BIFFLE FACES FAMILIAR BATTLE FOR ROUSH RACING Both Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth understand the fight ahead for their Roush teammate CONCORD, N.C. (August 9, 2006) -- With just five races remaining until the cut-off point for the 10-race Chase...
BIFFLE FACES FAMILIAR BATTLE FOR ROUSH RACING
Both Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth understand the fight ahead for their Roush teammate
CONCORD, N.C. (August 9, 2006) -- With just five races remaining until the cut-off point for the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup, Roush Racing's Greg Biffle finds himself on the outside looking in. Biffle, expected to contend for this year's Cup, is currently 114 points outside of 10th place and in a heated battle for the coveted 10th place. Biffle and the No. 16 team have one win under their belts and have led a whopping 872 laps, but a series of several unfortunate events, including an accident on the final lap of Sunday's Brickyard 400 have them in a tough fight for their second straight berth in the Chase.
For Roush Racing the scenario is a familiar one. Two seasons ago, Mark Martin left Indy with a flat tire on the final lap and a 123-point deficit between himself and 10th place. Last season Matt Kenseth left Indianapolis 168 points outside of the top 10. Both would embark on runs that would prove to be the highlights of their respective years. This week in Watkins Glen, Biffle will attempt to follow the same path.
"It was without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever done in my racing career," said Martin, looking back on his 2004 stretch run. "I had to dig down so deep to even find what we had to do to get back in that thing. It was the first year of the Chase and we wanted in that thing really bad. All we wanted was a chance.
"We had had really good race cars and we were fast," added Martin. "But we had some terrible luck and something like six or seven major wrecks and failures and we were in a hole. What we did to dig out of that is something that I'll never forget and that will always be a special team and a special year for us."
Martin started his march the following week at Watkins Glen, much the same as Biffle will look to do this weekend. He finished third at Watkins Glen and followed that up with a dominating run the following week at Michigan, leading 46 laps in a second-place finish.
Kenseth's woes continued with an 18th-place finish at Watkins Glen, but he bounced back with a third-place run at Michigan the following week that would begin a string of four straight top-five runs and would conclude with his berth in the Chase.
Martin ran strong at Bristol the following week of 2004, but a miscommunication on pit road cost the No. 6 team, and their chances were in doubt after a 13th-place finish. Conversely in 2005, Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT team turned in one of the most dominating performances in recent memory, leading 415 laps en route to a climatic victory.
Martin, who had finished dead last in the season opening Daytona 500 cracked the top 10 for the first time after a third-place finish at Fontana, in a race where he contended for the win and led 65 laps. However he would go into the 26th race of the season in 10th place and with absolutely zero room for error. An accident midway through the race sent Martin spinning completely around the middle of the track. For a moment, Martin's hopes at the Chase looked completely gone as cars crashed all around his Ford Taurus. Remarkably, he was able to recover in tact and move on to a fifth-place finish in the race; holding on to his spot in the top 10.
Like Martin, Kenseth flexed his muscle in the final two races, finishing seventh at Fontana and then second at Richmond to secure an eighth-place spot in the standings entering the Chase.
"Our comeback started in June and you could feel the momentum each week," Kenseth explained. "Believe it or not, we still weren't even looking at the standings. We were taking it one race at a time and trying to win each week. Winning always pays the most points so that's what we were trying to do. This team was in such a groove that we didn't concern ourselves with the points race, we were just going out each week and running competitively and competing for wins. We knew the rest would take care of itself and fortunately it did.
"I've said all along that I believe Greg will make the Chase," Kenseth continued. "There are at least three, maybe four, of the remaining five tracks where they're going to be one of the teams to beat, so I think they're going to be a factor for sure in these next five weeks. I wouldn't count them out yet."
Martin would go on to finish fourth in the championship race in 2004, remaining in contention for the Nextel Cup down to the last race at Homestead. Kenseth would finish seventh in 2005, but the grit and determination that those teams showed, perhaps define their accomplishment more than any trophy could.
"That effort that they gave me, means more than any trophy could," said Martin. "Those guys gave me 150 percent effort for five races and with no margin for error, and they rose up to the challenge. There were a million times where anyone of them could have given up and not one person did, and that means everything."
This season moving into Watkins Glen, at second in the point standings, Kenseth's place in his third straight Chase for the Cup is all but assured. Martin is currently sixth in the points, 137 points ahead of 11th and will look to add even more distance this weekend.
But for Greg Biffle and the No. 16 crew, the battle continues. Biffle has run well at Watkins Glen but due to a fuel miscalculation in 2003, an engine failure in 2004 and a transmission failure in 2005, his recorded finishes don't reflect the effort. In addition to his Cup record, Biffle does boast a Craftsman Truck Series win at the New York road course in 2000 and a second place Busch finish in 2001. At the following four race tracks, Biffle has 2005 Cup Series wins at both Michigan and California, three consecutive top-10 finishes at Bristol and four consecutive top-10 finishes at Richmond including a third place finish last September and a fourth place finish this May. "I feel like we have an opportunity to make it in," said Biffle. "We're coming up on two good tracks for us, California and Michigan, we run very well at. We run very well at the Glen. We haven't had the finishes to show for that. We also run very good at Bristol and Richmond. These are good tracks for us. It will be a challenge but I feel this team is up for it." The National Guard team has a simple plan. They intend to show up each week ready to win and they feel if they can do that, they have a good chance of joining their teammates in the Chase.
Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Enterprises that operates 14 motorsports teams; five in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, six in the Busch Series with Martin, Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, Todd Kluever and Danny O'Quinn, Jr., and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Martin, David Ragan, Erik Darnell and Michel Jourdain, Jr.
-credit: roush racing