GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
DO YOU THINK BACK TO WHEN YOU HAD SOME HARD TIMES IN RACING AND MAYBE DIDN'T THINK YOU WOULD MAKE IT? "There were times when we first started Cup racing. It was a difficult time at Roush, I think, when we first started five teams. Obviously, our cars weren't as good as they needed to be. We didn't start out very good. We missed a couple races. I remember we missed the race at Las Vegas that first season, but we got our program turned around. And then in 2004 we got our cars going really, really well. We won a couple downforce races in 2004 - Michigan and Homestead - and kind of got going, but that 2003 season was kind of touch-and-go. It was pretty tough whether we were gonna be able to sustain and be competitive in that series or not."
DID YOU HAVE DOUBTS IF YOU COULD MAKE IT? "I wouldn't say real doubts because I felt like I had the ability and we had the stuff, we just needed to get it right. I was nervous about whether or not we were gonna make it or not, and then when we won those two races in '04, I felt pretty good that we were on our way. And then, of course, in '05 we won more races than anybody did in the Sprint Cup Series with six. Then we kind of solidified ourselves as a team, but in '03 it was tough."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW POINT SYSTEM? "I think the new point system, overall, will be good for the fans and good for the sport. It will be much more clearer and understanding. The thing I think about when I think about the points is it will be more confusing for me the first little bit, even though it's simplified, and I think for the media as well. When we talk about points, we're so used to knowing what 150 points means or 125. You just have that thing embedding in your brain, 'Oh, I'm 60 points out of being in fifth.' And you know what you need to do to make up those 60 points. Now you're gonna be, 'Oh, we're 19 points out.' You don't really have a clear picture. You know that's 19 spots - a fifth grader could figure that out - but what does it really mean, so it's gonna take a little bit to get used to that. We're used to saying 150 points separates the top six guys and now it's gonna be there are only 30 points separating these guys. Technically, it's the same amount of positions you need to make up, so I think it's gonna take a little bit of time for everybody to get used to what the number means. You've just got to get used to that, I think."
WILL THE HIT YOU TAKE FOR A DNF AND A BAD FINISH IN THIS SYSTEM CHANGE THE RACING AT ALL? "I don't think so. I don't think money, points - no matter what - impacts the racing. We all race for one thing and that's the best finish we can get on the race track. We all try and win - everybody does, or you have different goals. When you say your goal is to come out of here with a top-10 finish, it doesn't mean when you get 10th you go, 'OK, I've got 10th.' You try and get fifth, you try and get second, you try and win, you're trying the best you can. Really, I think we try and overanalyze or overcomplicate. People ask the age old question, 'Are you points racing?' Yes. I points race from now on the rest of my career because winning gets me the most points. It's simplified. The better finish you get, the more points you get."
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT JAMIE MCMURRAY THE REST OF THE WORLD DOESN'T? "I don't know that Jamie has anything mysterious about him. He's a good guy. He loves racing like all of us. I can't think of any one thing about him that stands out."
DID HE GET SCREWED AT ROUSH? "No, I don't think so. Look at David Ragan or any of the other guys. We struggled the last couple of years. I got seven top 10s in a row at the beginning of last year, but then after that we were horrible. We were just terrible until we got the help from RPM. That just flip-flopped our season. As soon as we went to their front suspension and their geometry and kind of a hybrid car, we went to Chicago and were doing really well. Carl got second and then a few weeks later we won. We went to Indy and got third. It was like that (snapping his fingers). It wasn't that we did that on purpose, it's just that our cars weren't that good."
JAMIE SAID HE THRIVED AT GANASSI LAST YEAR BECAUSE THEY TAILORED HIS CAR TO WHAT HE LIKED AND THAT WASN'T THE CASE AT ROUSH. HE FELT FORCED TO RUN A CERTAIN SPECIFIED SETUP. "Yeah, you face that in a big company. I can't go in there and say, 'You know what, let's try this other front suspension this week.' We've got our simulation models. We spend a lot of time and we're building a lot of cars for a lot of people. We build cars for across the street (RPM). We build the Wood Brothers cars. We build all of our cars, so when you have a two-car team like Ganassi does, you've got a group of guys in the shop, you don't have to go talk to the head of production to figure out when you can get a car fit in. You just go over to the fab shop and say, 'Cut this mount off and change it.' It's like going to the Ford assembly line and saying, 'Hey, I want to take this car and change this.' Well, they've got all the parts pre-made and it's not that easy. So, yeah, the bigger the organization, the bigger the factory, the less customization you can do."
DID HE HAVE A DIFFERENT STYLE THAN YOU, CARL AND MATT? "I wouldn't say that he really had a different style. I would just say that we were all terrible. I mean, how many races did Carl win the last two years, except for the last two races of the season? Zero. Carl didn't win any races. Matt didn't win any races. David didn't win any races. It's the first time in my career in the Cup series I didn't win a race, so Jamie wasn't gonna win either. In fact, he was the only one that did win - the restrictor plate race - so it wasn't that he had terrible stuff."
WOULD YOU HAVE TRADED YOUR SEASON AND MAKING THE CHASE FOR HIS SEASON IN WINNING THOSE BIG RACES? "No. I guess he's recognized right now for winning those races, but you look at, let's face it, when all of our critics look at who the top guys are, what do you look at? You look at the chase. Who won the Brickyard the year before? The year before that? The year before that?"
IS A CONTRACT YEAR MORE STRESSFUL THAN ANY OTHER? "Yeah, it does make it stressful depending on the situation you're in. My particular situation, 3M is very, very happy. We have a great relationship. They're happy with Roush. They're happy with our wins last year. They're happy with us making the chase every year because that's where you get the media coverage, you go to New York City, you go to Las Vegas and the banquet. You're on the stage at the biggest event and you're in all the news media print for being a top tier contender in the sport because you make the chase. They're happy with their program. Financially, the company is doing very well. They've been able to weather the storm similar to Ford, so I'm in a pretty good spot. Now, if it wasn't all rosy, green pastures, then I'd be concerned."
WHEN IS 3M UP? "3M is through this year, so we're working on an extension that I'll tell you I would say is looking very well."
WILL IT BE CONCURRENT WITH YOUR DEAL? "Our deal will be concurrent with Roush and 3M, yes."
DO YOU SEE CARL GOING ANYWHERE? "You look at '08 and everybody was looking at musical chairs. Everyone was looking at going. I was looking at maybe doing something different. I was looking at this or that or whatever else, and Tony moved and guys were moving all over. I don't see guys jumping all over the place now. We didn't see a lot of big moves. A lot of teams are ending up with four teams. Childress has four teams, Hendrick has four teams, Gibbs will probably have four teams sooner or later. We have four teams, so in order for you to go somewhere, somebody has to get kicked out, so it's not as easy as, 'Hey, maybe I'll go see what Hendrick has going,' because they don't have a spot. It's a little more difficult. The field is getting narrower with options."
PLUS SPONSORS ARE SHRINKING. "Right, so it's not so easy just to say, 'Hey, I'm going over here, over there or over there.' That's why I'm happy the position I'm in. 3M is relatively happy with their program. Their company is doing well, which makes a difference. Everybody is cutting back, but I don't think the program is getting cut. Maybe it's got to get cut back some, but I think I'm in a fairly good position."
ARE GUYS LIKE YOU AND MONTOYA AND CARL GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE LESS MONEY VERSUS THREE YEARS AGO? "Yes, a significant amount. I think it'll be a big adjustment for a lot of people. I think it's gonna be a significant amount just because I think sponsor programs are going down. A lot of us had some pretty rich deals in the heyday. It's gonna get reset, there's no doubt." SO YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT A PAY CUT? "I would think so just knowing the sponsor dollars are going down. The sponsor dollars go down, let's say, 40 percent or 35 percent. That's a significant number, so that's got to come from somewhere. It's gonna be cut back at the team for engineering, personnel, driver salaries, all the way down. We're gonna have to economize what we're doing to continue on."
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR NASCAR TO REGATHER MOMENTUM? "I look at it this way, it's not necessarily for NASCAR to regain the momentum. NASCAR has a good product. Here's the thing, I'm not a financial analyst, but I know when everybody else was falling off the face of the earth and business was down 40-50 percent, all this doomsday talk is another six months ahead, we were only down 10-11 percent as a sport. We sustained way better than a lot of people did. A lot of industries fell apart around us. The car companies went bankrupt and we dropped only 10-11 percent, so we're still catching up with what the ground around us, so to speak. I think when the price gets discounted down a little bit, then all of the pricing comes down. There are sponsors out there. Our sponsor is excited with NASCAR, excited with the program, but we just can't charge them what we were able to charge three or four years ago because the guys dropped the price. If the guy mowing your lawn sees four guys drop their price from $100 to $50, then you can't charge $100 anymore because nobody is gonna pay you. You've got to get competitive and that's happened everywhere."
WHAT'S THE TIMEFRAME FOR YOUR CONTRACT? "I honestly feel like our contract will be done in the first quarter of this year. I suspect it'll be done maybe as soon as the break - four races in or something like that. I think we're close. I feel like we're close, and I think it's gonna surprise a lot of people."
IS IT A DISTRACTION AT ALL FOR YOU? "No, not for me."
WHAT IS GOING TO SURPRISE PEOPLE? "I think when we get this deal done, I think it will set a pretty decent mark in our sport for what's going on."
HOW LONG OF A TERM DO YOU WANT? "Most deals in NASCAR are two-three years, so I think we'll be somewhere in there."
WHAT IS GOING TO BE SURPRISING ABOUT THIS DEAL? "I think the term of our deal."
HOW SO? "If it all works out right, I think it'll be a pretty good term of a contract considering the climate right now. I'm talking about the term, the length."
SO INSTEAD OF 2-3, IT COULD BE 5-6 YEARS? "I think if you're talking four years, that's a long time for a company to sign up right now, and a driver and a team. We're sitting here talking about economics. I just don't know how our deal is gonna flush out. We'll see when we get to the altar, but I think it's gonna be a good deal."
SO YOU WON'T BE AROUND LONG ENOUGH FOR OTHER TEAMS TO GET IN A BIDDING WAR? "Yeah, and to be perfectly honest with you, the sport goes in cycles. Our cars are good right now. We won a couple races last year. I don't have a high interest level in leaving Roush Fenway and going somewhere else right now. I really, really don't. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. And the other thing we're talking about is where are you gonna go? You gonna go start a brand new team at Gibbs. Where else would you go? Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress, who are the other players that have spots? None of them have spots is what I'm saying."
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOUR ORGANIZATION CAN START 2011 THE WAY YOU FINISHED 2010? "I'm real confident. For some reason, we do very well at the beginning of the year. Last year, we had six or seven top 10s in a row and our cars were terrible. To be perfectly honest with you. Our simulation wasn't good, Jack has talked about that. In the middle of the year we finally flipped over a new leaf and from Chicago on it was a different season. If you look at our season pre-Chicago and post-Chicago, it's remarkable. That's the way we finished the season. We went home, did some homework, made our cars better and lighter and we're coming back to the game. I think we're gonna be pretty damn good, considering we're pretty good the first half of the year anyway. I think it's gonna be good. I don't see why our team won't win four races this season - the 16 team. We won two last year, had Texas won and the shifter broke, and we were right there on a handful of other, so it wouldn't be out of the question for us to win two to four races, I don't think."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE PUTTING PRESSURE ON HENDRICK AND THIS WILL BE A MORE COMPETITIVE YEAR OVERALL? "Yeah, and basically what we're doing is we're putting pressure on Hendrick because they've been the leader. What Childress did last year and us coming up with four wins, I'm thinking we're gonna start even better this season, and Gibbs is always right there. Yeah, it's four tough teams and there are other two-car teams - Stewart Haas - that we're not talking about. Ryan and Tony, just because they're not a four-car team, we kind of left them out of the mix. They're right there."
HENDRICK STILL SEEMS TO HOIST THE TROPHY AT THE END OF THE YEAR. "Last year it didn't look easy for them. It was a little touch-and-go there, and as we continue to close in on that, I really think that it's gonna get tougher."
DID THEY SHOW SIGNS OF VULNERABILITY? "They showed signs, but they were able to pull it together, that's obvious, but in my opinion they showed signs. They can't get their car to go very good. They didn't qualify well. Look at all those races, they were qualifying not where they normally qualify. It wasn't all rosy. They were able to work through them because that's a four-time, five-time championship-caliber team, but there were signs of the wheels coming off that thing."
PERSONNEL ISSUES AT TEXAS WITH THE PIT CREW? "Yeah, I don't quite understand that whole thing there."
WHEN YOU HEAR HENDRICK RENTS CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOR PIT CREW PRACTICE, WHAT DOES THAT SAY TO YOU? "I don't know if we have plans to do that, but that's why they've won five championships in a row."
IT SEEMS THEY TOOK EXTREME MEASURES AT THE END BY SWAPPING TEAMS. "That's what you have to do to win championships. I think that's being proactive, too. That's being a team that's saying, 'We're gonna continue to be the leader of this sport and if we are, we have to continue to make changes or do whatever we have to do to stay ahead of our competition.'"
DO YOU HAVE TO RESPOND IN KIND? "I don't run that part of the company. I don't think that Jimmy and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark are making those decisions. I think it would be the management saying, 'Wow, those guys are over at Charlotte Motor Speedway doing this fire drill. Maybe we should think about it.' It's not my position to go in there and sit down and say, 'Hey, did you guys know Hendrick is doing this?' I don't feel like it's my position. I feel like that's Robbie Reiser's job or whoever the head pit crew guy is or Jack or Steve Newmark."
YOU CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. "Yeah, I'm gonna focus on my car, (Greg) Erwin, my team - all the things I can. I can't run that company."
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO COME HERE NOW AND DRIVE ON THIS TRACK VERSUS A YEAR AGO? "It's awesome. I want to shake the guys' hands that put the paving down and did the grating because you think what we do out on the race track, I'm a novice equipment operator. I have fun doing it and digging dirt, but you think what we do is hard, you look at what those guys have done - how big of an area they paved and grating it and getting it all perfect and right with no seams. It's an amazing thing they've done here, Talladega, Charlotte. It's pretty amazing. I have a lot of respect for the people that put the surface out there, on top of it being pretty neat. It's gonna be fun to race on. The great thing that I'm kind of excited about is that nobody has an idea of what it's gonna be like - none of us. I don't have a clue. I've never drafted on it. I have no idea what to expect."
SIMILAR TO TALLADEGA? "A little bit, but Talladega wasn't real wavy. It didn't have big bumps. It was rough because the pavement had separated, but Talladega was always a little bit different and always in its own category. Here, you had to come out of the gas. The car would slide. All kinds of stuff is happening and now it doesn't. Now how is that gonna make it different."
WHERE WAS IT THE HAIRIEST BEFORE? "Probably off two. The car wanted to get sideways all the time off of turn two. The track surface got so bad that on a single car run it would almost get sideways in the middle of the corner. The bump in two and the track just didn't have the grip."
WAS IT WHERE THE POTHOLE WAS? "What happened was it had waves in it and the car would hit the ground. The car would sit there and pound the race track until it knocked it loose. It like if you go to break up a piece of concrete, we're each gonna take a swing with a sledgehammer. What do you think with a car when the splitter hits the ground - 43 of them every lap just pounding that thing and it finally came apart. It finally said, 'I give up.' It was a matter of time and now that's gone."
DO YOU FEEL A BUMP IN THREE? "There are some small bumps around the race track. They're like seams or small bumps, but a bump is different than a wave. I've only gone over it by myself, so when you're in a pack it may bump the car up a little bit. I don't claim to know a lot about surfaces and how they hold up, but I do think that a bump will continue to get bigger and bigger over time - kind of like a washboard, when you go up it the moment it starts to bounce it digs and makes the hump higher as it goes. I think a bump is the same way."
ON THE OLD SURFACE. "Everybody should have went around that thing in the pace car before they paved it. You'd take people for a ride and you're like 'What is going on.'"
-source: ford racing