that precedes NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Today we have two guests joining us from the NASCAR research and development center in Concord, North Carolina. We have Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford and his car owner Jack Roush. Roush Fenway Racing, they have a total of ten Sprint Cup victories at Michigan. That's the second-best total of all time, trailing only the Wood Brothers' total of 11.
Greg, currently 10th in the series points, has two of those Michigan victories for Roush Fenway. Gentlemen, I have a quick opening question for each of you before we go to the media. What is it about Michigan that matches up so well with your organization through the years? Greg, maybe you can start off, then we'll go to Jack for that opener.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I don't know exactly what it is, but I feel awful lucky to be a part of that, because Michigan has just -- you know, just right off, the very first time I saw the racetrack and was on it in the Craftsman Truck Series, adapted to the track very well, loved the racetrack, the way it raced. I raced twice there in the Craftsman Trucks, undefeated the two times I went there and raced, and then came back and got two more wins in the Sprint Cup Series. That racetrack has just been one of my favorites right out of the getgo.
Roush Fenway has been very good there for a long time. Jeff Burton and Mark Martin had a lot of success there and Carl and Matt, so it's just been a great track for us. It's been a great track for me personally, and I probably have got the benefits of our organization being good there, as well.
HERB BRANHAM: Jack, maybe you can add to that because some of your drivers have won at Michigan.
JACK ROUSH: Well, there's an expectation based on, as Greg said, Mark's early success and then Jeff Burton. There's an expectation that we'll run well at Michigan. I'm well represented there in the grandstands. We have two
suites, the only track on the circuit that we have two hospitality suites. We've got a Roush Industries home in the Detroit area there, so we've got lots of people coming to watch, lots of attention, lots of interest. Of course it's Ford Motor Company home there in Detroit. The car companies enjoy coming to Michigan and duking it out.
But we've had a legacy of having really fast cars, I think of having generally pretty good engines, and better-than-average luck there. We've had fewer than an average number of flat tires and blown engines and things, and generally when something does happen, it'll happen to our best car and it'll afford Kevin another opportunity to win.
But Michigan is a great track for us, two-mile track with a lot of opportunity to race wheel-to-wheel, to race clean, to be able to pass clean, and the guys have been very effective. I'm just proud to ride the wave.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to both of you for that opener.
Q: This is for Jack and Greg. What do y'all see as the role of the manufacturer today in NASCAR? Do you see that role changing over time?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I don't know, I think Jack could probably answer that question a lot better than myself, but I see Ford still very involved in our organization and the sport. You know, they're very passionate about NASCAR, and a lot of the race fans are the guys that support the Ford product. You know, they support our teams just the same as I think they have in the past.
We know that all automotive times are tough. You know, all the car industry is not doing the same with the fuel prices and all the things. But they're still just as passionate about it, and they know that the NASCAR fan is their customer, and they help us technically to do what we need to do as much as they can.
JACK ROUSH: Ford in particular has got some research data that indicates that if the broader population had a 30 percent chance of being interested in a Ford product, going to a Ford dealership, the NASCAR fan has twice that, a 60 percent chance that he'd go into a Ford dealership, or he or she would go into a Ford dealership and look at a Ford product. When times are tough as they are now, there's an even greater reason why Ford sees that they should spend a lot of their marketing dollars in the direction of NASCAR, just because they've got so many willing and prospective customers there.
Past that, the teams benefit greatly from the technical innovations of the car companies. I know they've brought us any number of new tools and new computer algorithms to help us predict and to analyze data and to come to an acceptable setup to start at a given racetrack. The tire changes, the track changes, of course the new car has brought with it a new center of mass relationship and a new downforce signature that really made all the records that everybody had obsolete. Without Ford's help we certainly couldn't be in a position where we are in terms of being competitive most places we go.
Q: Jack, has the role of manufacturer changed much over the last 10 or 20 years?
JACK ROUSH: Absolutely. Looking at the budgets of the teams, you know, there was a time when I first started when the contribution that the manufacturer had to the race teams was less than 5 percent of the revenue, and today it's north of 10 percent. So their monetary support has doubled over 15, 20 years, and in the meantime, the -- we used to think about the number of parts that would come from the car companies that could be useful to us that would give you maybe some direction on the way the front faces should be shaped and the way the rear faces should be shaped, and those were primary parts, but today you not only get the parts in terms of what their shape is in consideration of what NASCAR's templates are, but you've got also got an interaction with any number of engineers from the CFD, the fluid dynamics to the aerodynamics to the stiffness and the fatigue characteristics of the chassis and a number of the other components on the chassis.
So they are more involved than they were initially and certainly more vital. If all the other manufacturers -- if none of the manufacturers were involved at the level they all are, then it wouldn't matter. But today, every time somebody steps up then the other manufacturers feel the need to match it, and if they don't do that, then they'll get behind. It's really a cascade snowball thing that's gone on.
Q: Greg, I wondered, you lost two spots in the championship at the Glen. Are you concerned at all about not making the Chase or are you pretty comfortable where you are and are out for those elusive bonus points with the victories?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I think I'm not -- definitely not easy cruising to the Chase right now. We know that we're on the envelope of getting in. You know, we're in that 8th through 13th class that's going to fight right down to Richmond unless one of us breaks out, gets a win, a couple top fives and locks ourselves in in the next two races. We're on that bubble, and certainly finishing 21st at the Glen wasn't what we wanted. It's not where we ran all day, but that's the finish we ended up with.
We are just lucky that the deck is stacked sort of in our favor. We run very well at Michigan, very well at Bristol. I like California and Richmond. So those are good racetracks for us to be going to. If we were going to Talladega and Martinsville and some of these other tracks, I wouldn't be as optimistic in my chances of making the Chase right now. But we're by no means safe. We know that we have to run hard and well.
The thing I love about Michigan is you can race as hard as you want, you know, two and three wide on that downforce racetrack for the win and be able to do that in a cautious manner where you're going to get a good finish. That's what I like about Michigan, one of the things going this weekend. We feel like we can get a top-five finish there if not win. We feel like we can win, but later of the two, a top five, and that will certainly help us in the points.
Q: And a quick follow-up to Jack if I may. You have Matt and Greg kind of fighting to get into the Chase but Carl kind of comfortable there at second in the standings. Do the strategies differ and the goals differ going into Michigan for the three drivers? They kind of have different goals and outlooks there just based on the points?
JACK ROUSH: You know, I haven't really written David Ragan off, either, so I consider that I've got four contenders, only one of which is comfortably seated. But as far as Carl and Greg and Matt, I don't see -- first of all, the crew chiefs are captains of the ship and they make the realtime decisions on what they think should happen and then negotiate with the driver to be able to get that done at the entry on Pit Road. But we see that the big change or the big concern is a broken part, a tire that goes flat at the wrong time, or a wreck that gets caused that may not be your fault that you get caught up in.
And if the thing plays out as it should, and as I hope it will, Greg should certainly be okay given the mix of races we've got left. But man, we've got to miss the wreck and we can't have a part that breaks.
I think there will be more determination of what happens from the result of 8 through 14 or whatever as this thing shakes down. It'll be more determined by things gone wrong than it will by blinding speed.
Q: Greg, just curious, with your two wins there and with the team's success at Michigan, what are the keys to winning at the track, and why do you think Roush Fenway Racing has had so much success at the track?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, you know, some of the keys to winning at Michigan is, you know, keeping the car turning across the middle of the corner and having enough speed up off the corner. We've been really good about that, you know, and I like that racetrack. The corner entry and across the center, the way the racetrack is laid out, we've been able to really capitalize on that.
The success that our organization has had is spectacular, and I have no answer why we've been so good there. I've won two truck races there and two Sprint Cup races, and we just run well as an organization. I think that we're well prepared for that. That's the kind of racetrack that fits our company, our driving style, our aero platform, our cars. So we've just had a lot of success there.
I just look forward to -- you know, it could be a fuel mileage race, a strategy race, mental race for the driver. There's a lot of things at Michigan, cards that get played, that are factors.
Continued in part 2