This Week in Ford Racing August 10, 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series A quick recap of Greg Biffle's accomplishments during the first 18 races of the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) season: * Biffle has earned the first six...
This Week in Ford Racing August 10, 1999
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
A quick recap of Greg Biffle's accomplishments during the first 18 races of the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) season:
* Biffle has earned the first six victories of his NCTS career. The six wins have come in the last 13 races including five wins out of the last eight. He is the third driver to win six or more times in a NCTS season. Overall he has 10 top fives and 13 top-10 finishes in 1999.
* Following his latest victory at Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) last Thursday night, Biffle vaulted past Jack Sprague and into the NCTS points lead. He now owns a 48-point lead with seven races remaining. The latest a Ford driver has led was back in 1995 when Joe Ruttman topped the points after race 10.
* At 29 years seven months, Biffle is the youngest driver to show in the number 1 position in the driver point standings in NCTS history.
* Biffle's win at IRP moved Ford to the top of the manufacturer point standings. The last time Ford sat atop the manufacturer standings came last year, following race 12.
* Biffle has the most wins by a driver in a major NASCAR series and is number 1 among his Roush Racing teammates. Mark Martin and Jeff Burton each have won five times in 1999, combining their NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Busch Series victories.
GREG BIFFLE - 50 - Grainger Ford F-150 - ONCE YOU GOT YOUR FIRST CAREER NCTS VICTORY AT MEMPHIS IN MAY, YOUR SEASON HAS REALLY TAKEN OFF. COMMENT ON YOUR LAST THREE MONTHS OF NCTS ACTION. "The win at Memphis kind of turned the season around for us. We knew the team was capable of winning. We showed that last season. It just took a matter of time before we got things put together right. It was actually a couple of races after that when I really started feeling comfortable with the trucks and figured out what I needed them to feel like every week. The team has done absolutely a fantastic job. Once I've figured out a little better what I need, they're able to do exactly what needs to be done to the truck every week. It's been a fantastic last eight weeks for us."
DID YOUR FIRST CAREER WIN AT MEMPHIS SEEM TO LIFT A HUGE WEIGHT OFF YOUR SHOULDERS AND PROPEL YOU TO THE HOT STREAK THAT YOU'RE CURRENTLY ON? "Yeah it has. Every win after that it seems - I shouldn't say easier but - there is less pressure. Like when Stacy (Compton) was behind me at IRP and putting all that pressure on me or when I had to charge through all the guys at Michigan, each race seems easier when all those guys are putting the charge on you and trying to make the pass for the win. I'm better able to stay calm and not make mistakes and do what you need to do to win the race. It's a great feeling to have that kind of control right now to stay focused in those closing laps and to know what you have to get done. It really opened up the door for us there at Memphis and we were really happy to get our first win there."
FOUR RACES AGO, YOU WERE 165 POINTS BEHIND THE SERIES' LEADER JACK SPRAGUE AND NOW YOU'VE GOT A 48-POINT LEAD. COMMENT ON BECOMING THE NEW POINT LEADER IN THE SERIES. "I was relatively shocked to figure out that I'd gained the point lead. I had somewhat assumed that I might have gotten the lead but wasn't sure. When you're out there racing, you're not figuring out how the points are going to shake out, but I knew that Jack (Sprague) was out of the race early. When they told me that I had a 48-point lead (after the race), I was shocked. I thought that it would be within about five points or something. But there again, I wasn't sure how many points I would pick up."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER? "I certainly do. If we just continue to take each race like we are now and let the points turn out like they will. I felt that we could catch Jack (Sprague) by just being consistent, finishing, and by doing what we're capable of doing. We're coming into a run of great race tracks for the Grainger Ford, tracks that we will be good on and have been good on. So I think that will strengthen the rest of our season."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO POSSIBLY WIN THE FIRST NCTS TITLE FOR FORD MOTOR COMPANY AND FIRST NASCAR TITLE FOR TEAM OWNER JACK ROUSH? "It would mean a tremendous amount to me to get Jack Roush his first championship and more than that Ford. We can't leave out Grainger as well. My sponsor has been involved in NASCAR for two years and they're excited to continue to be involved and possibly move on with us. It's a great deal of pressure when I switch my focus and think about all the aspects that are involved in the championship race this year. To me it's a championship, but then I look at the big picture and I see Ford wanting to win their first championship in the truck series and Jack Roush wanting to win also. It would be a huge deal for us and I would certainly like to be the one to put Ford on the podium this year."
LOOKING AT THE CURRENT NCTS POINT STANDINGS, WE SEE NEW, YOUNGER DRIVERS BEGINNING TO MAKE AN IMPACT. DO YOU SEE A TURNOVER HAPPENING IN THE SERIES? "Yeah and I think that you'll continue to see that in Busch and Winston Cup also. I think all athletes are tending to get younger and younger. Either that or I'm getting way older quicker! You see the Casey Atwood's and the Kevin Harvick's coming up and gaining experience. That's simply what it is. These guys have been there for four and five years now so they have experience on us and there is no way to ever catch up. It makes it tough to catch up and tough to level that playing field out. But once a person gets to that level, then you're racing apples against apples at that point."
DO YOU SEE THE TENSIONS AMONG THE DRIVERS RISING IN THE SERIES? "I think they are a little bit. What's happening is the competition level in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is getting so tough. When a guy has to trade paint, rub a guy off or move one over and do whatever it takes to make the pass, then people aren't happy. I had a lot better truck than Stacy Compton had at New Hampshire and three times I made a run at him and he pinched me down. I got a little bit sideways and lost two or three spots on the race track at a place where it is very tough to pass. When you work hard all day, sometimes things come up and tempers can start to rise."
JACK ROUSH HAS STATED THAT HE SEES A NEED FOR A "YEAR OR TWO OF DETOX" AFTER DRIVING THE TRUCKS BEFORE MAKING THE STEP IN WINSTON CUP. COMMENT ON THAT STATEMENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR MOVING UP IN THE FUTURE? "Well I'm not sure if he has used the right terminology there. I've spoken to several Winston Cup drivers and they tell me that the truck is more similar (to Winston Cup cars) in the way they drive as far as traction and power, than a Busch car; knowing that a Busch car has a lot less power. I think someone of my caliber needs to understand that the center of gravity weight is down a lot lower and they (Winston Cup cars) have a lot different aerodynamic features which give them downforce even on the short tracks, even a little bit more than the trucks do. Those are things that we need to learn. And all the different race tracks. We don't go to Rockingham or a lot of other tracks. That was my biggest struggle in my rookie year last year was that every race track that I went to, I'd not seen before. The biggest obstacle to overcome was not knowing the race track. In the Winston Cup shows, if you don't make the race, you don't get any experience on that race track. The only way to get good experience is to race the whole entire race and adjust your vehicle and figure things out. I'm comfortable going to the Busch series for a year or two to gain that experience. I don't want to end up in Winston Cup too soon. I really like where I am in the truck series but I know that I need to go to the Busch series at sometime to gain some experience."
YOU FINISHED LAST SEASON VERY STRONG. WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU DIDN'T WIN SOONER THIS YEAR? "Yes I was. Really that was my fault. In the first two races of the season, we had the truck to win with. We qualified fourth at Homestead and Phoenix. I just really failed to make the proper chassis adjustments during the caution flags and the truck just loosened up and loosened up. I was afraid to adjust myself out of running up front and by doing that, I adjusted myself out by not making adjustments. I thought that we'd have a good opportunity to win those first two races, but we knew that we'd struggle with the next few races right after that. To make a long story short, I did think that we could win sooner than we did."
HOW TOUGH HAS THE SWITCH TO "LIVE" PIT STOPS INSTEAD OF THE MID-RACE BREAK BEEN FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? "The change came about mid way through the season last year and it took us a while to adapt to it. I really feel that it cost us about two or three wins last year. At Martinsville, we led for quite a while and of course at Memphis where we didn't put tires on. It took us a while to get used to making the right decisions and even now we don't make the right decisions every week but having live pit stops sure does a lot for the series. I think NASCAR has done a great job of making the rules for the pit stops and they have enhanced the racing tremendously. The guys practice stops every day at the race shop. I normally drive the truck one or two days a week during practice to help me get used to stopping on the mark. The team is very, very serious about it."
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT NCTS RACE:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO GATEWAY NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT, AUGUST 20? "I'm excited to be going back to Gateway. I feel like it could be my home track because we run so well on the mile and mile-and-a-quarter tracks. We were on the pole there last year and had an awesome truck. I really feel that we can win there if we have the right strategy and just continue to do the things we're doing. I can't wait to get back to St. Louis."
TAKE US THROUGH A LAP AT GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY FROM YOUR DRIVING PERSPECTIVE? "It's definitely challenging to a driver because the two ends are so drastically different. Turns 1 and 2 are really tight turns and the whole key in to keep the momentum up around the corner so that you can get off of (turn) 2 and down the backstretch. And then in turns 3 and 4, it's tough to keep the thing tight enough because it's such a long, sweeping corner that the truck tends to be a little bit loose there. You have to keep the chassis so free to keep your momentum up in turns 1 and 2. From one end to the other, it's a balance that you really have to have to race well there. It's a very nice facility; smooth, fast, two- and three-wide racing for us."
DO YOU THINK THAT RACING AT NIGHT WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR THE DRIVERS? "I don't think it will mean a whole lot of change. Night races are great. It does a lot for the fans and it does a lot for us too. It cools stuff down inside the race truck and I really enjoy the night racing. I wish we could do more of it next year. The truck really doesn't change that much from day to night, just minor adjustments that we're able to make during the race."
YOUR TEAMMATE MIKE BLISS HAS YET TO WIN THIS YEAR. WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO DO TO CONTINUE HIS STRING OF AT LEAST ONE NCTS WIN A YEAR IN THE SERIES? "Mike is definitely overdue for a win. I think the Exide team is definitely capable of winning this year. They've had their ups and downs. They've struggled with communication because Mike is used to driving different types of chassis' in the truck series. Our chassis' are quite a bit different and it takes a while to get them figured out. But we're helping the #99 team as much as we can every week and it's showing lately. They go off their own way though. Mike has a little bit different driving characteristic to a degree. So those guys are due. If he just plays his cards right, he'll be there soon. I'd be really surprised if he's not real good at Gateway."