Homestead: Biffle - Ford Friday interview

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has been quite successful at Homestead-Miami Speedway over the years, winning three straight Ford 400s from 2004-2006. Biffle heads into Sunday's race in third place in the 2008 Sprint Cup ...

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has been quite successful at Homestead-Miami Speedway over the years, winning three straight Ford 400s from 2004-2006. Biffle heads into Sunday's race in third place in the 2008 Sprint Cup standings.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO THIS WEEKEND? "Well, I know nobody's going to ask me how I'm going to catch the 48. That's good. That's not good, but I guess that's out of the question. We've got a great track record here the last four years -- last year not as good as we wanted to be. I feel like this morning's practice we started off a little bit, but we got much better before we switched to qualifying. In qualifying trim we were running good. So, I know we didn't end up very fast on the speed chart -- the last run I got tight off four and came out of the gas, but it looked like it was a top-three or -four lap for qualifying, so as long as I came make a good qualifying lap when it counts, it looks like we'll be able to start in the top-10, and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to win a fourth race here in just five tries. So, hopefully, that's the case. In any event, trying to catch Carl for second place in the points. The position we're in, we'd like to finish up second in points like we did in '05, I guess."

DO YOU FINISH THE SEASON FEELING GOOD ABOUT THE YEAR OR LIKE IT IS ONE THAT GOT AWAY? "As of right now, yes, I kind of feel like it was a good year. I can't really say like I feel like it got away. We ran extremely well, but we never did get in the lead. I don't know I that would've made a difference for me, but two wins and a third to start the Chase out was spectacular for us. So, we're really excited about that. We've got a little bit of homework to do. Martinsville was one of our wild-card races for us as a team. We went there and finished 12th. We felt like that was acceptable, a satisfactory grade for what could happen at Martinsville. The ones we were disappointed about, or personally I'm disappointed about, is Charlotte. We finished seventh at Charlotte, felt like we had two second-place finishes, back-to-back, in the spring, and also Atlanta. We didn't finish up where we wanted to. That was kind of unfortunate. Phoenix last week, we had a great car. We probably ran, average ran faster laps than the whole field, if you averaged them all out, but we just never got track position, we never did get up there to race with those guys. We were within 20 car lengths of passing Carl [Edwards] when the green-flag pit-cycle came. That was as high as we got the whole day. We ended up staying out probably longer than we should've, but we stayed out, led a lap, we stayed out 12 more laps, and then when we pitted, he'd gained almost half a track on us from having new tires. So, you look back at some of the things -- it's easy to Monday morning quarterback, and say, 'Oh, well, we're going to do this different and that different,' but, overall I think we had a great Chase. Look at us: We're third in points, nobody evened considered us as making a title run before the Chase starting, and I think we came out with two wins and a third and still have run strong everywhere. I think that that's a pretty good statement. I think we only have two, I don't know, I think two finishes out of the top-10 is all -- or three, including Talladega, but, right there, 11th and 12th. So, 12th place as our worst finish that wasn't a wreck, that's not too bad."

EVEN THOUGH YOU STARTED THE CHASE SO WELL? "I felt like when we were the second race in, third race in, I felt like, yeah, we've got a solid chance at this title. And then every week it just slipped a further away. Every single week, we feel from there in the points, never did gain from there on out.

"So, the picture started looking grimmer from the third week in. We go to Talladega and get in a big wreck, and it takes a lot of wind out of your sails when that happens. That's a big deficit to overcome, we just never, never overcame that. It was 125 points, or something like that. If it wasn't for that race, we'd still have a shot at the title right now -- which, we'd still be a long shot, by any stretch of the imagination, but we'd still have an opportunity at it. We'll just, hopefully, next year, make the Chase again. If we're fortunate enough to, as a team we feel like we can, and then just get through Talladega, because we feel like we're competitive enough at all these places that if we can raise our bar a little bit as a team, we'll certainly be there."

ON THE DIFFICULTY OF JIMMIE JOHNSON POSSIBLY WINNING THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW, SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED JUST ONCE BEFORE IN THE SERIES. "Certainly, they've done a good job at learning from the past. Technically, you learn from your mistakes, if you will. And those guys have been constantly learning, constantly getting better, and that's what you need to do as a team and organization to stay competitive. If you finish seventh, you're not happy with that, you're like, 'How can we do better?' And that's exactly what we're going to do next year -- we're going to build on that 12th-place finish at Martinsville that wasn't good enough. So, we're going to build on that, and that's what they've been able to do."

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO NO TESTING AT NASCAR TRACKS IN 2009? "I think it's a really good thing for our sport right now. Certainly, that's a quick reaction on NASCAR's part that we are going to be facing some serious economic times. There's no doubt that that's what we're facing. The auto industry is on big trouble, the financial industry meltdown -- just all kinds of things all across the board. It's unfortunate for all of the teams and organizations that were not going to be able to go test. As far as the drivers and the crew guys are considered, that obviously it's going to save a tremendous amount of money, it's going to save a lot of money. Unfortunately, with saving money or cutting back, comes jobs. That's the downside to some of this. If you're not going to be testing and you're not going to be doing as much testing, then sometimes you don't need as many items to do that with. But, I think that's going to be great for our sport. I think it's good that NASCAR's reacting to these economic times, the economy, and it's going to be able to save the teams a tremendous amount of money because the budgets are going to be tightening up, and I think it's totally the right thing to do, 100 percent."

WHAT HAS THE 48 TEAM BEEN ABLE TO DO THE LAST THREE YEARS IN REGARDS TO PEAKING IN THE LAST 10 RACES? "I don't necessarily think that that's exactly the way it is because they've been competitive all across -- he came into the Chase with five wins. But, at the same time, you re-focus yourself as a team when the Chase starts that 'we've got to be perfect all these races,' and everybody is conscious of it and everybody gives 110 percent effort and they were giving 105 percent effort throughout the season. It's just the emphasis on the those 10 just to be focused. It's not drastically different, it's not like they're getting lucky, it's not like they had an up-and-down regular season and then all of a sudden, bang, they're perfect. They're pretty dang good when they're not in the Chase."

THE WEATHER IS EXPECTED TO CHANGE QUITE A BIT THIS WEEKEND. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT? "Certainly, it's going to make a difference in the grip of the race track and we'll welcome a little bit of the cool temperature and the little bit lower humidity because the car will run a little bit better, the race track will have a little bit better grip, and it'll be a little more comfortable for our fans and for us. I know it's not going to be a big difference, but that does create a little bit more grip in the race car when the temperature's down a little bit. So, it'll make a little better speed."

ON RACING IN THE CHASE. "I really feel like I did. I started doing things a little bit different, just to really focus in on what we needed to do for these 10 races. It's the way you have your normal week, I just thought a little bit different about it, I made sure that I was in contact with Greg [Erwin, crew chief], I made sure that I did stuff a little bit differently, and was just really ready, focused, aware of where we were going, 'what can I do to be better?' All of those things, because I wanted to put up the 10 best races that I could. If you look at our performance in the Chase, it shows. It shows. We were definitely better in the Chase than we were the first 26 -- a lot better, I think. We're sitting third in points, right now, a fair amount over fourth, fifth on back. That shows how well we've run for those 10 races. Now, we understand that needs to be better to win the title. But I think if we can continue to build on where we're at, if we can run next season like we are now, and get better and better next year, hopefully we'll put up a little better fight in the Chase. Maybe a couple of more wins -- I know we have two, but maybe we come into the Chase with two and maybe we win two or three in the Chase, would be a success for us next year, and be a little closer."

MORE ON THE CHASE. "I've thought about what we needed to do -- and a lot of things. Just a lot small things. Just the extra mile, you've got to go the extra mile to be solid in this sport. Everybody keeps raising the bar, everybody keeps getting better and better, and you've got to figure out a way to be the best."

ON THE SPORT GROWING SO BIG AND NOW FACING A STRUGGLING ECONOMY. HOW DID THE SPORT GET TO WHERE IT'S AT TODAY? "That's a good question, and I think what has happened, I'm not certain, I've been paying a little closer attention to it because I've seen my retirement account down, just like everyone else's has. I've been paying attention to all the things, all the economic things, and what I see is that it's not our sport, it's every single thing -- Lehman Brothers, the other places getting leveraged out to 40 to 1, and then the banks and then bad mortgages and the price of real estate went up and up and up and up. It did around the lake in Mooresville. It did everywhere, everywhere, across the United States. Everywhere. And that happened was it was spend, spend, spend and everything was just wide-open until the dam could not hold any more water. So, the dam starting leaking and then it started carving out and then it got worse and worse and worse, so it's not just our sport. Our sport simply followed the trend that I see everywhere -- the sub-prime mortgage, everything. People were just over-spending -- not necessarily over-spending, they were spending everything they could, and you get to where you try to figure out how you can be better every single week. And some of that is bumping the staff up. We needed to test more with this new car to get closer in competition, so start branching out and doing all the things you can do -- data acquisition and adding engineering and adding this and adding that -- and I think everybody across the board, not just our sport, just normal business, did the same thing. It's not just us. And it seems real lateral. I see the same exact thing happening everywhere with every form of business, not only NASCAR, but every form of business is in the same exact situation.

"I don't think that we did anything abnormal, certainly, than anybody else did, and in fact we were probably a little more reserved about it than a lot of other places and that's why we're still able to proceed like we are. We didn't over-step our means. We're not getting 10 or 15 million dollars from a sponsor, spending 25, planning on somehow getting it back. As teams and as a sport, none of us did that. Granted, we're going to have to cut back some, but our deal is done, for the 16 team, our deal is done, financing is in place for the next three years. 3M has stepped up, on board, signed a contract, I'm signed, so our deal is done for three years. That's a great sign for our sport that that deal is solid and in place and going forward, and everybody feels good about it, including 3M. So, that's something real positive for us. If we do cut back some budget a little bit, we priced it off the sponsor package we're getting, so if we cut back a little bit, we're going to be in good shape."

ON THE NEW CAR IN 2008. "That's kind of a tough question. It has changed a little bit the way we race. The car inherently races, is a little bit harder to race side by side, because it does have a lot more sideforce. It is a little bit more aero-tight behind a guy. So it is a little bit harder to get right on his bumper and take air off him and kind of move him out of the way. Those things are a little more difficult. So, you've had to change your driving style a little bit. You had to be more aggressive at times, but yet a little bit easier at times because the car won't do what you're used to it doing in certain situations. Certain situations, it's better. You can run the car a little bit looser, you can run the car a little bit more sideways because the car does have more sideforce. So it's sort of changed how aggressive you can be at some points and then you can be more aggressive in others. So it's just kind of changed the whole thing a little bit. And we're learning more and more about it, and we will continue over the next few years to learn more and more about this car."

WITH THE 36-RACE SCHEDULE, DOES THE CHANGE IN TESTING MAKE IT EASIER TO MAKE IT FROM FEBRUARY TO NOVEMBER? OR, WILL THAT TIME NOW BE FILLED WITH OTHER MEANS OF TESTING. "I'm going to fill that time in with sitting on my couch. I can't wait. They didn't you, NASCAR, I slipped 'em a little bit of money to cut out that testing. No, it'll be good for the teams, it'll be good for the drivers. It'll give us a little more time to be organized at the shop, and I promise you, you will not see an impact on how competitive this sport is or how competitive we are at the race track and how we race, because I have this philosophy and whether it's right or wrong, about all the testing that we've done, we've been better as a team, the 16 team, has been better at the race track when we didn't test. I don't know why. But, where we didn't go test at Bristol, we just showed up, here we are, bang-bang-bang-bang, top-five, going. And when we go to Richmond, where we tested, we're 15th or 18th. I don't know what it is about it, but I think we haven't been as good when we go and test somewhere. So, yes, it's going to give us more of an offseason, for sure. Granted, we only tested twice prior to the start of the season -- we tested Daytona, and usually the Las Vegas or, I guess, the California swing, one of the two. So it's not a tremendous amount over the winter that we're going to miss, we're only going to miss two tests. And then throughout the season, yeah, that'll give us those Charlotte off-weeks or when we're in Charlotte or we're right around that area, we're going to be able to stay home and not go test. We'll see a little bit more time off through those periods. That'll help."

BACK TO THE ECONOMY, YOU TALKED ABOUT THE HUMAN TOLL, BUT WHAT ABOUT SOME OF THE OTHER THINGS AFFECTED, LIKE YOUR FOUNDATION? "It seems like it's the same everywhere you go. It's the same old answer and it's the same old thing, is we're going to have to operate, clearly, we're going to have to operate with less money, because the people supporting our foundation, the people making donations, the fund-raising we're doing, the companies participating in the golf tournament or participating in this are going to be cutting back a little bit. Everybody's going to be cutting back a little bit. It doesn't mean that they're not going to be doing it anymore, that means that I think we're going to see people scale back a little bit. That's going to happen everywhere. We're going to continue to do what we can We've got some great products, we've got the NASCAR pet calendar that raises bunches, a tremendous amount of money for us, and people still need to buy Christmas gifts, even though it's going to be less. We're still selling a lot of those calendars. People are shopping online more and more because they're saving gas and saving going out. The calendar sales are good through this time, but, certainly, we're going to have less donors, it's obvious. And I think we're just going to have to make do. I think people are going to have to work harder for less, is what's going to happen. We're going to have to get our butts back to work, unfortunately, and we're going to have to work harder for less. And that's the way it is going to be for w while. That's right, one less week on the couch."

YOU WON THREE RACES IN A ROW AT THIS TRACK, BUT SINCE YOU DIDN'T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, YOUR POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCES WERE QUICK. HOW BIG OF A DOWNER WAS THAT? "It's a downer because we didn't win the title, but it's kind of nice because you don't have to be in Victory Lane as long, less people want to talk to you, they still write you the check and give you the trophy, and send you home really quick. So, that makes it nice. All joking aside, it is kind of overshadowed by the championship, and we know that -- especially this year, with Jimmie tying a record of three championships in a row, but you still do the best you can, you try and win. It's nice to win the last race of the season because you're the most recent winner until the Daytona 500. That's really nice to have that in your pocket. You're the longest winner. Sometimes, you're fortunate to win when there's a week off, but to win when three months off is nice."

WITH THE TESTING BAN, SINCE EVERYBODY'S ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AN EDGE, DO YOU THINK THAT TEAMS THAT CAN AFFORD IT, WILL TAKE SOME OF THE MONEY THEY SAVED FROM TESTING AND RE-DIRECT IT INTO OTHER TECHNOLOGY, LIKE COMPUTER SIMULATIONS, WIND-TUNNER TIME AND THINGS LIKE THAT? "I think you will see some guys working at home a little bit more. But, I don't think you're going to see that just triple-fold with the way that things are going right now. We will re-direct, obviously, re-direct some of that energy into learning a little bit more back at the shop, there's no doubt. But, I don't think that it's just go off the deep end like we have been so aggressive in the past about trying to get this car going and up to speed. I think that this is kind of a flag, a caution flag, for everybody to cut back a little bit. I don't think you'll see us run out and buy a whole bunch of technology to try and figure stuff out. I don't see that happening."

ONE OF THE MOST ASKED QUESTIONS WE GET ASKED FROM FANS IS WITH TEAMS BEING THE WAY THEY ARE, WHAT'S KEEPING YOU FROM TAKING OUT JIMMIE JOHNSON ON SUNDAY? OR, JOHNSON'S TEAMMATES TO DROP BACK? "I think what it comes down to is sportsmanship. It comes down to pride. And it comes down to class. And we're not that kind of organization. We don't act like that. Nothing stops me from wrecking the 48 car on lap one. But, that's not the way that we do business, that's not what my sponsor wants me to do. My sponsor wants me to get the best finish I can and I think that's the philosophy of Roush Fenway and Jack is treat people the way we want to be treated. That's just not the way we're going to conduct ourselves in the sport. Yes, that could happen or you could do that, but certainly we don't condone any of that."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle