BUSCH: Pressure off Biffle

Despite jump to Busch, pressure off Biffle By Marty Smith CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2001) -- Anyone who thinks Greg Biffle is simply going to jump into Mark Martin's fleet of Fords and dominate the Busch Series might want to rethink the situation.

Despite jump to Busch, pressure off Biffle
By Marty Smith

CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2001) -- Anyone who thinks Greg Biffle is simply going to jump into Mark Martin's fleet of Fords and dominate the Busch Series might want to rethink the situation.

Not only is Biffle a lowly rookie, but Martin's cars are gone, too.

Car owner Jack Roush took one for his museum. Longtime sponsor Winn-Dixie took one for their Mark Martin shrine and Martin himself held onto one for safekeeping.

Thus, Biffle is left to defend the longstanding Roush tradition of Busch Series dominance without the use of proven machines. This is not to say, however, that he needs a shoulder to cry on. Not only is he equipped with a vast array of brand new racecars, but he has more resources than a mineral spring, too.

"Basically, the only concrete thing I've got going for me as far as Mark's success is concerned is the trend itself," Biffle said. "A lot of people think I'm stepping in and taking Mark's place. And, although we do have his notes and, of course, Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, too, to fall back on, we don't have any of his equipment.

"We've got all new guys, a new fleet of cars and we just moved into a brand new shop. So a lot of things are new to us. It's like starting over. People outside are saying, 'Hey, Roush has got this great Busch program and they're just gonna cycle in some new stuff and continue to dominate.' That's not necessarily the case. We're gonna come out fighting, though, I'll tell you that."

In three years of competition, Biffle scrapped his way to the top of the Craftsman Truck Series. After winning the 1998 rookie-of-the-year crown, he burst onto the scene in '99 with a series-record nine victories and a runner-up finish to Jack Sprague in the points race. Thus, heading into 2000 the pressure was on to produce, and ultimately bring home the hardware.

"Oh yeah, (pressure) was there," Biffle said. "I didn't show any pressure to anyone, because that's when you make mistakes. I just tried to stay focused. I had a hard time with it though, because I thought about it every minute of every day -- 10 races to go, five races to go, what do I have to do to pull this off. I kept a positive attitude, but I had issues with it as far as putting pressure on myself.

"I felt the most pressure at the beginning of the year, people asking 'What's wrong with Greg Biffle? He's supposed to be so good and he hasn't done squat yet.'"

After eight races, Biffle had four top-5s, but failed to finish among the top-10 in any of the other four races. He ranked fifth in the points, nearly 200 points behind leader Mike Wallace, and was beginning to wonder where the previous season's thunder had gone. The following weekend, he would get a resounding answer.

Biffle thoroughly dominated the CTS affair at Pikes Peak, leading the most laps en route to the first of five wins on the year. The following week, he finished fourth at Evergreen Speedway before winning three consecutive races at Texas, Kentucky and Watkins Glen. After taking the points lead at Texas, he never relinquished it.

So much for pressure.

"Everyone felt like nothing else but a championship would have been good enough. It was like there was no other option," Biffle said. "Everything was about (me) and performing. That was tough for awhile, but those wins got us through it."

Heading into 2001, Biffle's role and outlook have changed. He is the hunted no longer.

"Now, I can sneak into the mix and just be another guy racing," Biffle said. "Now, I'm climbing back up that ladder. All that pressure is gone. Yeah, I'll be the big dog coming from winning the championship, but really everyone knows I'm not going to come in and storm the Busch Series."

Had Biffle not already been slated, sponsor in hand, to make the jump from Trucks to Busch Series cars he'd likely have skipped Busch racing all together. However, with Biffle having already been committed to the Busch Series program, Roush penciled Kurt Busch in to take over the driving duties of the No. 97 Ford.

"I can't speak for Jack, but I would think that I'd have been his first choice. They never came to me and said that, but it's pretty obvious that I would have gotten that opportunity if that opportunity was there at the time," Biffle said. "Being the situation as it was, it worked out great for everybody. Kurt got a great break to try Cup early in his career, and I've got a nice solid program for myself."

Biffle clearly has no resentment toward Busch. In fact, angst never even entered his mind.

"I can't figure out where people come up with why I'd be offended," Biffle said. "It almost came as no surprise to me. I had a job already. Now, if I didn't have or we didn't have a plan, yeah, I'd have been mad. I'd have been so mad I probably would've went and drove for somebody else if I wasn't given the opportunity. But I already had a great program and have no intentions of leaving.

"I've had opportunities to drive whatever I want. I got offered $1million to go drive a Busch car for a three-year program with a great team. I got offered several Winston Cup deals, too. I've declined them to stay where I'm at. I'm happy here. I feel like I have a secure job here, which is real hard to say in this sport."

Biffle plans to run two years of Busch Series competition, then make the jump to Winston Cup for two years. He said some Winston Cup events could possibly be on the horizon this year, and that he will likely run seven Winston Cup events in 2002 to prepare for a 2003 rookie season.

"Our program's coming together, a little bit slowly but we're certainly getting there," he said. "Everything's coming along really good, but we're just a little further behind than a team in place like the 10 or the 2 that are refining their programs. We're still developing, but we'll be in good shape right out of the gate. In a way, I like not being the man." -nascar.com-

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Drivers Jeff Burton , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Jack Sprague , Jack Roush , Mark Martin