Ford is on the verge of a championship sweep in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). Already the 1999 NCTS manufacturers' champion for the first time ever, Roush Racing's Greg Biffle - driver of the ...
Ford is on the verge of a championship sweep in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). Already the 1999 NCTS manufacturers' champion for the first time ever, Roush Racing's Greg Biffle - driver of the #50 Grainger Ford F-150 - can give Ford a series' double win by capturing the NCTS driver's championship.
Biffle, who enters Saturday's season finale at California Speedway as the point's leader, is in the midst of the closest race in NCTS history among three drivers. He has a 21-point lead over second-place driver Jack Sprague (#24 Chevrolet) and a 25-point lead over third-place driver Dennis Setzer (#1 Dodge). The previous tightest race was in 1996 when 99 points covered first through third. That's the only time more than two drivers had a mathematical shot at the title entering the final event. In 1999, adding Stacy Compton (#86 Dodge) and Jay Sauter (#3 Chevrolet), and the number is five. The 29-year-old Biffle can become the youngest champion in NCTS history by finishing no worse than third in the NAPA Auto Parts 200. This season has been a breakthrough one for Biffle and the Grainger/Roush team. His first career NCTS win came at Memphis this season in only his 33rd career start. Following his first win, Biffle has been on absolute tear winning eight out of the 18 subsequent events. His nine visits to Victory Lane in one season is a series' record and with $567,230 in winnings, Biffle has more race winnings in a single season than any other NCTS driver.
Biffle was a guest on the NASCAR Teleconference on Tuesday afternoon. Below is a transcript of his comments as he not only attempts to win the another championship for Ford but with a win, Biffle will give long time team owner Jack Roush his first NASCAR title of any kind.
GREG BIFFLE - 50 - Grainger/Roush Racing Ford F-150:
YOU'RE WHERE YOU WANT TO BE - IN THE TOP SPOT IN THE POINTS - GOING INTO THE SEASON FINALE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THE RACE? "We're real fortunate to be where we are. It's unfortunate also the position we're in with not having the championship basically won at this point. The team is going to continue to do the best that they can do. If we come in here with the same attitude that we've had the whole season, I think that we'll put ourselves in line for a top-five finish and just hope that one of the other trucks might not win. And hopefully we can lead a lap throughout the weekend. I think that it is great for the sport and the whole series for us to have all three manufacturers represented for the championship title race. That shows that NASCAR has done their job to try and level out these trucks the best they can. Jack (Sprague) has mentioned that the Chevrolet and we know that they (Chevrolet) don't have near as much downforce as we do. And we know that they have a lot less drag, which helps them at the bigger speedways and may not be so much of an advantage at some of the shorter tracks. It levels itself out overall. But there is a small disadvantage for us coming into a superspeedway, I think."
IRONICALLY, LAST SEASON IN THE NCTS SEASON FINALE AT LAS VEGAS, IT WAS JACK SPRAGUE THAT MADE A BUMPING PASS BY YOU TO TAKE THE RACE LEAD, PREVENTING YOU FROM WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR FIRST WIN. ARE THERE ANY MEMORIES FROM THAT DAY THAT WILL CARRY OVER TO THIS YEAR? "It was one of those things. Last year was a huge learning curve for me and I made some passes or attempts to pass that I probably shouldn't have. There was contact between Jack and me there at Las Vegas and we both have our own opinions about it. I have fun racing all the guys and this just goes to show you how competitive this series is. I certainly hope that it is the three of us duking it out in California with 25 laps to go. That would be the ultimate goal, I think, is for all three of us to be in position to win the thing."
EARLIER IN THE YEAR BEFORE YOU GOT YOUR FIRST WIN AT MEMPHIS, DID YOU THINK THAT YOU'D BE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD GOING INTO THE SEASON FINALE? "No I really didn't. Our year started out really bad and slow. I think that everybody kind of uses the same story. But once we got to Memphis and got that first win; we got our momentum going and really got focused. The team really got focused. We came home from that win at Portland (Oregon) that really energized the team; winning on a road course considering we'd never even finished one. That really catapulted us as far as our spirit and how dedicated the whole team was."
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR JACK SPRAGUE? "What advice do I have for Jack (laughing)? I don't know if I have any advice for him. Maybe drag the brake pedal the whole race or something! No I really don't have any advice. He's a sharp cat and he's won this thing before. He knows what he's got to go out and do and I know what I've got to try and go out and do. I just hope we get to race together like we did this year at Las Vegas and some of the other racetracks."
WITH ALL THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS THIS WEEKEND, ESPECIALLY LATE IN THE RACE, IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY THAT YOU WILL BE TOO FIRED UP AND MIGHT DO SOMETHING THAT WILL GET YOU INTO TROUBLE ON THE TRACK? "We've had 25 races to test all of our skills. I've gotten myself into some situations that I've gotten out of by the skin of my teeth and I'm going to try to not get myself into those situations this race. I know what I have to do to win the championship and that is to finish third. If I can manipulate myself to stay out of trouble and run clean then I'm not going to take those jeopardy passes unless it's two laps to go and I've got to have a spot. Everybody is going to try everything they can but you're not going to wreck yourself to get second or to get third instead of finishing fourth."
THIS WILL BE THE FIRST NCTS EVENT AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY TO USE "LIVE" PIT STOPS AND ONE KEY TO YOUR TEAM'S SUCCESSFUL SEASON HAS BEEN STRONG PIT WORK BY YOUR CREW. COMMENT ON THAT. "It's so ironic how a person hates to learn the hard way. Last year I felt that we probably gave up four wins by having 'live' pit stops. We led to the halfway break at Martinsville (last year). We definitely had Memphis won. We probably would have won New Hampshire, we had a great truck but we pitted late there and put tires on and didn't put gas in it and ran out at the end. We learned the hard way and it paid for us this year. It cost us a bunch of wins last year and it probably got us five or six wins this year. So it's kind of ironic how you can learn from your mistakes. That's what it's really done. Randy Goss (crew chief) the whole way out to California today was working scenarios through his head on the airplane. That guy is so focused. He never gives up and he comes up with some crazy ideas that sometimes work. Everybody is going to be trying what they can to get the advantage."
FOLLOWING THE PENALTY HANDED OUT FROM NASCAR FOLLOWING THE LAS VEGAS RACE, HOW HAS THE TEAM BEEN EMOTIONALLY AND HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO STAY FOCUSED? "Well, really the wins have helped us keep our focus. We were probably off a little bit when we went to Louisville, Kentucky and it may have showed a little bit. I think that I drove a little more conservative than I wanted to. I didn't want to get in there and beat the fenders in on the tires right away. I got back in the pack further than I wanted and so then that cost me and got me into a few jeopardizing situations. I think that it got to me a little bit. I don't think it got to the team a whole lot. But we really rebounded well at Texas obviously and the guys have really high spirits. But it's really the nine wins that got us over the hump of the penalty."
WOULD WINNING THE 1999 CHAMPIONSHIP FOLLOWING YOUR PENALTY MAKE THE CHAMPIONSHIP EVEN MORE SWEETER? "Oh definitely. Regardless of the outcome whether we win it or not, we're not going to forget the fact that we got the penalty, even if we win the championship."