Daytona 500: Biffle/Roush qualifying press conference

GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Jackson Hewitt/National Guard Taurus JACK ROUSH - Car Owner Pole-winning press conference BIFFLE: WHAT ABOUT THE PRESTIGE FACTOR OF BEING ON THE POLE? "I don't think it's set in yet. The more you talk about leading the...

GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Jackson Hewitt/National Guard Taurus
JACK ROUSH - Car Owner
Pole-winning press conference

BIFFLE:

WHAT ABOUT THE PRESTIGE FACTOR OF BEING ON THE POLE? "I don't think it's set in yet. The more you talk about leading the field to the green for the Daytona 500, it's kind of coming to be real. It's hard to explain how far the 16 team has come since last year. These guys have worked really, really hard. We've got some new sponsors on board this year. The National Guard and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, but it's the same team that's back. I've worked really hard over the winter and Doug has worked really hard and I'm just proud of them. They're the ones that deserve the credit for this car being on the pole. The driver does not do a whole lot to be on the pole here at Daytona and I'm so proud of that 16 for what they have done and the car they've given me to drive here. It's pretty exciting."

ROUSH

WHAT ABOUT TODAY? "Greg has brought Roush Racing the Truck championship and the Busch championship, which were the first two championships that we've had and, of course, winning the Firecracker race last July was the first time we had won here in a stock car. Ford gave us all the technical support we could have asked for this winter. NASCAR gave us a new set of templates for a new Taurus body. We've got a new cylinder head, which we don't have in our car yet and that's going to give us some relief on our engine. With the momentum we had coming off of Matt Kenseth's win with DeWalt last year, I'm really excited about the year going forward. I hadn't expected to be under the limelight here with Greg at this juncture a week before the race. The idea of having the pole, I'd never given it a consideration."

BIFFLE

YOU BORROWED A CAR FROM A TEAMMATE TO MAKE THIS RACE LAST YEAR, DIDN'T YOU? "Yeah, that was the way our season started. Our first year full time in Winston Cup we had to borrow a car from the DeWalt team because the two we had built weren't fast enough. That car qualified the best of the Roush cars last year here and ran up front at Talladega with it and then won here in July, so that turned out to be a really good car. We went on to combine the chassis and body things together on the 6, the 99 and the 16 team. We consolidated that race shop together. All of the cars are the same coming out of that shop now - at least everybody is touching the same part of the car. That's why we decided to build all new cars to come back here or technically new bodies. This chassis is not new. It's actually one of Mark's backup cars from a few years back or last year, I'm not sure which, but it's got a new body on it. The guys have just worked really hard and I'm excited to bring back a really good piece like this. It's just all the hard work they've done. We're better prepared this year being a second-year team and we've got Bobby (Bakeeff) as the car chief off the 17 team. He came over this winter to be our car chief with Doug on the 16, so we've got some in-house promotion of people going on. Everything is going good for us right now. I would have never thought we'd be on the pole for the 500 but I'm excited."

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES FROM QUALIFYING TO RACE TRIM WITH THIS CAR? "Actually, I know we've got a little work ahead of us. This car, I did not really like in drafting trim when we were down here in preseason testing. Although it was fairly fast in qualifying trim, I didn't really care for the way it drove. It was kind of loose. We've made some adjustments on it and didn't have it like I wanted when we left here. Yet, we only did two hours of drafting, so I'm anxious to see what it's gonna be like. I can't predict right now how the car is gonna be, but you can tell there's a difference with the tires. I watched the Bud Shootout and it looks like it was an awesome race - lots of action - so I can't wait for that. I can't wait for happy hour and the 125s to see how this car acts around a bunch of other cars. As long as it's not loose like the 19 car was, which is what I'm a little afraid of right now, we'll be in good shape."

DOES THIS GIVE MORE CREDIBILITY TO WHAT YOU DID IN JULY? "I think so. It kind of makes a little bit of a statement. They need to look at the race a little bit better last year and see who was up front leading. It was the 18, the 16 and the 5. We were out in front of all those DEI cars for a little bit of the race, so, yeah, this says something for us. It says that Roush's restrictor plate program has come a long ways in the last two years. Considering I didn't make the race in 2002 with a blown up engine in the 125s to now sitting on the pole for the 500 is pretty exciting."

HOW DO YOU LIKE BEING THE FOX INSTEAD OF THE HOUND? "Yeah, I like that. It's kind of neat. I can't wait for that green flag on the 125s and that 500. It'll be something else. I thought we'd come down here with an opportunity. Certainly everybody has a fair chance at winning the 500 and I thought that we had an opportunity to win it. I never thought I'd have an opportunity to sit on the pole, but now my chances of winning the 500 are extremely better than they were."

IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE REALLY NERVOUS ABOUT GETTING THIS POLE. DOES THIS MEAN MUCH MORE? "Yeah, I was sweating it out. I'm still half-sick to my stomach from watching the rest of those cars go. Yeah, this pole means a lot. This isn't like winning the 500, certainly, but this is the biggest pole of the season, if you can say that. Winning this pole here is more prestigious than anywhere else throughout the season. I really wanted to start our season out this way and having an opportunity to be there I was just sweating it even worse. At Richmond I was nervous about whether I was gonna get beat and the same with Watkins Glen when I got beat by just a tiny bit. But here I was way more nervous than that because of the prestige that goes along with being at Daytona."

ROUSH

DO YOU THINK THE OTHER MAKES WILL COMPLAIN AND, IF SO, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR RESPONSE? "I expect that the other manufacturers will make their best appeal as Ford would. This new Taurus that we've got now is the first relief we've had in templates that has let us improve ourselves since '97. In the meantime, there has been a couple of Chevrolets and a new Pontiac and the Dodge has been revised twice. Every year the Ford - since '97 until this year - got a new set of templates which made it go slower. This is the first time we've had any relief and I think it's time. Last year, people looked at Matt's championship and said we kind of tapered off to it, but when we started the year last year we had everything that we had the prospect of being able to do performance-wise. The Chevrolets and Dodges got better throughout the year, so we've got some relief for our engine, which we haven't had since '92 and we got some relief for our body, which we hadn't since '97. There will be some complaints, but the Ford teams are good race teams and they're well driven with good drivers and good crew chiefs and we should be better. Last year, I think the Fords only had two poles for the entire year and maybe only one (actually three). The Roush bunch didn't have a single pole, so that was an indication that things weren't balanced evenly. I think we'll do better with that, but I do expect some criticism."

BIFFLE

DID YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THIS RACE GROWING UP IN WASHINGTON AND WAS THE FIRST TIME HERE WHEN YOU WERE A DRIVER? "No, the first time I was here was as a driver, but I always watched this race - always. We had a Daytona 500 party every year and would get together and watch it because we're getting ready for our season to start out there. The season doesn't start until April, but I always watched this race. I never could afford to make the trip back here, let alone if I spent the money to come here that was at least three or four sets of tires or another set of headers I could have bought for my race car. Secondly, I probably didn't have the time off of work to be able to come back here. We were trying to get ready for the season building new cars, so that's probably why I never came back and watched a race. But '98 was the first time here in the Truck Series when I got the opportunity."

WHAT STOOD OUT ABOUT THAT FIRST TIME HERE? "Going down the backstretch with Kurt Busch having my wheels off the ground was quite an experience in the trucks here, but it was neat to make that first lap around Daytona in a truck. We came here and tested unrestricted. I don't remember how fast we ran, but it was fast. It was really fast. I think it was '99 the first year the trucks came here, but it was kind of neat to be able to come here for the first time. I was so excited when they announced on that schedule that we were going to Daytona in the trucks. That was kind of cool."

ROUSH

"I've been coming to Daytona since 1984 with sports cars and then, of course, I started with my Winston Cup cars in 1988. I've already won seven or eight times at Daytona in various IMSA and SCCA classes before I came with the stock cars. I had never come to Daytona before 1988 when I didn't take a checkered flag and I generally had a pole, but I've been snakebit. Until Greg won the Firecracker last year, I had been snakebit with the stock cars. It seemed easy with the sports cars and it seemed an unachievable goal with the stock cars. We have got a chance to be a factor in the 500 as never before this year and I'm really excited about it."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE IN ENGINE POWER FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR? "Robert and I put our engine programs together on the 27th of November and shortly after that we sent an engine from Michigan down to North Carolina. When they ran the first engine, they found that the engine we ran at Talladega was two horsepower less than the engine they ran at Talladega. They were surprised to find they were so close. We put a number of their parts on the outside of the engine and I'm not gonna say which ones, but some parts that bolt to the engine and are accessories to the engine, and it made a four-horsepower better package than they had seen and a six-horsepower package better than I had seen. From that point until now the winter has been an Easter egg hunt. We've been taking things apart and seeing how they work and just putting the best of both together. There have been a lot of things that I hadn't thought about that I saw that they had done very well and, to their surprise, a number of things they saw that the Roush guys had done better than they had thought. That has manifested itself in a bigger gain in our engines than I have had from one year to the next and I think than they've had, so we're way ahead of where we were last year."

CAN YOU RELATE HOW IT USED TO BE BETWEEN YOU AND ROBERT? "I certainly had respect for him and I hope he had respect for me, but from the beginning of the racing season, which would be Daytona, until the end which used to be Atlanta, we wouldn't talk to one another. We wouldn't acknowledge one another. We wouldn't have eye contact. We wouldn't shake hands. By all mean, we wouldn't wish one another good luck. We were struggling and competing for the same bit of support that Ford would give somebody. We wanted to have as much of it as we could and we competed on the race tracks because we had very similar hardware. It was kind of a sibling rivalry thing that Ford saw was a problem. If they invested money on a development program with Robert, they wouldn't share it with me and if they invested with me, I insisted they wouldn't give it to Robert. With looking at what Dodge is doing and looking at the way the Chevrolet programs work and what the other manufacturers coming are gonna do by reputation and the plans they've made, it was clear the way Robert and I had been conducting our affairs was not gonna work. Ford said, 'Why don't you guys cooperate.' I offered to share an engine and he tapped me on the shoulder at Atlanta and said, 'Hey, I know you're getting ready to build a shop in North Carolina. Why don't you buy half of mine and you won't have to build a new shop.' So we're 50-50 partners to the dirt right now and we're committed to go down the road. Our race teams are gonna run closer together than the could have otherwise. What I see is a modern day reincarnation of the Holman-Moody kind of concept around Ford."

DID YOU TAKE A WIND MEASUREMENT BEFORE GREG LEFT TO QUALIFY? "Yes. A wind measurement was taken and what was the wind?"

BIFFLE

"I don't know. Our team engineer was keeping track of the wind and he knew that after we had qualified that the wind had picked up a little bit. When the 41 car qualified, it was the least it had been since after I qualified, which still wasn't as calm. So the wind increased after I qualified by a little bit gradually and consistently stayed a little bit more."

SADLER SAID HIS WAS 19. "I think when we went out, I don't know for sure, but I think most of the wind I saw was 11 miles an hour gusting to 18. Then it was 12 gusting to 20 for most all of the rest of the guys. I think ours was 10 or 11 gusting to 17 when we went."

IS YOUR MIND ALREADY ON THE LAST SEASON STRETCH? "No, it isn't. They start scoring the points here next Sunday. We're thinking about that already. We want to make the top 10 in points and that's where our focus is - to have a chance to win the title this year. We think we can do it. We think our 16 team is capable of it. Certainly starting out like this I feel that they are and I'm gonna try to do the best I can as a driver to try to position myself to be there at the end."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch