Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, will be embarking on his first season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series after winning the NASCAR Busch Series championship last year. Biffle will be the fifth Roush Racing entry in 2003 and a ...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, will be embarking on his first season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series after winning the NASCAR Busch Series championship last year. Biffle will be the fifth Roush Racing entry in 2003 and a contender for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Grainger Taurus:
HOW HAS TESTING GONE SO FAR? "If anybody's seen the speed chart, things aren't going too hot for us. It's pretty discouraging. It's the most frustrating thing that we can ever do is come to restrictor plate races where we don't understand everything. It's the first time we've done it in a Winston Cup configuration and they're a fair amount different than the Busch car. We've been scrambling trying to get in a new shop and really haven't spent enough time on our superspeedway cars - polishing on them and making sure they're perfect and optimizing everything we can. Being the first time here, we don't know how much travel we're gonna get - a lot of stupid things that you've had to have been here in the past to understand and then build your car to that. So we're off a pretty significant amount. We may end up looking to our teammates to maybe borrow a car or something to bring back when it comes time."
HAS THE TEAM PINPOINTED ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR? "That's the most frustrating thing right there. If you know the problem, you can fix it. We've done about everything we can think of with the car. We've cut the front fenders, moved 'em, cut both sides clear off, cut the right-side off again and moved that. We moved the rear axle housing, tried different front springs and shocks and different car attitudes and the car goes the same speed - slow. It's like something mechanically is wrong and it's just a wall. It will not go any faster no matter what we've done and that's pretty frustrating. You do a bunch of changes, we've brainstormed a bunch of stuff, cut it up and changed it all around, and then you go out on the race track and it runs the same speed. Boy, that's frustrating. We're working hard. The guys are working their guts out over there trying to make it better and, hopefully, we've got another half-a-day to try and come up with some things. Everytime we talk about something we think we come up with a good idea. It's got to be something obvious or major to be a second off, but nothing produces speed. We'll keep working on it."
THIS WON'T AFFECT YOUR MINDSET FOR OTHER TESTS LIKE VEGAS WILL IT? "You've got to have the right mindset and I do when I come to restrictor plate tracks. I don't personally necessarily enjoy restrictor plate racing that much. It's kind of a frustrating thing for the teams, just like what we're experiencing here. There's a lot of difficult and tedious work involved. I'm excited to get to Rockingham, Las Vegas and all the rest of the race tracks. I'm real excited to go there. Roush, predominately, hasn't been dominant ever at a restrictor plate type track. They've been mediocre, but not ever like Childress or DEI. The 40 car was pretty fast, but never been real, real good. They've always been in the hunt. Kurt's run exceptionally well, but he's put himself in position in the draft and things like that. Once the green flag flies, the car doesn't need to be nearly as good to hang out in the top 15. But getting in, you're the only car out there. You're by yourself and you've got to have a car that's slippery through the air. The wheels have to roll real free and everything's got to be just perfect to get a fast enough lap to get in the race."
WERE YOU ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT THE THREE ROUSH CARS LEARNED LAST WEEK? "I haven't been at the shop as much as I would like to have been lately, so I don't know everything that's gone on. It appears that we've kind of gone off on our own a little bit - not real far out of the box - but there are a few things I see with our car that's different than Mark's. The thing is our car blows pretty good in the wind tunnel and that's what's fooling us. It's blowing within three horsepower and three counts of drag of the other cars. On the chassis dyno it made one more horsepower than Mark's car that's here, which is as close as you can virtually get 'em. We've got identical power and only maybe three horsepower drag difference in the wind tunnel and the car is a full second slower. So there is something obvious that's wrong. The wind tunnel doesn't always tell the truth when it gets real close to the ground or under a car because the road isn't moving underneath the car. The wind is just blowing across it and it's stationary, so under car dynamics play a big role and that finishes the part of the puzzle that the wind tunnel doesn't finish when you're at the race track. So you can blow 'em in the tunnel and run 'em on the chassis dyno and say they're identical, but then bring 'em to the track and they're a full second different like we're seeing. So a lot of it is under the car. The wheel well, what's inside those, and things like that."
WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO HAVE TEAMMATES TO WORK WITH? "It's gonna mean a lot. We're with the 99 and 6 cars and we're able to kind of keep tabs on what they're doing. We're really trying to model after what the 97, the 17 and the 6 did. The 99 was up and down and they've got a new crew chief and are changing a lot, so we want to try to stay with the three teams that were real consistent last year. That's our best effort, so we're trying to focus and copy everything they have and make our stuff as good as we can based off of what they've done. We are trying to take advantage of everything, but we tried to incorporate some of our Busch restrictor plate stuff on this car as far as the height of the frame rails and we knew how much travel we got with the Busch car and the Winston Cup is not getting as much travel. The main reason why is that I think we miscalculated the fact that this car doesn't have tie-down shocks like the Busch car does, so the Busch car sees two more inches of rear travel than these cars do because the shocks get it to pull down. So, long story short, our frame rails are a little high. We thought we weren't gonna outsmart our teammates, but we did some stuff off of past experience, which is OK, but that past experience was Busch and not Winston Cup. That's hurt us a little bit, but when it comes to Vegas and all the others, we're pretty much following suit with everybody else." SO THE CAR IS RIDING TOO HIGH IN THE AIR? "Yeah, and it makes a difference how high all the components are off the ground, too. So I'm starting to think that's more of what some of the problems are and that's major reconstruction. That's stuff you can't fix on this car, you've got to build a new car. It's like you just push that one aside and build a new car."
CAN YOU EVALUATE THE ROOKIE CLASS? "I'm really looking forward to it. The guys that are in that rookie class are gonna be some good contenders. I've got a little bit more experience than some of 'em coming in. Some of the guys might be in a little bit better situation as far as different teams and people, so I think it's gonna be a good race between the six of us. It's gonna be exciting. I enjoy racing. It's kind of a different race altogether versus where you're at in points and all that. Right at this point I'm a little bit nervous about making the 500, which, certainly, if you miss a race can weigh heavy on the points - the rookie points and driver points. I'm pretty excited about it. I knew who the people were gonna be coming in. McMurray and Sprague will probably be the biggest factors at this point, but we'll see."
YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN ALL THREE DIVISIONS. "Yeah, I'd enjoy that. That's one of my goals is to win that. Like I said, I'm a little bit nervous right now whether or not we're gonna get in the 500, but, yeah, that's definitely my goal. I've won two championships and been doing this for five years with the same crew chief and same team owner and that consistency, I think, will help me whereas McMurray is with a new team and some of the other guys are with new teams like we are. We've got all new guys that have not raced in Winston Cup before and that plays a big role, but I think knowledge and wisdom sometimes plays a better role. Like Mark or Jarrett, you see those guys being a lot more consistent than the rookies are and I kind of feel that way. I raced seven races last year and I feel pretty comfortable coming in that we're gonna run fairly consistent. I'm excited about my teammates and the way they ran, so if I can kind of peek at their notes and try to follow them and do what they do, I think I'll be OK."
ARE YOU MENTALLY PREPARED FOR THE UPS AND DOWNS? "Exactly. The five years I've got doing this has taught me a lot. I told Jason Keller last year that I learned more about points racing and all that when I lost the championship by eight points in the Truck Series than I learned winning the championship. Everybody last year compared the same thing. 'Well, you've won a championship and you know what the pressure is like,' and I said that I learned more by losing one by eight points than I did by winning one by 250. So I know exactly what it's like, the pressure and not making mistakes - not letting the pressure get to you. That's really important. You've got to keep your head on straight. Even if you miss this race and you go to Rockingham and you miss that race, you've got to stay focussed and be positive because anything can happen to you. As long as you keep upbeat about it and stay focussed, you'll be OK."
DO THE FIRST FIVE RACES SET THE TONE FOR THE YEAR? "Yeah, I'd like to get some points under my belt those first five so I have some provisionals in case we have a problem qualifying or spin out or an engine failure qualifying. Anything like that can happen, so you want to try and cautiously get in the first four or five races and try and get a decent, conservative finish and try to learn something about these cars and the races. I ran the seven races last year and that helped me a bunch. I learned a tremendous amount and I'm hoping to continue that over this year."
WHAT ABOUT THE 36-RACE SEASON? "It will be the longest season I've ever had. Last year got busy for me. My weekends off in the Busch Series I ended up running Winston Cup races, so I kind of did that same stretch last year and it is a busy time of the year. I was hoping to run a 15-race Busch deal this year, but I haven't been able to produce anything yet. I might start go knocking on doors to see if I can't find something to drive, but I'm looking forward to it. I want to drive every week and I'm gonna do it while I'm young. Then I'm gonna quit and watch everybody else do it when I'm old."