GREG BIFFLE , No. 16 National Guard/Travelodge Taurus DID YOU TAKE FOUR TIRES OR TWO? "Four. I don't know how two would really do anything. We were using up our left-rear a bunch for forward grip off the corner, so we had no choice but to...
GREG BIFFLE , No. 16 National Guard/Travelodge Taurus
DID YOU TAKE FOUR TIRES OR TWO?
"Four. I don't know how two would really do anything. We were using up our left-rear a bunch for forward grip off the corner, so we had no choice but to take four. With two laps, I felt like we would be able to pass probably six or eight cars if they stayed out, which I didn't think they were going to. Ryan and the 49 stayed out. My biggest concern at that point on the restart was how they were gonna be able to get going because those tires and trying to accelerate with those old tires was gonna be very difficult. I knew I couldn't pass before the start-finish line, so there wasn't any strategy for us. We knew we were coming as soon as the caution came out."
WHAT ABOUT THE RESTART. WHAT HAPPENED?
"I don't know. I was gonna hang toward the bottom and I gave those guys a little bit of room because I knew they weren't gonna get going right away. I saw them all just checking up and getting on the brakes and getting out of line. I saw the 9 coming by and I was like, 'Dang it,' I didn't know what to do because I know we're not allowed to pass until the start-finish, so I really didn't know what to do. Then I got a good run going because I had new tires, so I got back going again. I was thinking about going on the top and the 24 was coming and then Carl started moving up, so I wanted the bottom anyway. I was gonna put it on the white line down there and just hold it to the mat. With new tires it'll go around there flat, so I knew I was gonna be able to get 'em on the bottom and, sure enough, I was able to get Carl and the 49, and then run Ryan down on the backstretch."
DID CARL TAKE TWO?
"Yeah, Carl took two and that was gonna be a big handful to drive, but you've got to get track position. You never know. We could have only run half-a-lap and if the caution would have come out, the race would have been over and he would have gotten second or third or fifth."
COULD NEWMAN BE SMART ENOUGH TO CAUSE A CAUTION?
"I'm not sure. I guess so. I'm not that smart. Maybe he is (laughter). That could have happened. I don't know what happened on the start. There were four or five cars up there. I heard the 49 spun his tires. I don't know what happened."
DOUG RICHERT , Crew Chief - No. 16 National Guard/Travelodge Taurus
THE SHOE WAS ON THE OTHER FOOT TONIGHT.
"Believe me, I thought about the same thing there when it was coming down to the end. I know exactly what the 12 car feels like because we did that to ourselves. Leading here is hard because when you're out front, you can think all you want but the whole field can drop in behind you when it's too late to come to pit road and you're doomed. Whether he was looking. Whether his mind was made up to stay out there no matter what, it just happened in our favor this time. I wouldn't do it the same way as Bristol again."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
"I started losing my concentration about three-quarters of the way through the race. I don't think you physically get fatigued, but mentally you do because you're constantly thinking and watching. The car is like driving on ice on those tires, so it takes a tremendous amount of focus and concentration and I got upset that the car wasn't doing what I wanted it to. I was trying to drive it faster than it may have wanted to go and I got in the fence a little bit coming off of two over there. It was my fault. I needed to back up a little bit and not put myself in jeopardy of losing the race because we were leading at that point. I was thinking about that and got refocused. I knew I couldn't make anymore mistakes or I wasn't gonna be able to win or even finish in the top five. I almost feel like the track - nothing ever owes you - but I kind of feel like the track owes us a little bit. The first time Doug and I were here together - the first race that we were together - was here. We had a dominant car. I mean an unbelievable fast car. We led a lot of it and it was bottoming out a little bit coming off of turn two over there through the dip and it broke the flywheel. We ended up finishing 10th, but the thing was shaking so bad that you couldn't really drive it anymore. But that was a race we won't forget. The next race we came here we had a right-front tire problem. We had too much camber and kind of got us on that one, so we were excited to be able to come back here and win for sure."
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS SEASON COMPARED TO OTHERS?
"This isn't something that's happened overnight. We've been working on this program really, really hard for a year and a half. We've worked really hard in the wind tunnel. Our engines are way better. Our team has gotten better. Our pit stops are better. Our race savvy is better. I've learned a little bit about the race cars along the way. There are a lot of things that have turned around. If you look at this same question keeps coming up over and over. If you really look from the middle of the season on last year, we really ran about like we're running or close to it. We weren't quite there yet, but we've turned the corner. We finished fourth at Pocono, sixth at Indy, won Michigan, dominated Kansas and had that thing won and weren't gonna make it on fuel because we ended up third. We did the same thing at Homestead. We had some other brilliant runs in there as well - Bristol, we led a bunch of it and ended up finishing well, so we were there, but just weren't quite winning yet. By the end of the season, if the season would have had another 10 races, we probably would have won two or three more. I felt that's where our team was at and the level we were at at that point and we've gotten better over the winter."
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner
CAN YOU SIZE THESE GUYS UP?
"They're a perfect match for where they are. Doug is a seasoned crew chief. He's seen it all and done it all. He won't get confused by somebody that hasn't seen as much as him and provides direction. He's good natured enough that he does so in such a way that it doesn't rankle you. I'm not speaking for myself, I'm speaking for the driver and the car chief and the other guys he works with. It takes a while to put together the right group and to get them to where they work together well and that's finally happened. Last year was the first year of the new Taurus, that we hadn't had a change to since '97 that was an improvement. So we ghosted around and Greg and Doug did one kind of thing for a while and to start with it didn't look very good and then toward the end of the year it looked very good. It was almost the same paint job here, but we had to learn about the car at the same time we were learning how to work together speaking for these two. It all came together. When things don't go well a lot of times you cast around and make speculation on what's wrong and that can be a real distraction. We got all of that behind us by the middle of the year and then we were able to focus on it, but I'm really proud for Doug to be here. Doug was there with Earnhardt, Sr. when he won his first championship and I think he'll be here when Greg wins his if I'm able to keep it all together."
IT SEEMS YOUR LUCK HAS TURNED AROUND.
"It really has. I'm surprised that we weren't the one to get a flat tire instead of the 48, but it was the 48's luck to be the lucky dog on the caution to get his lap back. We were working on the race car. We pulled a spring rubber in the left-rear spring, which takes time on pit road, and we decided we were gonna do that now in the middle of the race, lose some spots on pit road, and work on our race car because we needed to get it better for the end of the race. Then later with 50 to go when we stopped, I think we were leading then, and we were adjusting on the tire pressure kind of, 'let's see what this does.' After the fact we probably shouldn't have been messing with it at that point because we knew it was down to our last stop and what we did made the car looser, so let's try this didn't work for us at that point. We would have ended up second, but it almost cost us a win. The car was just too loose then and it definitely, you can see how hard I run my car at the beginning of the run until the end of the run. I drove by the 9 and the 24 like I was towing a parachute with six laps to go and had a full straightaway on them in three laps. I just saved enough. They wanted to go up there and race their tires off. I knew we were gonna have to make that 50-lap run all the way to the end, so I paced myself. I wasn't fast enough to run the 12 down and stay with him on that very last run, but we were catching him two or three tenths a lap before the caution came out. We weren't gonna get to him, but, again, we had the fastest car, but it took considerable time for that to level out. I was just too loose and couldn't use the gas pedal and you've got to be able to do that to make 'em go."
DO YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT DEALING WITH THESE CARS?
"You have to deal with what's given to you. These are the tools that we're given to work with and we've got to do the best we can with them. The cars were very hard to drive tonight. They were really, really loose - weren't into the race track very good. I think if you asked a lot of the drivers they probably weren't very happy with the way their car drove. It was difficult and it was hard to race side-by-side. It was really hard to pass. You know what I didn't see tonight is I saw everybody giving everybody room going into the corner. There wasn't any side-by-side racing, really. There was some, but, gosh, you almost can't do it. The cars slide so much on the race track, especially after 10 laps, but it's a matter of managing your tires and managing what you can drive. You should have tape recorded after qualifying I said that same thing. Ryan Newman has a tremendous amount of car control and so does Kurt Busch and those are the guys that are gonna run well at a race track like this and there's Ryan leading the race toward the end. That's what it boils down to."
Continued in part 2