Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion, is 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings going into Sunday's Pennsylvania 500. He spoke about a variety of issues as part of the Nextel Wake-Up Call Friday morning in...
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion, is 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings going into Sunday's Pennsylvania 500. He spoke about a variety of issues as part of the Nextel Wake-Up Call Friday morning in the Pocono Raceway infield media center.
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
"I feel like we're on the verge of being able to win here if we can beat a couple of the guys at the top. Obviously, if the cautions would not have fallen, we may have stood a chance of beating Denny last time, whether he would have been able to catch us or not when we were leading. That is a factor, how the fuel mileage works out and cautions and all that, but we've run very well here and led a few races here, but haven't been able to be leading at the end."
WHAT IS YOUR CHASE STRATEGY NOW?
"I guess we're kind of splitting the difference. We're being cautiously aggressive. We're getting the best finishes that we can. We're racing as hard as we can. We raced as hard as we could at Loudon with the 11 car, trying to get around him. I kind of made a mistake there and burned my right-front tire off trying to pass him. We were faster than him at that point and felt like we might have been able to get up and race with the 5, but it's difficult to pass there. I ended up settling for what was going to be fourth and then he ran out of gas and we ended up third. I think that was playing medium safe at Loudon and that's what we need to do. We just need to be in the top five. We need to not have worse than 10th or 12th-place finishes. We're closing in a little bit on that 400-point margin and, really, that's what I'm looking at. Obviously, we don't want anybody to have bad races, but if we can close in some more on Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, my teammate, and get inside that 400-point mark or within it or close to it, then that's another opportunity and we don't have to worry about who we're around at that point."
HOW DID YOU DO THE LUCK TRANSPLANT WITH TONY STEWART?
"I just slid it over there underneath his trailer and just gave it to him. It looked like he needed it, so we needed to good luck (joking). It's funny, it happens and it seems like you can't shake it sometimes. We had two races recently that weren't that good -- Daytona and Chicago. Even though we finished 11th, we kind of got trapped there on fuel mileage again and felt like we needed to stop to ensure us to make the end. Then you're nervous going into the next one. It's like, 'Gosh, are we gonna have another finish?' Then you get a third and you're kind of pumped up about it and on you go, you feel like you're back on track, but it's hard to shake those 35th-place finishes or 30th-place finishes. When you get a couple in a row you almost get the attitude of like, 'What can go wrong this week?' That makes it difficult, but we definitely have swapped positions. At the beginning of the season, like we said, if we made the chase, we're gonna have 10 perfect races because bad luck can't follow us forever, but it looks like we were able to turn it around earlier and might make the chase."
IS IT AN URGENT MODE YOU'RE IN NOW?
"I was ninth or 10th in points going into Daytona, I don't remember, and ended up out of the top 10. Then I finished 11th in Chicago and didn't quite make it back and then got a third and made it back in. We're on the borderline. It's obvious that there is no room for error right now. We have something like seven races left and there's no margin for any error right now."
HOW MUCH DOUBT WAS THERE OF MAKING THE CHASE EARLY ON WHEN THINGS WERE GOING BAD?
"Early on somebody asked the question and I wished I wouldn't have said it, but somebody asked the question, 'How many bad races do you think you can have and still make the chase?' And we had something like three bad runs and were 15th or 18th in points -- whatever -- and I said, 'Oh, you can have half a dozen races and still make it in. They looked at me like they were all surprised and we were at that mark and I think Tony is too -- of having what I call six bad races, what I call bad races -- not top fives or top 10s -- obviously ran out of gas, flat tires, those kinds of races. I think we're at seven and we're still flirting with the top 10. I would have never thought that would have happened, but at one point when we got to 23rd or 24th in points, I was a little nervous at that point I have to admit."
IS THERE A CHANCE RICHMOND COULD BE BIGGER AND OVERSHADOW WHAT HAPPENS AT HOMESTEAD?
"Certainly it can be because any driver would like to, if I made the chase I would certainly like to have about a 125-point lead or something at Phoenix before Homestead, so that there wasn't a lot of pressure. Obviously, that probably won't happen, but certainly it could if you had nine perfect races, but there's gonna be a lot more on the line for a lot of drivers. There's gonna be a lot on the line for like six guys at Richmond, where at Homestead there is probably gonna be a lot on the line for three again, like last year, or four because there are the what ifs. Let's say Jimmie Johnson is leading and has a problem at Richmond? Then the 400-point mark gets opened up, let alone the guys racing for a position. They could be racing for that 400-point mark at the same time. We've seen that year after year. It depends where the leader is at, depending on whether this guy is in or out, so there's gonna be a race within itself of Jimmie Johnson, and then a race within itself of eighth through 13th all in the same race."
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO JUMP UP IN POINTS AND ARE YOU CONSCIOUS OF GETTING THOSE LEADER BONUS POINTS?
"Yeah, I worked extremely hard at Loudon to get five points. I drove the wheels off my car and used up a lot of tires and brakes and was driving probably a little over my head at a couple points trying to catch the 41 car to get five points. I finally got close enough to him, and then he was backing up a little bit. I kept a lot of pressure on. I would have never run that fast on that run if I wouldn't have been within a quarter straightaway of him -- to try to get those five points -- and sometimes that will hurt you. If that would have turned out to be the longest run of the race -- green flag pit stop -- I could have got those five points, could have slid back and maybe lost four or five positions and had to pit early because I was running out of tires. All kinds of things can happen, but I felt that was a chance I needed to take -- those five points right then."
ARE YOU GLAD THAT YOU'RE NOT IN THE SILLY SEASON RUMORS THIS YEAR?
"Yeah, I'm really happy with that and that I've got a deal with Roush locked up. It's always in the back of my head the multi-car team issue that's floated around last year of what we're gonna do eventually about that to comply if that ends up being an issue."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN DENNY HAMLIN AND THE OTHER ROOKIES?
"Definitely there are a lot of good drivers. Reed Sorenson, Clint Bowyer and all those guys are in good equipment and have a decent amount of talent. They've all won Busch races. Every once in a while, it's not very often, do you get a race car like Denny had. I've had a few of those over my career and it's almost figuring out how to lose the race versus how to win it because you're gonna win it. They blew a left-rear tire and spun down through the grass and had to put all the crush panels back in and when you have a race car that is that fast and that into the race track, it's really just put the thing on auto-pilot -- not very often does that happen and you get a car that is that much faster than everybody else. But every once in a while all of the stars line up and everything is perfect -- the car works great and works perfect and you just hope that nothing goes wrong. We'll see if that happens again. Obviously, if he's not that dominant, he's gonna be at least in the top five because they brought the same car back and what not. The rookie crop is very good this year. There are a lot of good guys in it."
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF THIS YEAR?
"Yeah, I think so. Definitely I learned a lesson early in this sport when I lost the championship by eight points. Certainly when that happens, you feel that life isn't fair. I got a point penalty three races before the end of the season and end up losing it by eight points, so that right there taught me a big lesson in life that you just do the best you can everyday and whatever happens, happens. I did the best I could last year and we ended up, unfortunately, with a loose lugnut at Texas and certainly that cost us the championship by a lot. You just go on and do the best you can. I think this year, with the awareness of what we need to do in the chase if we make it in, we definitely have a better opportunity to win the championship this year because of what happened to us last year."
WHAT IS YOUR FEELING WHEN YOU SEE THE NAMES IN THE TOP 10 RIGHT NOW?
"Somebody asked me about Tony Stewart and what it was gonna be like racing him for a position and Tony, in my opinion will make the chase purely on performance in these next six races. That team runs good enough performance-wise to make it. Now, if they have anymore problems that's gonna hinder them on making it, but purely on a performance aspect I think that team has the capability of making it in -- as well, I think, our team does. So that leaves it up in the air for a couple guys that are right there in that bracket we're racing against. I don't know how it's gonna turn out to be honest with you, but I think the 20 team is very strong and it's gonna be a tight finish. There are a lot of good guys right there racing for position, but the same thing can happen to a guy that's seventh in points or sixth right now that's happened to Tony. That can happen as well, so it could be a little bit further up in the deal. We still have seven races, so a lot can happen in seven races."
HOW DO YOU ADJUST TO A NEW CREW CHIEF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE YEAR?
"A lot of times change is good for a team because what happens is -- like in every business relationship or whatever it is -- it kind of gets stale after a while and you kind of lose confidence. You show up at Pocono and, 'OK, we're gonna run 15th because we haven't run any better than that anywhere.' And you don't believe in your race cars and you don't believe in your team or your crew chief or whatever, so you kind of get on that low. By making that change, it can spark the energy in the entire team, the driver and everything and that driver is gonna go out and give it 110 percent because he's about the new crew chief and relationship. A lot of times we see the teams do better for the first few races when there's a crew chief change and I think that's a lot of it -- everybody is ultra-focused and doing the best they absolutely can. It's not the best because obviously there's a problem when they change, but after you change sometimes it fixes itself."
HAVE YOU ASKED JACK ABOUT THE MULTI-CAR SITUATION DOWN THE ROAD?
"Not really. My contract and all the stuff is pretty iron clad through 2009, so it's not really gonna be an issue until after that. That's kind of a long time from now, so if it hasn't cropped up between now and then and been fixed, then I guess we'll deal with it when that time comes."
Continued in part 2