GREG BIFFLE (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford Fusion) TALK ABOUT THE ADVERSITY YOU'VE GONE THROUGH THIS SEASON "It has been a pretty tough season for us. It just seems like we can't have a normal race. We always have some sort of drama going on.
GREG BIFFLE (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford Fusion)
TALK ABOUT THE ADVERSITY YOU'VE GONE THROUGH THIS SEASON "It has been a pretty tough season for us. It just seems like we can't have a normal race. We always have some sort of drama going on. At Pocono, obviously we had a brake problem and had to bleed the brakes several cautions and then start in the back. With seven laps to go we got a flat tire and thought we were doomed because we were going to lose all our track position. Fortunately we only dropped back to 10th and were able to get back to sixth. Really, we salvaged a decent finish out of last weekend. I always look forward to coming to Michigan. It's my favorite racetrack to race at. It's really a lot of fun. Hopefully we'll have a normal race this weekend and lead some laps and lead the right one."
TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES AT MIS "It is definitely a strategy (race), because fuel mileage and pit stops, what's fun about it you can run anywhere on the racetrack. On new tires you usually run near the bottom. As the tires wear out you move up the racetrack. If your car is handling real well you can still use the bottom. If your car is a little too tight you can move up the racetrack. The driver can kinda manipulate the racecar with that racetrack to get it to do what he needs it to do. At the same time staying out on tires or pitting-- Green flag pit stops, we usually see that at Michigan, and I think that's good for our sport. It's a fun element. It just puts on such a good race and it's so much fun to race there because you can do so many things during the race."
WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL AT MIS? "That's probably part of it, because you can do so much with the racetrack. I enjoy that challenge. I just have been successful every time Ive come there from the truck series to the Busch Series to the Nextel Cup cars, so I really don't know the answer. We run very well on the mile and a half and two-mile racetracks, and I really like coming to Michigan."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR BILL LESTER AND ERIN CROCKER TO HAVE GOOD WEEKENDS AT MIS? "I think it's really important. I'll have to admit that Bill Lester did an exceptional job I think at Atlanta. Different drivers have their different strong suits, and Bill Lester's strong suit in the truck series, as much as I've been able to pay attention, is qualifying. He usually qualifies fairly well but doesn't race very well for some reason. Whether it's the way his racecar drives around other cars or whatever hasn't seemed like it matches up with his qualifying performance. Yet at Atlanta, that was a little bit different meaning he ran better in the Cup race. He qualified and ran pretty decent. I think he's going to run well at Michigan. I think it's important for our sport both to have women and diversity. We're doing a lot with different drivers in trying to make that happen. I think everybody is working toward that."
ARE YOU CAREFUL NOT TO DO DANGEROUS THINGS AWAY FROM THE TRACK? "Yeah, really we do, or at least I do. Motorcycles are fun to ride and I'm certainly an advocate of wearing a helmet. I wear a helmet whenever I ride a motorcycle, but normally an accident with a street motorcycle unfortunately it doesn't matter if you're wearing a helmet or not. The outcome is never good. A lot of times wearing a helmet increases your chances of surviving those things tremendously, but I take as much safety precautions as I can. We have to lead normal lives. Our lives aren't normal to start with, but we have to be able to go out in a boat or ride a jet ski or maybe ride a motorcycle or something every once in awhile to enjoy life. You have to take every precaution you can. You can always get run over by another jet skier that's not paying attention and certainly it could look like you're being reckless, but a lot of times it's normal situations. It's unfortunate, but we have to be as cautious as possible."
IS IT AN ADVANTAGE TO BE WITH A FIVE-CAR TEAM OR IS IT AN ADVANTAGE EITHER WAY? "I really feel that it's an advantage either way. Childress and Evernham have proved this year they can get it done with a three-car team. Hendrick always performs and Roush, normally one of the racecars if not more than one, is always performing as well. I think odds are better. I think I enjoy having three or four teammates versus one. I guess two would probably be OK if you have a really good teammate and a really good second team like Penske does with the 2 and 12, that scenario is probably OK, but if one team is trying to carry the other or if they don't bring as much information to each other as they possibly could, I could see where that would hurt you and having more teams would help because it might bridge that gap. The reality of it is having two really strong teams -- like if you took me and the 99 or me and the 17 and put us in our own building by ourselves, a two-car team, we're still going to do very well because we're two really strong race teams and can feed off each other. I think that's really the main thing. The driver and crew chief and the entire team itself have to be solid teams for the thing to work well."
HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "Just as bad as I did last year, even worse. Man, it's so tough and we've had kinda weird luck this season. A lot of people said you're going to get to The Chase and you won't have any bad luck because it's all going to be gone. Hopefully that's the case. A lot of it is being at the right place at the right time. At Pocono I wasn't at the right place. I was the one of the second or third cars that came through after Jeff (Gordon) wrecked and I ran over a piece of metal. I heard it flatten the tire. I heard the tire go flat and that's unfortunate. We could have finished second, but we're just going to have to cross our fingers and be as solid of a race team as we can and hopefully make The Chase and then have 10 perfect races. I want the championship badly."
WHY DOES THE MIS WINNER IN AUGUST COME BACK AND WIN IN JUNE? "I think it's just coincidence. One of the things is once you figure out a racetrack or get a setup that works well -- I use these front shocks, these rear springs, the trackbar this high, we have wind tunnel numbers on the car we brought there -- a lot of that will help you fine tune when you come back versus the 01 team or some of the other teams that haven't won there. They're going to come back with a setup they think will work there, but they're going to have to tune on it. We're coming back with confidence. We're a team that won there, and we're coming back with confidence. This is what we won with. Let's just build on this and make it better. I think there's a lot to be said for that."
HOW ENCOURAGED ARE YOU GOING TO INFINEON WITH YOUR ROAD COURSE PROGRAM? "I'm kinda looking forward to that for a couple of reasons. Typically experience plays a pretty big role in road racing or it has in the past. I am battling a couple of guys to make the top 10 who don't have a lot of experience there or road racing. I'm hoping that's racetrack where we can have a good run. It's just as easy to break a transmission or gear part yourself as it is somebody else or get off the racetrack. I'm just hoping we've got a solid run there and I'm looking at that as one of the racetracks to gain some points on."
IS ROAD RACING MORE THAN GOING FAST AND KEEPING IT OUT OF THE DITCH? "Basically in a nutshell that's it. There's a lot of dancing with your feet between the gas and the brake and the shifting. It affords you a lot of chances to get in a ditch. You can shift down too soon, get the thing axle hopping on the corner entry, brake too late and skid a tire and get off the end of the racetrack, turn in and get too loose getting into the corner turning either right or left. There are so many opportunities to get in a ditch or get off the racetrack versus an oval track. It makes it more difficult to stay on the pavement."
WHY ARE WE SEEING MORE DRIVERS FROM THE WEST IN CUP? "I think like anything the sport hadn't reached that direction in the past because it was mainly a southern-based kind of sport or that's where a lot of the drivers came from. It's not big out west. One would have to think equally the people from the west part of the United States have the same amount of talent as the people from the east part of the United States. Whether it's hockey, football, basketball, 100-yard dash, tennis, any of those sports. One has to think that it's going to be relatively equal or let's say a 60-40 split that these people have the same amount of talent as these people do. Without any drivers from the west coast at some point -- I'm not saying I pioneered it, Derrike Cope and Mike Bliss and those guys are from out there -- but I'm one guy that came from the far west. Then Kurt Busch came from Nevada and it kinda kept going a little bit. I think that gave it a little momentum, seeing fresh talent from the west and then it kinda gave people the idea to keep looking for drivers. I think there are a lot of good drivers out there."
DO YOUNG DRIVERS NOW THINK CUP CARS FIRST? "I think so because NASCAR is a household name, it's a household sport now. It's so much of the premiere auto racing that I think that's where one looks now. I think the Jeff Gordons of the deal are so predominant. NASCAR and oval track racing, I think that's the goal people have."
ARE CUP DRIVERS BETTER ON ROAD COURSES NOW? "I think so because every race becomes so important that a lot of us have focused on that. We go to schools. I would like to go to Sonoma and go to a driving school just to get to know the racetrack a little better. The problem is a lot of that stuff is for open wheel or formula type cars and the characteristics of the cars aren't going to be the same. I don't think it would help me as much as it's going to help Denny Hamlin and Reed Sorenson and some of those guys that have never seen the place before. Certainly a driving school at the racetrack, even if it's motorcycles, is going to help 'em because they're going to get to see the racetrack."
IS THIS SEASON MORE CHALLENGING THAN LAST YEAR? "Definitely this season has been tremendously harder than last year because we won five races and got ourselves a pretty good cushion in the points. You come this year and you haven't won a race, we finally won at Darlington, but you're so far down in the points the reality starts to set in that you're not going to make The Chase. You finished second in the points last year and you're a favorite to win the title and all of a sudden you're not going to even make The Chase. I know as a driver, I've been around for seven or eight years, I know not to let the engine blowing up get you down or getting in a wreck. You've got to stay positive. It's so easy to give up and say 'what's going to happen this week to us?' It's so easy to do and it's so easy for the team to lose the fire it has. I was getting nervous that if these things kept up that we wouldn't make The Chase. It was really mentally taxing for us this year to have the season we've had. It was very difficult."
IS IT ALMOST EASY TO RELAX NOW THAT YOU'RE CLOSER TO THE TOP 10? CAN THAT GET YOU IN TROUBLE? "Yes and no. I am definitely more relaxed now that obviously we're going to be fighting these five guys from eighth to 13th in points for that position. That's going to be a tough battle, but I'm definitely breathing easier now that I'm not standing so far back looking in. I'm where I can see over the top of the wall right now. It's just going to take solid runs. We're not going to be able to give up a position, and it's going to take solid runs to get in. I think it's going to help us if we get in to have 10 solid races."
DO YOU SENSE THE DIFFERENT MOMENTUM BETWEEN YOU AND JEFF GORDON? "I think because he's gone from being fifth in the points to 12th (actually 11th). We've come from 32nd or wherever we were to 12th so I think people see him going backwards and me going forwards and that isn't necessarily writing on the wall. He's had some bad races and so he's gotten shuffled back. Denny Hamlin is running very well, but I'd say there's more of a chance, not anything against him but him just being a rookie and lack of experience, I would say it's going to be more difficult for him than Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon is a four-time champion. Denny Hamlin, it's his first full season. We saw Carl Edwards show up at Bristol and crash qualifying and then start in the back and knock the radiator out of it on lap five. Those are rookie mistakes he made last year and those things are still possible. All those guys right in there, it can go either way."
COMMENT ON THE DIFFERENT DEMANDS OF THE JOB "I'm not that great of an actor if you haven't figured that out. In some situations I'm OK, but I try to avoid the TV cameras some because I'm not that laughing, acting corny kind of person. That makes it a little harder for me than the Michael Waltrips or the Jamie McMurrays to be that bubbly on TV all the time. I do enjoy making the commercials and doing those things. A lot depends on the production people that are doing them and the script people that write them how you come out on TV. They are fun to do and I look forward to doing the Subway commercial every year."
DO YOU EVER REJECT AN OPPORTUNITY THAT'S PRESENTED TO YOU? "Yes and no. A lot of times you can read the story board and decide if you want to do it or not. Kraft wants us to do a commercial right now for one of their story lines, and I'm looking at their story board and deciding if I want to be in that commercial or not."
DID YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTING CLASSES? "We've done media training and things like that trying to get the racecar driver mentality to a new level, but I'm not much for going to classes. I'm not much of an actor. I try to be. I have a hard time acting fake, and that's what acting is. That's a trait people have. They can get in front of the camera and act like they're having a gunfight or shootout. I have a hard time doing that. That's just me personally."
DID YOU TEST AT VIR? "We did not. I don't know if any of the Roush guys did. We tested at Road Atlanta two weeks ago and got our brake package where we want it and shook down our road course cars. We're pretty happy with the way things turned out from that test, but I don't know if any of our guys went to VIR or not."
HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU GET TO THROW THE SUB IN DOUG'S FACE IN THE MOST RECENT SUBWAY COMMERCIAL? "Thirty-four times. We counted this time because everybody always asks. We kept track. I didn't hit him every time. A couple of times I threw it over his shoulder and a couple of times I hit his chest and the sandwich didn't come apart and just fell in his lap. The thing is about those deals they do three different camera angles. One is on me. Two is on both of us and the third is right on him. Basically you have to shoot the commercial three different times in its entirety and that's another reason why you have to throw the sandwich that many times. He (Doug Richert) is always a good sport about it. I just wonder when I'm going to get it."
ENDING COMMENTS "I use 3M products in my personal shop every day. It's good they're being the title sponsor for one of the races this season. It's pretty exciting. It's amazing the amount of products they have. I knew 3M from the automotive industry. I thought they just made sandpaper and whatever else. They told me a large portion of their business is medical and dental. One thing I do know is every product they make is good. If it's got the 3M name on it it's going to be a good product."