Jack Roush and Greg Biffle took turns talking to the media about what has transpired to this point during Speedweeks and what lies ahead.
Jack Roush and Greg Biffle participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning to unveil the new 3M Mobile Innovation Center at Daytona International Speedway. During the tour, both men took turns talking to the media about what has transpired to this point during Speedweeks and what lies ahead.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner, Roush Fenway Racing
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE FIRST 50 LAPS OF THE 500 TO BE LIKE WITH SO MANY BIG NAMES IN THE BACK? “I think the first 50 laps will be fairly quiet. I hope they will. The formula that NASCAR has worked out for the car causes closing rates to be higher than they were with the previous car, and it causes certainly not any less interest that the guys have in maintaining their momentum.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE WAY THE AIR HAS BEEN WORKING AROUND THESE CARS? “I think the two big things that I see are the increased effect of the side drafting – the bumping on the side business as you overtake another car – the closing rate, and, of course, the consequence you pay if you wind up being the victim of somebody else’s strategy that winds up to be in their interest. You can be where Carl was last night in the Twin 150, you could be leading or be in the one of the first two places and if you don’t get in line fast enough, you go to the back and there’s just nothing you can do about it.”
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS REACTION BEFORE WITH OTHER CARS THAT ARE SIMILAR? “The size of the wind that this thing blows through the air and the amount of air that is disturbed in the process is marginally greater than what I’ve seen in the past. The tendencies are all the same. The problem is you’ve got yourself 360-380 horsepower of drag and you’ve got yourself 440-450 horsepower, so that gets you in a situation where you’re approaching terminal speed where the drag matches the output of the engine by the time you get to the rear wheels and you have a consider loss there of probably at least 15 horsepower lost through the drive train, so you reach the terminal velocity where the car is being buffeted and held back by the drag and if you have any interruption in your power, or you don’t take advantage of the opportunities you’ve got for getting sucked along from the car next to you, you really wind up not being able to race effectively.”
HAS THIS PACKAGE RESULTED IN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AND YOU CAN’T FAULT THE DRIVERS FOR THE POSITIONS THEY’RE IN? “The side drafting is big. Maintaining your momentum is huge and the closure rate is bigger than it’s been for the given circumstance of what the proximity of a car is and what their alignment is, so those things put a greater premium on the drivers doing things that they otherwise might not do with less margin of safety. It’s a consequence of the layout of the track, a consequence of the layout of the car. Until Goodyear comes back and takes 20 percent of the grip out of the tires, there’s no resolution to it I see. As long as you have a situation where you can run wide-open around the corners, then NASCAR has to control the terminal velocity of the car so that they can keep it inside the barriers. They’ve got to limit the power so that the speeds are conducive with safe racing for the fans and for the drivers. The thing that I suggest is that we look at taking some grip out of the tires, so there would be more slipping and sliding and less adhesion to it.”
DO YOU THINK THEY’LL LISTEN TO THAT? “Probably not (smiling).”
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
CAN YOU THINK OF A TURNING POINT IN YOUR CAREER WHERE IF IT HADN’T HAPPENED YOU WOULDN’T BE HERE TODAY? “Before I got my opportunity with Jack it was Tucson Winter Heat (1997-98), when I was building my own cars, putting it in my trailer, towing it with my Doolie truck, and going to Tucson.
THOUGHTS ON IF YOU WIN THE 500 IT PRETTY MUCH QUALIFIES YOU FOR THE CHASE. “That is kind of different than our normal thinking. You think about it, this is huge, but now it’s extra-special because you win the Daytona 500 and you’re in the Chase. That’s a pretty incredible way to start the season. It’s the same with all of our other races. You win at Phoenix, you win at Vegas and you’re in the Chase. It changes the complex of our sport and it’s certainly an added benefit to winning, but this is a huge event and we’ve got a great car. Unfortunately, we’re not starting where we want, but I went from the front to the back in that 150 twice, so we feel like we’ve got a good piece.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A HANDLE ON THIS SIDE DRAFTING ISSUE? “There’s always been side drafting – always, always, always. Now because the cars are so close together in speed, we’ve always side drafted but really it’s almost the only way to pass now because the car won’t get a run by itself. Everybody is so close in competition that you can’t get a little draft and change a lane and be able to pass a guy. You almost have to side draft to try and get anything going and here’s a classic thing on how a wreck happens. I have to come down and get next to this guy to side draft, well this car is offset a little bit, so when I come down here I hit this guy before I get next to this guy to get the side draft. So if the cars aren’t perfectly lined up, you can’t come down and get a side draft off that guy. That happened last night with Kasey Kahne and I. I was behind one guy and Kasey came down to try and side draft and got really tight and hit my left-front fender slightly. We were both able to save it, but that’s a perfect example of how those things happen is you’ve got to get right tight on the guy and that has a ripple effect on behind. You’ve got to be careful about coming down and getting tight and side drafting. It’s a product of what we’ve always done, but it seems a little more pronounced now because it seems like it’s the only way we can kind of get a little shot.”
HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE THE YOUNG GUYS TO FIGURE THIS OUT? “After you wreck a few times, you’ll figure it out. The other thing is you see it happen in front of you. You see this guy come over and try to side draft and that guy was there and you’re like, ‘I’ve got to pay attention to that.’ We all have to learn and it’s just a matter of how closely you’re paying attention.”
WHEN YOU SAY MORE PRONOUNCED TO WHAT DEGREE? “We’ve always, always side drafted. Dale Earnhardt would come up and side draft a guy and pull down and make a pass. We’ve done it forever, it’s just being talked about more now , I think. Replay last year. We were all side drafting all the time, it’s just that we’re talking about it more now. You get a little because of the spoiler and whatever else, you get a little more shot with the side draft now – not much, but a little bit more.”
IS IT HARDER TO WIN THESE RACES NOW COMPARED TO 10 YEARS AGO? “It’s very difficult to win one now and the reason why is because the competition and the cars are so close together. We’ve made that effort. We said, ‘Hey, we want the cars closer together. We want them four-wide, five rows deep all the time.’ Well, in an effort to do that the competition keeps getting closer and closer and closer, then that makes it more difficult. When you’re sixth and all the guys in front of you have an equally weighted car, meaning equal performance, equal downforce, equal tires, how am I gonna get by him? So the difficulty becomes how are you gonna get by the car that is exactly the same as yours? There has to be something that makes me different than that guy.”
HOW MUCH PERCENTAGE IS THE RISK VS. REWARD FACTOR IN POSITIONING YOURSELF OUT THERE? “That’s what a lot of it boils down to is, ‘I’m gonna try that outside line,’ or ‘I’m gonna try this or try that,’ but, keep in mind, the track is only so big and you can only drive in the groove at a place like Phoenix. There is rubber and dirt and sand and debris piled up outside of that edge and you can’t go up there, so I’ve got this much room to work in to try to make whatever happen I can make happen. We’re limited by the real estate we have and what we can do with our car.”
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN JUNIOR WON HERE 10 YEARS AGO? “Yeah, I remember that day. I remember him winning it. I was really happy for him and, I tell you what, you look three years ago and I was leading twice when the caution came out. When we made the three green-white-checker rule that first year it was enforced I won the Daytona 500. I was leading and the caution came out – no, no, no, we’ve got three green-white-checkers now. OK, the next one who is leading? Me. Next one? Me. Third one? Jamie. So I’ve been so close so many times. It’s just luck of the draw, the right push, the lane and then if a caution comes out. It happened to me the next year. Matt and I were dicing for position and I was in front and then Matt was and then I was and then Matt was and then Matt won the thing. I’ve been right there and I know what it’s like. I was trying to push Junior the one time when somebody won.”
HARD TO BELIEVE HE HASN’T WON SINCE THEN? “There again it’s so hard to win in this sport and we’re all so close together. I can’t say it’s surprising. You look at the point system and I can’t say, but people say he would have been the champion last year. I don’t know that because I haven’t done all the math and researched it, but that says something for the consistency of that team. Let me tell you something, that takes a lot. People discount that today. It’s like, ‘throw that out the window.’ People don’t care about that, but it is hard to show up in this game and run fifth every week. I’m telling you, it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life – to show up and run fifth every week. People think that’s B.S. because you’re not winning races because that’s all we care about – I disagree with that. It is hard.”
DO YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE THOUGHT THAT THE TOYOTAS ARE THE ONES TO BEAT THIS YEAR? “Here, yes. They look very fast. They were fast this year, fast last year. Quite honestly, Matt Kenseth probably would have won the 500 in that 20 car last year if he didn’t blow up. They’ve got something in race trim that they don’t have in qualifying trim. In qualifying, they’re not there. When it comes to dropping the rag and we’re in race trim, they’ve got a little something that they’re trimming their car out differently than we are or they have a little something that makes their car a little faster it looks like.”