This Week in Ford Racing May 24, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus, goes into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in second place in the NASCAR NEXTEL...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 24, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus, goes into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in second place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. Biffle, who has three wins this season, participated in the weekly teleconference and answered questions on a variety of subjects.
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus
DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE A NEW QUALIFYING RECORD THIS WEEK? "Yeah, absolutely. I think for sure we'll see a new track record. Actually, our qualifying lap that we did, obviously it's timed different because it's timed with a pit stop and everything, but the lap of qualifying that we did was about two-tenths under the track record, so it will definitely be broken that's for sure - guaranteed - and by a lot I bet. It's just gonna be pretty fast. We're excited about the 600-mile race. It's fun. It's definitely challenging. You're inside the car for a long period of time. You go through a lot of track position changes, especially the old Lowe's Motor Speedway used to change a lot with temperature and the sun and then cool down at night. So I think everybody is eager to see what happens with the race track from afternoon to evening with it now being ground. There is definitely endurance. The transmission has to hold up, the engine, everything. Pit stops, you have to make the right decisions. Stay on the lead lap all night. There are a lot of things that come into play on that length of a race."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT MEMORIAL DAY AND DRIVING A CAR THAT HAS NATIONAL GUARD AS A SPONSOR? "It's hard to put into words what it means to be able to drive for the National Guard. I get to meet so many soldiers week in and week out. I met a soldier just this last weekend that comes to mind. The soldier lost his leg and was coming up getting pictures, getting autographs and was excited to be there at the track and get to meet me. It's so satisfying to see that those folks are excited about the program, excited about the racing and defending our country. I feel like I'm just a very small part of that with the National Guard, and I'm really excited to be able to carry our flag every week in the race. To be able to win three times this year, I think it's done a lot for our soldiers and a lot for the people serving. There are amazing stories I hear. I'm amazed every single time I go to the race track because there's a different story I hear about somebody did this or somebody did that. Guys with the 16 on their helmet in their fighter jet and flying the helicopters and all kinds of things, so it's neat to see the support throughout the community, and it's neat to see all the support from all the folks over here - all the citizens over here supporting our troops."
HOW MUCH HAS THIS ROUSH SURGE BEEN HELPED BY THE ROUSH-YATES ENGINE OPERATION? DO YOU REALLY NOTICE A DIFFERENCE WHEN YOU GET IN THE THROTTLE? "Yes. You clearly can notice a difference. It's made a pretty big difference in our race cars, it has. The power makes the car drive different. If you take away 40 horsepower from a car, when you put the throttle down in the center of the corner to come off the corner, your power is gonna drive different. It's gonna drive tighter. It's not gonna turn as good because it doesn't have the drive in the rear tires as it would - like in a typical scenario if you lose a cylinder in a race, your car gets tight because it doesn't have the power anymore. So it's definitely made a difference in the way the cars drive and it's made a difference to our overall performance on the race track. I'd be willing to bet that if we have, if not the best, I guarantee we're number two in the sport as far as power and reliability. I'll put our stuff up against anybody's any day of the week on the chassis dyno. I feel that we have nearly the best, if not the best, engine program. And that's due to the hard work of Jack and Robert Yates and Doug Yates. Those guys are phenomenal - geniuses in my book - and Ford. Ford got behind this deal and supported it and funded it some and we make our engines as good as we can. We transitioned to a new cylinder head block and we needed some of that support and it's amazing. I'm at the engine shop now and ate lunch with all the guys here and there's a huge group of dedicated people building these engines."
HOW DO YOU NOT KEEP GRUDGES WITH OTHER DRIVERS FROM WEEK TO WEEK? "It's actually really easy for me. It may not be as easy for other drivers and other people, but I've got a pretty good philosophy and I really use it and stick to it religiously is I can't fix the past. So to go to the Coca-Cola 600 for instance - it's another points race. Let's say the last race was a points race. Obviously, all the ones we race are, but the last race was a points race and I have an incident with somebody, why am I gonna jeopardize this week for something that happened last week? No matter what I do, I'm not gonna get my points back. If I wreck the guy back or if I knock him out of the way, sure enough he's gonna do it to me again sometime in the future. So it may not ruin this race, but it's gonna ruin another race down the road. You can't just be a pushover, but at the same time you can't really retaliate with these cars. They're so aero sensitive. It just doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't make any sense to do that. Most of the time the stuff does not happen on purpose. If a car gets spun out or something happens, normally the guy wasn't like, 'Hey, I'm gonna spin this guy out because he's in my way and I can't pass him.' That typically doesn't happen. Typically what happens is a guy gets in a corner harder than he expected. The guy in front of him slowed down faster than he could slow down. The nose started pushing up off the corner, he lifted on the gas, he couldn't get it to start turning before he got touching his quarter panel. Whatever the case is it's not typically ever, 'Hey, I'm gonna drive through this guy because he's in my way.' For somebody to get out of the car and start throwing stuff like a baby at somebody else and not even knowing the situation, not even knowing what happened. And number two, you get turned in the fence the wrong direction. If you're gonna spin a guy out, you're not gonna spin him the wrong direction into the fence because then you're gonna wreck yourself, too. So for somebody to be mad at a guy that did that, you have to be intelligent enough to understand, 'Hey, there is probably more to that wreck than what I saw or what just happened.' All of a sudden when you get whacked and turned the wrong direction into the fence, you can pretty much guarantee that there was more event than just a single-car incident."
HOW DO YOU BALANCE NOT BEING A PUSHOVER AND DRIVING AROUND GUYS WHO MAY BE PRONE TO MISTAKES? "You just have to race around them a little bit different. You've got to know what guy is gonna try to chop you off going in the corner. I could give you a list of two or three cars that, sure enough, I've got a nose inside of him and we're going down in the corner he's gonna cut to the bottom whether I'm there or not. The thing is you've got to weigh out your options. One, and I hate to explain it all because then everybody will start beating me, but, one, do I keep my nose in there and let the guy come down and smash my right-front fender in, and I spin him up the hill or knock him out of the way, my car is not gonna drive the same anymore. I see it week after week the guy's fender is bent in and I'm going, 'Perfect,' because now he's not a factor anymore. It may be the 20 car, it may be the 9 car, it may be the 97 car, it may be the 24 car, it doesn't matter who it is, if you see their fender bent in, hey, they've got a problem. I don't know how it got that way. Whether somebody ran into them in the back and they got up into the wall or they got them into another car, whatever the case is, their fender is bent in. With these cars, you can't do that. Part of this Nextel Cup racing and Truck and Busch racing is knowing your competition - knowing what their tendencies are - knowing about where they're gonna run on the race track - what they're gonna do. You've got to figure that stuff out in order to be competitive and race with these guys."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING CALLED THE HOTTEST DRIVER IN NASCAR? "It's a little bit of everything. It makes you feel good that people are looking at you like you're a contender and a serious one every week, which I think we are. I'll be the first to say that I think that - you never know what's gonna happen next week so I hate to go out there - but I feel that we are probably one of the best teams right now -- this particular week or instance we're at. We've got a great car for the 600. I've got a great car for Dover and I'm taking my car that I won California and Texas with, I'm taking it to Pocono, so I feel like we're certainly capable of winning the 600, we're definitely capable of winning at Dover and definitely capable of winning at Pocono. So would it surprise me if we won all three? Yes. Would it surprise me if we won two of them? Not so. I'd be thrilled for sure, but we're certainly capable of winning and I feel that confident. When the team feels confident in the driver and the whole program and you're running like that it helps, but I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if we go run the next three and don't win any of them, but I feel like we can. I don't think there are a lot of teams out there that can say that right now - 'Hey, I think we can win all three of these.' To have a lineup of cars like we do and race tracks coming up, it feels pretty good to be at least the top five competitive in our sport and on top of our game."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POSSIBLY BECOMING THE FIRST DRIVER TO WIN A TITLE IN ALL THREE SERIES? "I think it's pretty special. I'm certainly excited about it and I'm working hard toward it everyday. I'm really involved in the race team and our race cars and what we're doing and staying in shape and working hard and I'm staying focused on winning races. I want to be the toughest team when it comes to the last 10 races. I think that we're the toughest team right now, but that doesn't do any good until it comes to the last 10 and somebody else may be better by then. The ball could change courts and somebody else could have turned the corner and be hitting on something that's better - the 97, the 38, the 24, 48 - I mean there are a bunch of cars - the 6. There are a ton of them that could be better than us when it comes to that time. Right now, I feel that we're the best. It could change this week, but I'm really excited about trying to win the Nextel Cup title this year. To have all three - this is kind of funny but I joked about it. I always said that I'd retire. I said, 'I'm retiring the day I get my third title, whenever it is.' I don't think I'm quite ready to retire yet, so I might have to revise my plan, but I certainly don't want to revise winning a title this year."
WHAT WAS THE TOUGHEST TRANSITION FOR YOU? "It was kind of a two-part transition. As a driver, it was probably tougher moving from the Busch to the Cup, but not that much tougher from the Truck to Busch. I think what I underestimated - and certainly with the team grossly underestimated - was the quality of race car you had to have to even be remotely competitive. To even run in the top 20 you had to have a damn good race car. As a first-year team coming in with new people, new body hangers, basically a team that's new into a new building. Yeah, we're with the 6 and the 99, but that transition just took two years for us to get to the level we needed to be at to be competitive. I went and drove the 55 car and the 44 car for Andy Petree Racing and Richard Petty and was competitive as a driver in those race cars. I qualified in the top five almost every time I drove them and led in the first Cup race I was ever in, in the 55 car at Richmond. So I was able to make that transition and learned a lot, but the cars took us extremely longer to get to where they're at today. Today I feel like I have probably the best cars or one of the best race cars in the series right now sitting in the trailer ready to go to the race track."
DID YOU EVER IMAGINE HAVING THIS MUCH SUCCESS WHEN YOU WERE IN WASHINGTON? "No. Growing up my ultimate goal or fantasy wasn't to be a Nextel Cup champion or a racer, but I suppose later on when I was Late Model racing and Street Stock and got transitioning into Late Models, at that particular point I suppose the question more reflects on is, yeah, I dreamed about racing against Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt and those guys, but to be on top of the game right now and to be the guy that is right there with them is something different. I never pictured myself being in this position."
HAVE YOU MET ANY SKEPTICISM REGARDING YOUR LONGEVITY IN THE SPORT? "Not my longevity, but I felt like there has been a lot of focus on my age. I don't know what the phenomenon was about that, other than I raced in the Truck Series for three years, raced in the Busch Series for two and now it's my third year in the Cup Series and I've kind of come out of nowhere to speak. I think what people are saying is, 'No, he didn't come out of anywhere. He's been here the whole time.' But I recognize that I'm older than these guys. What's funny is I'm a little over a year older than Tony Stewart and there isn't this big uproar about his age or Jeff Gordon's age. I'm two years old than Jeff. It's got me thinking about it a little bit - what's the big emphasis on it. A lot of the emphasis is guys that are 20 years old, like Kyle Busch, coming in and having the opportunity. I just didn't have the opportunity then and I've got the opportunity now and I'm taking advantage of it."
HOW IS THE TRACK AT CHARLOTTE NOW? "I think that it was our first time around this weekend, so a lot of us probably weren't - I know all of us didn't know what to expect. I certainly was way off on my setup when it came time to race. The track has got some rubber built up on it and I think it was just a matter of I probably let my guard down more than anything because we typically go to a race track when it's new or we call it green - it doesn't have any rubber on it, like when we go to test Kansas City or Chicago or anywhere right now when it's been rained on and seasoned and there aren't as many cars running on it typically has a lot of grip. And that's what we found when we went to Charlotte. It had a ton of grip. Well, after the Open race was on it, after all the practice, after all the stuff it started to get some rubber built up on it and we hadn't adjusted for that yet. So I think we're gonna see a different race. I think a lot of guys were a little off on their setups. Now, when we go and practice the Busch cars and the Cup cars for the weekend and people having that open race, I think we're gonna see a lot different race. I think we're gonna see a lot of side-by-side definitely two-groove racing. I'm a confident believer in that, that they've made the race track better and it's gonna put on a better show than it has in the past."
SOME OF THESE RACES LAST FOUR HOURS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT LENGTH OF SOME OF THESE RACES? "I certainly think you need to have one event a year like the 600 to prove the longevity that the drivers, the cars, the engines - everybody can do it. But some of the other venues I agree with you 100 percent on. Pocono, some of these other races, are too long of a race. Yeah, we could prove the winner in a condensed time factor and I think it would be better television if they shortened that up a little bit. I'm thinking that they don't need to take much more than a half-hour to 40 minutes off of the length of the race and they're gonna be right where we need to be. I agree with you. Some of them are just as smidge too long, but the Coca-Cola 600, I think we need to keep an event like that, but maybe tailor back some of the other races so they're a little bit shorter."
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT RACING IN CANADA? "I think it's great. I think that our sport needs to go to Canada. There are lots of race fans up there. I can't believe how many fans are there. I think the road race in Mexico City was a success. I think NASCAR should be happy with that and the fan turnout, and all of those folks I think had a great time. Even the Mexican guys that raced in the race did a great job, so, definitely, it would be worthwhile to explore that."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SYNERGY AT ROUSH RACING NOW? "It's nice. It's really nice. I just came in the engine shop this afternoon and, of course, they won this weekend with Mark. It's exciting to be at a place like this. You don't realize how much it does for the people. You've got to think about how many people show up for work every day and never go to the race track. They've never been to the race track or go a few times a year and work on those race cars everyday. They're behind the scenes people. Those people are the ones that are excited and put in 110 percent of their effort. It's really like a factory worker. That's his recognition. That's his pride. It's no different than men and women building Ford trucks or who work on the assembly line or something, and that's winning races and it's the best product in America or whatever the case is. It's those guys that get excited and they give it 110 percent. They' re not coming to work 'well, we crashed again,' or 'we ran 25th all day.' They feel like it's a dead-end road and they're never gonna win a race or whatever the case is. These guys, it does a lot for an organization winning races and being upbeat. It does a tremendous amount."
DO YOU FEED OFF THEIR ENERGY? "Absolutely. I mean, all the guys are pumped up. All the guys are excited and I want to win so bad for them. I never wanted to win so bad in my life than when I was driving the Brewco car in the Busch Series. Those guys work so hard on their race cars. They're over in Kentucky and they're not in the limelight and, man, they work hard. They're a good, solid group of guys that enjoy doing what they're doing and work their butts off. For me to win a race for them this year - they hadn't won in three years. That was exciting for me."
DOES WINNING AND RUNNING WELL DURING A SEASON ENERGIZE YOUR QUEST TO WIN FUTURE RACES? "It absolutely does. I mean, you'll be, 'Keep your eyes on the 9 car,' because after you win one the greed and the energy inside of you, your blood is boiling to win more. It's like a drug. You win one and it's like you just want to win all of them. You want to win every time you show up because you feel like you can. I did win. I have won and I want to win again worse than ever. It's kind of funny. When I won at Michigan in that unrestricted race, man, I wanted to win so bad again it was unbelievable. I wanted to win worse than I did before I won. Before you win it's like a question mark. 'When will I win a race?' Or, 'Can we?' And now that he's done it, it's like, 'There's no reason why I can't win next week,' or, 'I should.' It's that energy."