This Week in Ford Racing August 12, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, is 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings going into this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway. Biffle, who...
This Week in Ford Racing
August 12, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, is 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings going into this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway. Biffle, who won his first series race at Daytona in July, was a guest on this week's NWC teleconference, along with car owner Jack Roush.
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Grainger Taurus:
IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO WIN AT WATKINS GLEN. "Yeah, certainly the race didn't start off like we wanted it to, but we had a pretty decent car. Track position was really important as Robby Gordon proved again. We were running second behind Dale, Jr. for a period of time, but it was difficult to get any closer or gain any ground once we got back in traffic a little bit. Then the cautions just didn't come like we needed them to. Unfortunately, toward the end of the race, I missed the inner-loop trying to avoid Rusty Wallace's car, which was limping along there, when I was trying to make a pass on the 48, but, overall, it was a good day for us. It was kind of a real letdown. It was a real disappointing day. I felt that was a good opportunity to get a top five and to strengthen my rookie point lead going on to some tracks that we know we may not run as good at."
WHERE ARE YOU AT THIS POINT IN YOUR ROOKIE SEASON? "We're pretty far behind where we thought we'd be. I thought we would be able to sustain the top 15 in points, not easily but I thought that was a pretty realistic goal. As far as the wins, I didn't expect to win a bunch of races. I thought we could win a race this season. I didn't really figure we would win at a restrictor-plate track, but I felt we would have an opportunity to win at some other places. So I still feel pretty confident that we may still be able to win another race this season, but the season hasn't gone as well as I thought. The highs are so high and the lows are so low. We've qualified real well or we've run well and when we don't run well, we run real bad. I thought there would be more of a middle of the road, always trying to improve, versus the up and down on the scale."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MICHIGAN? "I have a great history at Michigan in the truck series. I was undefeated there. I ran good in a Busch car there, but got caught up in a wreck and then blew an engine about 10 laps in. This year, we're really fighting aerodynamic woes on our team. We just got a brand-new car done, I was so excited about it to take to Michigan, but we got it back from the wind tunnel last night and it's terrible. We've shifted gears. We're not gonna take that car now. All the guys are working around the clock to get the Indy car ready to go up to Michigan, which didn't run very good at Indy. So our team is still struggling to find a balance just on paper with the aero numbers that we know we need to have to be competitive. It's so hard to build that with the sheetmetal, but I'm excited to go to Michigan. I like the race track. I've run well there. I think we can run well, we're just gonna have to get the right car. Last time we were at Michigan, I had the same springs, shocks, sway bar, track bar - the same identical setup as Kurt Busch - he won and I finished a lap down. So a lot of it is the race car these days and we're working as hard as ever to get it where we need to."
WHAT DOES THAT DO MENTALLY TO YOU WHEN A CAR COMES BACK LIKE THAT AS A ROOKIE? "It ruins you. I mean, you're on your hands and knees trying to stand up and they just shoved you down. In all actuality, you know you don't stand a chance. That's tough to swallow, but that's what we have right now. We go there and the team does the best job they can. I think what frustrates you more is that you know the car you just got done with, that you thought was gonna be, that was your best effort possible. Here's the latest and greatest, the best we have available that we can build and it's not even close to what we already had. So that's more disappointing than just this weekend, that's looking ahead for the rest of the season. We still haven't gotten a handle on what we're trying to build, so it's a battle. This is a tough, tough series. So much of it are the race cars now with so many engineers involved and common templates and the cars are real aero dependent these days. You've got to have that part. The good, good race-car drivers - like Jeff Gordon - can't get in a slow car and drive it fast. Mark Martin said it this weekend. My road race-car was awesome. There's no doubt in my mind. Aerodynamics were not that big of a factor road racing. The chassis is, getting it right, pit stops. We did all those things right."
YOU'RE NOT STARTING TO GET GRAY HAIR ARE YOU? "I'm beyond that."
DO YOU THINK THE AVERAGE FAN CAN APPRECIATE A FUEL MILEAGE RACE AS IT UNFOLDS? "Not really. It's really difficult to follow that. One thing that I'd like to stress about it, too, is that even a lot of media people don't understand it fully. We had a second-place finish hands down (at Daytona). If the DEI cars did not have to stop again, we'd have finished second. I was in between Earnhardt Jr., and the 15. A product of how fast our car was running, when I was with the 18 and the 5 car, we stayed out for that additional 14 laps before we pitted and made up all that track position on the leaders. And when we came back out on the race track after our pit stop, which is a product of how you get onto pit road and how quick your stop is and getting back out and up to speed, we were in front of the whole field. We had a decent car. We were running second and would have finished second, but the DEI cars had to stop and a lot of the guys did just because of the way the cautions fell. That's gonna happen about every weekend and it seems to me that we're getting less and less cautions in the races. I don't know if I'm recognizing that, but just like this weekend, I don't think we had as many cautions as I thought we would have seen, so it is playing a factor. Fuel mileage is always gonna be a factor if the caution comes out at the right time. Every single race could be won or lost on fuel mileage -- all 36 races, if the caution happens to come out on the exact right lap and then doesn't come out again. It can put cars in positions to have to stop for two more tanks and cars to have to stop for one. So it can always be a factor, but what you've got to know is how many miles per gallon each car is getting and how far they can go on fuel - how many laps and then when the last time they stopped - that's a lot for a fan sitting in the fans to know. 'Hey, the 25 car stopped on lap 80 for fuel, so he's not gonna have to stop again.' That's a lot to comprehend."
SO YOU'RE SAYING THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE WIN AT DAYTONA HASN'T BEEN GIVEN THE RESPECT IT DESERVED BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS SQUAKING ABOUT FUEL MILEAGE - THAT FUEL MILEAGE ASIDE YOU WERE GOING TO FINISH STRONG ANYWAY? "I think so. Yeah, it is. There are two ways. You can be a 25th-place car running 25th and fall into that win because you could make it on mileage. That's not what happened to us. We were running second and then gained that last position because of mileage, so we did get the win because of fuel mileage. We certainly weren't gonna pass Earnhardt, Jr. for the win, but it wasn't like that's the only reason why we were running where we were."
YOU'RE 33 YEARS OLD. DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN INTO CUP 8-10 YEARS AGO OR ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE WAY YOUR CAREER HAS GONE? "Oh no, I absolutely wish that I would have gotten that opportunity then when I was 25 or something like that. It would have been great at 22, 23, 24 - that would have been great - but I didn't. I've paid my dues. This is my sixth year basically what I consider in NASCAR - Truck Series and Busch Series - so I have a lot of experience and background certainly moving into Winston Cup. We're better than we're showing right now as a team, we just have to get there."
DO YOU KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT THE OTHER ROOKIES ARE DOING DURING THE RACE? "Yeah, I mean we do some because we are racing them for position each week. Sometimes it matters what they're doing. A lot of times we just focus on getting the best finish we can, but I do pay attention. It's not like I need to know constantly where they're at, but I pay attention whether they're running in the top five or top 10 or if they're a lap down. We do kind of keep track where each guy is at, but there's not a lot we can do about it other than being aware of where he's running."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD MEAN TO JACK TO WIN A WINSTON CUP TITLE? "Jack says that championships aren't that important to him. He's more about winning races and focused on that. I'm not really sure where to put that. That might be a better question for him than me. I look at them as pretty big accomplishments. It says you have the consistency, the strength and the power to sustain a certain level each week. Robbie Reiser and that group over in that building have positioned themselves - with the way they manage their programs and do things - they've positioned themselves to win a championship and run well. Speaking of the 97 and the 17 teams, they've got what it takes to win a championship. I'm sure Jack is gonna be excited, but I'm not sure what that would mean to him personally."
DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF PRIDE BEING FROM THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST? "Yeah, it was really neat to think about that and I got some letters from the state of Washington and things like that. It's really exciting for me to carry that flag. I got lots of calls from all kinds of people I raced with and it's neat that all those people are still watching and care about what you're doing and your successes. I'm really excited about it. I'm ready to win again and to continue, hopefully, being strong as we can be."
DO PEOPLE FULLY UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH INTEREST THERE IS IN STOCK CAR RACING IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST? "I don't think so. I've been trying to preach to the choir about that for a long time. We've got a couple of facilities up there that would do a great job hosting a Winston Cup and Busch race combination and I don't think they even understand the potential. I think it would be as big as Indy or as big as the night race at Daytona. I think there would be that many people who would attend that race. One of the theories I have on that is, one, you would get a lot of the NASCAR fans from possibly the East Coast, Midwest, all over, that have never been to the Northwest. They would take that opportunity to make a vacation out of it, plus visit the northwest. The market of Portland, Seattle, Tri-Cities - all that area - I think it would beyond what they believe it would be."
IS THIS AERO PUSH PROBLEM AND TRAFFIC AND FUEL MILEAGE A FUNCTION OF HOW YOU BUILD A CAR AND WHETHER OR NOT THE DRIVER CAN GET THE CAR AROUND THE TRACK AS EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE? "It is and with a first-year team we're struggling with knowing what we need to build and how to build it to overcome some of those things. But you're exactly right and what it is is that the competition is getting so close together. We've learned so much. It's just like technology or computers or anything else. Our sport has gotten so refined and has so many good teams in it, that instead of 10 of us hitting or missing on a certain thing, there are 30 of them. If you're off just a tiny bit, you no longer have any advantage and the amount of advantage from one team to the next is so minimal that you can't pass. That's just a product of everybody being as good as they can be."
THAT'S GOOD RACING, THOUGH, ISN'T IT TO HAVE MORE THAN A COUPLE TEAMS BATTLING EVERY WEEKEND? "Yes, it is but what happens is you don't see the side-by-side racing sometimes because the guy on the inside clearly has the advantage because it's a shorter distance around. So the guy that had a little bit faster car than that guy can't get up on the outside and pass him because the laws of physics are against him. So it does limit some of the racing to a lot less passing and what not and position changes because the cars are so closely matched. If a group of us go to the go-kart track and they're all exactly the same, we're all gonna follow each other the whole time. If the guy in the back or somewhere in that position has a little bit faster car, sometimes he can make more stuff happen."
IF YOU WIN THE ROOKIE TITLE WOULD IT MEAN A LITTLE EXTRA IN YOUR PAYCHECK? "Yeah, I mean NASCAR gives us a bonus and Raybestos certainly gives a bonus, plus it would be something to add to my collection of trophies and I'd be pretty excited about that."
BUT NOTHING FROM JACK? "I've won a couple championships now and you don't know. Certainly, they can do whatever they feel like so there may be something."
NOT BEING FROM THE SOUTH AND BEING A RELATIVE NEWCOMER, IS THE SOUTHERN 500 JUST ANOTHER RACE TO YOU AND DOES CHANGING IT TO NOVEMBER MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? "This being my first year and not having all the history, it's gonna be different. That's the heritage of our sport. I think there are better times of the year than others to have races in certain climates and at certain places. I don't know all of the particulars or what NASCAR's reasoning is for moving races around the country, but it's gonna be different. It's certainly gonna be different, but I really don't have much of a knowledge beyond that."
SO IT'S JUST ANOTHER RACE FOR YOU? "At this point in my career it is. It's hard to say that, but I haven't been there before. I've never raced the Southern 500 before. I've always watched it and I've always wanted to participate in it, but this is my first opportunity."
BRISTOL IS AFTER MICHIGAN. WHERE DOES THAT TRACK RANK FOR YOU? "Bristol is a tough place. It's funny, some of those tracks that I say, 'Oh, man, I hate going there.' It's so tough of a place and so many things that are out of your control can happen, but it ends up that those are the places that I run the best at. It's an exciting place for me to go. I'm looking forward to it. I got my first top-five of the season there in the Winston Cup car and I'm looking forward to going back. It's back to short-track racing and aerodynamics don't mean a whole lot. I love racing at Bristol under the lights at night. It's a fun race track."
HOW ABOUT THE VALUE OF A SPOTTER AT BRISTOL? "I feel like I've got the best spotter in the business in Joel Edmonds. He's my spotter and does a fantastic job everywhere we go. He helped me win a Busch championship last year and certainly without him I wouldn't have won the championship. They're very valuable."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OR LESS SHORT-TRACK RACING? "I wouldn't mind seeing some more. I enjoy the three-quarter to mile-and-a-quarter. I know we don't have many mile-and-a-quarter race tracks, but like Gateway is and places like that, those are the race tracks that are the most fun. The mile-and-a-halves, they're still fun but a lot of them are either really flat or super-high banked and super-fast. I think the three-quarter-mile tracks like Richmond and some of the half-mile tracks like Bristol are fun. I don't necessarily care for Martinsville because I don't run that decent there."