Homestead: Winning team interview

GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Taurus: "The night didn't start out very good for us. The car was real, real tight, loose in, and I got it off in practice. I started the race car way too tight for the race tonight, and really paid the price...

GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Taurus: "The night didn't start out very good for us. The car was real, real tight, loose in, and I got it off in practice. I started the race car way too tight for the race tonight, and really paid the price early on. I made it hard on the pit crew tonight -- you know, putting rubbers in and taking rubbers out and doing a tremendous amount on the race car under the caution. They did a fantastic job, the speed, of getting all that work done and keeping the track position. And finally the last pit stop, I think was the only time we didn't make an adjustment on the car and it was Doug's call for two tires there at the end. It was the best the car had been all night, that last run I drove almost to fourth or whatever so the car really come around. Then right there at the end I had the thing perfect."

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE THREE-WIDE PASS FOR THE LEAD WITH LESS THAN 10 LAPS REMAINING?

GREG BIFFLE: "That was pretty hairy, but, you know, I had to go. There was no time to race those guys and when you've got fresh tires on and the car is sticking to the race track -- you know I went down in there and it just stuck beautiful. Right when I turned in and I was flat on the throttle and the thing was stuck to the race track awesome, and they were sort of holding me up a little bit. I kind of breathed the throttle a little bit and Blaney slid up and gave me just enough room, barely, to get my car between 'em. Actually, I just drug the brake pedal a little bit, I never lifted on the throttle, slowed the car down and then I let up on the brake pedal to get between them. Blaney started pushing up coming off the corner and had to get out of the throttle, gave me room. It was phenomenal pass. But just did what I had to do to get by him and try to hold Mark off."

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE, TO THINK THAT A COUPLE OF LOOSE LUGNUTS AT TEXAS MAY HAVE COST YOU A CHAMPIONSHIP...

GREG BIFFLE: "It not 'may of,' it did. It's something I'm going to think about for a long, long time. I lost the championship by eight points in 1999 and lost one this year by 35, and we lost over 50 with the loose wheel. When it happened I didn't think anything of it, because I figured we'd get back on the lead lap, no problem, you know? But just no cautions. It was an unusual race. Even if had been a race like tonight we would've been able to get back on the lead lap. But that's the way it goes. Things happen for a reason. It wasn't our year. We know what not to do next year. We can count on our hands -- flat tire at Dover, which we can't do anything about, not a great run at Martinsville and then that crash at Talladega. So there's a lot of races that we gave up a tremendous amount of points, besides that loose wheel. But that kind of sealed our fate there. I'm excited about the win, thankful for all the opportunities I've gotten this season, that Doug and Jack have given me my entire career and then to come off this season with six wins and be second in points, only 35 back behind a two-time champion like Tony Stewart, I can't think of a way to finish this season out any better."

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, THIS IS A GOOD FINISH.

GREG BIFFLE: "You know, it was funny, we kept getting better and better and better and better and better. Every adjustment made to the car tonight was right, was correct. The only thing that I did wrong was failing to get right in practice. It's kind of funny, the press conference, I was kind of thinking about this all week, I was hoping that we wouldn't lose by only 35, because then it would bring that Texas thing back in my head. If was 50 or more, it would've been a moot point, you know, because it didn't matter. But I'm so thankful being second -- I mean, even tied, from what I understand, I don't know exactly, but they said it was a tie and because of the wins we got second, so that's pretty neat for us."

THOUGHTS ON FINISHING 1-2-3-4, BUT NOT WINNING THE TITLE.

JACK ROUSH , Car Owner: "Nobody's race cars have ever been better driven than our cars were tonight by all the guys. They did a super job. The engineers did a nice job on the car. Ford Motor Company did a great job negotiating for the templates and the architecture of the car with the NASCAR tech folks. We were luckier than we should have been last year. Anybody that watched that race, we shouldn't have won a championship last year here. Of course, Jimmie Johnson finished behind by only seven or eight points, and Kurt Busch had a wheel fall off and go down the right side of the pit road and he missed the end of pit road and got a tire as the caution came out. So that was more luck than we deserved. Of course, Matt Kenseth had extraordinary durability the year before in 2003 with what I call an obsolete Taurus.

It hadn't been changed since '97, so we really got more as a team, and as a company we got more than our share of luck, and, yeah, we had wrecks at Talladega and we had lackluster performance for our 16 car at Martinsville, and, of course, we had a loose lugnut. Hopefully, we won't have another loose lugnut next year. But things happen. Greg says they happen for a reason, I'm not sure of that. I sat down, you can bet that I had a conversation with the young man who left the lugnut loose. It was the first time it ever happened for them, the first time he ever made a mistake and he's just fine. But we just hope we don't have things like that in the future, and if they do fall on us on a year when everything else has gone OK, well then it takes a while to win a championship. Mark Martin has sat there four years and hasn't been able to do better than second out of his 18 years now. Anyway, this is fairly young for our 16 team, it's very young for our 99 team. The 17 team is still by Mark's standards, fairly young. We've got a lot of time for a lot of championships and these guys are gonna go get them as long as I can keep them in good cars."

HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT CELEBRATING AFTER THIS RACE THAN OTHERS?

GREG BIFFLE: "Obviously, it's way more difficult this year. Last year was a tremendous celebration because Kurt won the championship and it was my third career win and second win of the season in really dominating fashion. Tonight, we just worked our way to the front and it was kind of bittersweet. Like I said, missing out by 35 points, but jumping from fourth, 102 out, all the way to second and cap off the season with six wins, that puts us in the win column for the most wins. I can't be more proud of my team, and Doug and the engine department. I hated to talk about it before, but we didn't have one engine failure the entire season -- practice, testing, nothing -- ever. I didn't want to jinx myself and talk about it before the season was over, but tremendous effort by the engine department. If you can imagine those guys having a flawless record like that is pretty incredible."

ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN NOT WINNING?

JACK ROUSH: "No, I considered at that time (at Richmond) that our odds were one in three, and I think we'll have one more miscarriage before we're able to close the deal again. Hopefully we'll win and then we'll have to give up two sometime after that, but we're not supposed to win all these races and we certainly won't win all the championships. The competition is too tough, it's too tight and there are too many risks that we can't manage. And we're all just human. Everybody that touches the car, that puts a lugnut on, or that touches the car to tighten a hose is gonna make a mistake from time to time, but you can't make a habit of it. But I'm not disappointed. I did not expect to win the championship this year. I guess I would be sitting here if we had with a little embarrassment if we would have won three in a row. 'How did I let Mark Martin down all those years if I could help the other guys win three times right after him or while he was still not able to do it.'

So I'm a little relieved in a way that I won't get more criticism than I'll get for having the year that we've had. We've had a great year. The talent that's around and the ability that's around to make the decision of whether to put two tires or four tires. Nobody has got better minds working on their cars and nobody's got better drivers for our cars than we've got. It's awesome and I'm just glad to hang with them. But, no, I'm not disappointed. I didn't expect to win."

CAN YOU COMMENT ON WINNING THE MOST RACES THIS YEAR?

GREG BIFFLE: "It just says what kind of job Doug has done this year in getting these race cars prepared and the team. Bobby, Keith, our car chief -- and all the guys working on the race car back at the shop. Our engine program. When they give me race cars like that, it's hard not to win and when we don't it's because I made a mistake or we did something in the pits wrong -- made the wrong two or four tire call. But when they give me race cars like that, I let one slip away last week and kind of winning this one even makes that one hurt even worse because I could have won the last two of the season. I can't be more grateful than I am.

I just wake up in the morning and it's exciting every day that I get to drive these race cars that Doug's put together. I've got so much confidence in my team, I never question one thing they do or decision they make -- ever. You know the loose wheel, I wouldn't ever consider taking the guy off of that duty -- off of that job of changing that tire -- because he's very, very fast and we feel it was partly mechanical, a failure at the same time. So I've got a great team and that's how I won six times this year."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE LAST LAP?

GREG BIFFLE: "Racing a veteran like Mark, he squeezed me up going down the backstretch pretty tight to the wall and he let off early getting into three and four to get back to the gas early, and I kind of drove it down in there a little bit further and got back to the gas as soon as I thought I wasn't gonna push up and get in the fence. And then we started down the frontstretch, and I was pretty tight to the wall there and Mark was just trying to squeeze me out of room. It was pretty incredible to race a guy like that for the win -- Mark, a veteran like that -- it was pretty neat.

I've never raced Mark for a win like that. I raced Mark hard at Kansas and finished second to him there and couldn't chase him down. Another thing I want to comment on is this is the last race being able to race with Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd. I watched those guys many years before I ever started driving in the Truck Series and they're icons in our sport. I'm gonna miss racing with those guys next year."

WHAT ABOUT CARL'S YEAR?

JACK ROUSH: "I have to think about my words here because I don't want to make anybody mad. We've got everybody that drives these Roush Racing cars do a super job, but given the fact that we don't have another young driver that started in this decade, I'm gonna say that Carl Edwards -- I predict -- is the driver of the decade for not only Roush Racing but for all of Nextel Cup racing. I can't imagine anybody coming into the business in their first full year and being able to win four times, and won in the Busch car for the first time this year. He finished tied for second in points. There are a lot of things about Carl.

First of all, he's a really great person and he's the kind of young man that if you thought about having another son, you'd love to have him be your son, and if you had a daughter, you'd like to have your daughter bring home a young man like Carl to be your son-in-law. But, anyway, anybody would love to have Carl be in their family because he's such great people. Aside from having a father who raced and told him about racing and a mother that taught him about life, Carl also has got a willingness to accept advice, which a lot of young people don't have, advice on what he might do and what his risks and what his hazards are. Carl has learned immensely from Greg, from Mark, from Kurt, from Matt. Anybody that is around him that is working with the same kind of equipment that offers honest, wholesome advice for him, he's gonna take it.

Of course, he sits down and watches all the races numerous times before he goes and sees who won and sees what strategies were working. He's got a great crew chief, but the main thing is that he assimilates information. He doesn't have to make all these rookie mistakes that you see rookies make and the ones before made. He's not doing all of that. Mark and the guys have been willing to talk to him. He's asked the right questions. Six o'clock in the morning he's in the shop doing his calisthenics, doing his workout things. We've got a gym in the shop and he puts in a full day. If he's not doing appearances every day of the week when he's not at the race track, so he works hard. He's gonna run the two program again next year, so he's accumulating laps as fast as he can. Anybody that Carl trusts can talk to Carl and he'll learn from it. That's one of the reasons he's as good as he is going forward."

THOUGHTS ON THE LAST LAP.

JACK ROUSH: "I thought that I was gonna see one of my prophecies unfold in front of my eyes. I've been talking about two of our guys rolling themselves up in a ball coming off turn four, and I saw a worse scenario than that. I saw Greg and Mark getting tangled up and, of course, Matt and Carl getting tangled up behind them. So I thought there might be four of them not make it to the start-finish line. That was the horror that was in my mind."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GREG TAKING THIS NEXT STEP FORWARD?

DOUG RICHERT, Crew Chief: "The biggest thing is we've communicated even more from what we learned last year. We were able to take that momentum into this year. A lot of our setups that we ended up with last year was stuff that we started with at the beginning of this year. We made some body changes with the new spoiler rule we were dealt and I said it at the of last year that if you took an inch of spoiler off the back of the car that all it was gonna do was make him even better because he does have a natural tolerance to maybe a looser condition.

He can tolerate it much longer and much easier than a lot of these other guys that are out there. So as far as progressing along, the calls and stuff Greg makes as far as in practice to make changes to the car with springs and shocks and as we try to take the next step further, it's just clicking for us. That's where the biggest progression has come."

WAS THE LAST DEBRIS CAUTION LEGIT?

GREG BIFFLE: "You know, I honestly don't know. I didn't see anything, but then the lap that we were gonna pit -- coming off turn four down just about two cars off the bottom -- it looked like red sheetmetal. I saw it get thrown up in the air and I just barely missed it. Then we put right-side only tires on, so I was concerned whether I had run over something with my left sides. Of course, I never saw if they picked it up or not, or if that's what the caution was for because I came around -- I went down pit road and it's five minutes before I'm back over there.

If it's laying on the track, I probably wouldn't see it. But somebody had run it over, so there was something out on the race track laying there. Other than that, I didn't see anything else. A lot of times when there's debris or something like that, a lot of times we think it's bogus because we don't ever see it. Then they tell us where it's at and it's like, 'Oh yeah, there it is.' So a lot of times we're looking just right where we're looking. A lot of times we don't see it, they've picked it up before we get there, but I did see something coming off turn four over there."

DOES FINISHING 1-4 IN THE RACE AND 2-4 IN THE CHASE BOLSTER YOUR ARGUMENT WITH NASCAR ABOUT CAPPING CARS?

JACK ROUSH: "If they'll have an open forum and consider all the points of view -- both the competitive and the business reasonably -- I think it actually plays both ways. It's clear that the people who bought tickets today saw great cars that were well driven by teams that were very professional in the way they prepared the cars. If you want to talk about sponsors, we had great sponsors that got their money's worth that were involved with all my programs. Of course, they're committed and anxious to go forward. The investment that I made, I think, showed itself. I made a big point of saying that the business of running these race teams is not like coining money. I've got a lot of debt. I'm leveraged as much or more proportionally as the race tracks are for what they're doing, so we've invested wisely and we've worked effectively and everybody that's involved with us is getting a return on their investment that makes sense.

That's part of the American economy and that's part of the reason democracy and capitalism in this country works the way that it does. I hope it's an example to the other owners and the other investors of what they need to do in terms of staying in there and developing their young men, and both the people that work on the cars and the people that drive the cars, and make investments in them so they can go forward down the road. We are not in a position where somebody as they could once break out a big checkbook and come in and hire the best driver, and hire the best technology and go do this. You have to build it. And what I've done is I've built great technology that I'm willing to share with the likes of Tim Brown and other people that want to come in the same as Rick Hendrick is. I think the same as the organizations that ISC and SMI have, and the other people that own race tracks, are very professionally done. I think we set a standard for how to run these race teams right now."

-ford racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Mark Martin