Michigan: Winning team interview, part 1

No. 16 Charter/National Guard Taurus DOUG RICHERT , Crew Chief: "It's unreal. You've probably heard it before, but a lot of this momentum started the second race here last year. We clicked on something and we continued on. This is the same ...

No. 16 Charter/National Guard Taurus

DOUG RICHERT , Crew Chief: "It's unreal. You've probably heard it before, but a lot of this momentum started the second race here last year. We clicked on something and we continued on. This is the same chassis that we ran here last fall and we did the 2005 updates on it, and it continues to be a strong package. The whole thing combined is awesome right now."

ROUSH RACING HAD A GREAT DAY.

JACK ROUSH , Car Owner: "It's people. This is a people game. NASCAR controls the cars, the templates, the engines, the dimensions. The aerodynamic specifications of the cars are so close that it comes down to the choices people make. The one thing that isn't regulated is how hard you work and the things you work on, and the templates that Roush Racing's management team - and I'm a very small part of that - have put on our race teams and our organization is just incredible right now. If I could patent it, I would."

CAN YOU COMMENT ON HAVING FOUR TOP FIVE FINISHERS?

JACK ROUSH "It means I'm gonna have kind of a rock and roll day with the 97 trying to figure out what happened to them. I'm sure it's my fault in some way and it'll come clear to me on Tuesday. No, it's like we were target shooting and you've got this really tight pattern where there's a little bit of variance from load to load, but you can get it close to the bullseye. Mark was probably at a point where he needed to stop for tires based on where he was on the race track because so many behind him would stop for tires, and the guys up front all did the right thing by staying out. Everybody, based on where the caution came, had their course pretty much laid out for them. At least the smart play was to stay out and take the track position because of how important that is, and then to come in for tires if you were five or six places back and just hope there was enough separation between the people that didn't have the tires that were up front and yourself. Greg, for instance being leader, whoever could get on top and then hold off the ones that were coming by."

GREG BIFFLE: "It's pretty special to come back here and win. Believe it or not, we've had some lows this season. We've had some highs. I mean, we've won five races, but also at the same time we had a radiator bar through the grille at Phoenix and then last week we lost the brakes. It felt like maybe we had an opportunity to win at Pocono. We were right up there in the top three, but I'm so thankful for where we're at and where our team is at to be able to win five races. I just hope that we can eliminate some of those mistakes that we've made. We've only made a couple, but we've got to try to close in some more in the points. That's what we're gonna have to do. Man, I just feel so lucky to be able to be where I'm at driving these race cars and being able to win these races. I just feel pretty special about it."

HOW MUCH DID SIGNING YOUR DEAL ELP YOU CONCENTRATE?

GREG BIFFLE: "It meant a lot to me. I tell you, we've been running good since we did it. We didn't run that good at Charlotte. I'm not gonna say we haven't run as good, but it is nice to have that out of the way. Like I said, it really wasn't an issue for me because I would never think about it, but it started to become a distraction when things started heating up. So we got that done and out of the way. We're happy about that. We're just focused on this championship."

WAS YOUR CAR JUST THAT GOOD TO STAY OUT?

GREG BIFFLE: "There was no doubt in my mind that we were - not a doubt in my mind after they got four tires - but there was no doubt that we had a fast enough car to beat a lot of those guys. There were some circumstances that could have came up. If everybody came in behind us, then we might have been more of a sitting duck, but lucky enough, I had roughly four or five guys stay out with us and that makes the guys with new tires have to race those guys for position. We only had seven laps on the tires, so by the time the clear the traffic, it's gonna take them four or five laps to clear the traffic, so they've run their tires harder than they had to. But a lot of times that may have been their only choice is to come in and take four tires. If they couldn't pass the guy that was in front of them before the caution came out, there's no way they're gonna pass them when it goes back green again. So they come in and get tires and try to adjust on the race car. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to lead. I was closing in a little bit on the 20. I told Doug I felt like I'd be able to get the 20 if he would have stayed out. He went in (to pit), and I thought about it and I just said, 'I'm gonna stay out and see what happens.'"

HOW WORRIED WERE YOU ABOUT THE 20?

GREG BIFFLE: "I was worried about the 20 because the 48 at Charlotte came in and took tires and started way back in the field and a lot of times if a guy doesn't get a good start or something, they can pass a lot of cars. When I was going into one, I could see an orange car. There aren't many on the race track, but I could see an orange car. It looked to me like he was in fourth. There wasn't a lot of cars in between him and I, so I knew that he had to have passed a group of cars - like four or five of them in one corner in the top groove or something. I thought, 'Shoot, here he comes. He's just gonna mow me down with those new tires' because he had a pretty fast car. We were relatively equal, so he needed to have to race those guys and use up some of that goodie that new tires give you in order to level the playing field once he caught me. It probably would have been a different story if we had a caution. It might have given him another stab at me, but my car was pretty decent even off of the caution, so, I don't know, I think we could have beat him probably if the caution might have come out, but it was nice to have the fastest car today."

WHAT ABOUT THE STRATEGY AT THE END?

DOUG RICHERT: "Clean air. We talk about it all the time - the aero dependency of the clean air and the good downforce on the front when you're out there by yourself is worth a lot. We'd burn our tires up everytime we'd come out behind some of those guys. We thought there that one time that we really abused the tires and we weren't as fast until the end of the run it finally came around to us. Usually about 10 or 15 laps into the run the guys could beat us a little bit in the short haul, but from that point on we became a lot stronger."

WHAT DO YOU TALK ABOUT NOW TO GET BETTER?

GREG BIFFLE: "Doug and I sat down and spent a lot of time together last week talking about strategizing on what races we're gonna test when the chase comes. Where our weak points are. What our best car lineup is gonna be for Indy, back to California - what cars do we want to test. We're working hard on it, and we really don't think about it. We know that we're trying to close in on the point lead and, basically, we're pretty confident we're gonna have decent runs - top 10 runs - what we have to eliminate is brake pads falling out of the caliper and losing the brakes with 50 laps to go in the race. That cost us the point lead today. Those are the kinds of things we talk about and problem-solving before it happens is what's important for us."

JACK ROUSH: "I think that the racing that we've got today with Brian France's new format - 26 races on the first part of the schedule and 10 races on the second - still requires the same kind of traditional conservative risk-taking from a hardware point of view and a driving point of view that it always has. It was a surprise to me that the 10 races last year did not end up being a spring race. It wound up being the same kind of endurance or same kind of conservative judgments. Know what your hardware is and don't push it to its limit. If a team were out there struggling for a sponsor, what I have to do is show some blue sky here and I don't mind finishing three times but I've got to win a race or I've got to get a pole, that would be a go-for-broke kind of strategy. The format that we operate under today is still the same that it has always been. The drivers have got to protect the car until the last 10 percent of the event or so, and then take their risks prudently. You have to be careful what they run into and slapping the wall and doing the other things. If they don't, then you won't be in the championship hunt. You won't have enough points for it."

DOES THE SIZE OF ROUSH RACING HELP TO ADAPT TO THE IMPOUND RULE?

JACK ROUSH: "I'm surrounded by really, really smart people with one flaw - they hang around with me and I don't know why they do that. When they opened up Texas the first time, when we went to Las Vegas the first time - I don't remember Loudon or Fontana - but most of these new race tracks - when we have a tire change or spoiler change - the guy that I'm blessed with having in my company that I'm accompanied by, they adapt to it faster than their peers. They historically have done that. Carl is the latest indication of that. He's had very little experience with these cars and has moved right in and taken right over - much like Greg did and like Kurt Busch did before Carl and between Greg. We've got a culture of - and I guess Mark Martin is the initial bearer of it or the daddy of it - but we've got a culture of being pragmatic and looking at what's in front of us and thinking about the things that we need to do and that's just the way we live and the guys do very well."

HOW CAN THERE BE A REVERSAL WITH CHEVYS SO GOOD ON FRIDAY AND FORDS SO GOOD TODAY?

GREG BIFFLE: "Because they don't know what the track is gonna do. They're not educated enough about the race track, I don't believe. And the difference between qualifying and the rookie, young guys are gonna qualify fast because that's the way they've got the race car setup. When it comes to lap 50 on in the race, they'll be fast for the first part of the race. I knew Michael Waltrip at Pocono was gonna be fast for the first portion of the race. I didn't suspect him to be there all day just because you can't lay down a lap that fast and then race all day in a different condition. It's impossible to do, it really is. Qualifying and the way our cars change aero-balance and the way they change everything - shocks, springs, there are all kinds of things that I cannot get my car to go that fast for one lap. Like in California, I qualified fifth, which is pretty good, but I knew the minute I took the tape off it that thing is gonna be gone. We knew it was gonna be fast because I was just too loose to go that fast. And the guys that aren't, aren't gonna be around after 20 laps."

JACK ROUSH: "In the tradition qualifying deals, there was a number of the really good teams that changed their geometry. They changed their camber. They changed their caster splits. They did a number of things to change the geometry to get that speed. In a qualifying situation you don't have to worry about if you overheat one tire, if you overheat the corner of a tire. You can go punish that car. That's where speed is for one lap, but you've got to have a four-legged dog to go fast for a fuel run. You've got to be heating all of our tires evenly. If you have additional speed by heating one tire or having a cold tire more than the others, then you've got a three-legged dog and you can't do that. I've spent enough time being a tire guy when I was trying to play car guy a few years ago. You just really have to warm the tires and have them balanced. The crew chiefs understand that and the tire guys understand it and the drivers know what they're looking for. The experienced guys know when it feels like it's gonna stay on its tires and that's generally not the fastest lap."

ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT THIS TEAR YOU'RE ON?

JACK ROUSH: "Yeah, I felt like it, but you don't ever want to say anything about it because you could have egg on your face, you know? I said a couple of weeks ago that I feel like we're gonna continue to win. I felt like we could have won last week at Pocono. I really do. I told Doug, 'I can get out front. I can get track position. We can win. I can beat Carl.' I was faster than Carl. I was beside Carl and he pinched me off two or three times. They would wave at me. We're racing hard, so I asked myself, 'Where is it gonna stop? Why would we not be able to win at all these other venues?' With what we know right now and the way we're going, I feel like we can keep winning. I started to do a little homework of my own. Everybody is asking what the biggest difference is between last year. You know, we won two of the last 10 and almost three, and I really, really like to count Kansas as a win. If you go back and replay the race, we were gone all day. Nobody could come close. We put half the field a lap down and Doug tells me on the radio, 'We'll get a caution with 15 laps to go, we can't make it.' I said, 'What?' 'We can't make it.' I come in, pit, put four tires on it and start 21st. Crossing the stripe I was catching them three-tenths a lap - Joe Nemechek and the 21 car. I needed four more laps, so, really, we won three of the last 10 so what kind of a record is that? What kind of a percentage? That's about the same that it is this year, really. So once we got to that point last year, and broke through and figured out what we needed to do, it's kind of carried over. So at the end of the season at Homestead I was really, really confident. Starting out I was excited to go to California, Atlanta, all those places. I felt we were gonna be dang good at it, and, right now, we've got it figured out what we need to do and we're gonna continue to run up front, I think, I hope. God Bless our team to be running good. Everybody can say that they would have won or the could have won or they should have won. I'd tell you straight up whether I thought I could win or not, and I felt like I had a great chance at Pocono."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Kurt Busch , Mark Martin