NASCAR Media Conference
August 28, 2012
JAYME AVRIT: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. Today we are joined by Greg Biffle, driver of the No.16 3M/Manheim Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing. After securing his 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth at Bristol Motor Speedway over the weekend, Biffle currently leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings heading into Sunday night's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track where he boasts a Coors Light Pole and nine top‑10 finishes.
Greg, now that your team has secured a spot in the Chase, does your approach to the next two races change, and what is your team doing to prepare for the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, yes, it does, and actually it has for the last few races. Almost going back to Indy and Pocono, then Michigan, we've been decent in the points, so we've kind of tried to step out of the box and do some things that‑‑ try and learn for the Chase and really be more aggressive with the setup and go for the win and say, hey, if it doesn't work, then we're not going to cry over spilled milk. That's really all you can do. You can't flip a switch, and we're already running as hard as we can. The only thing we can do is take some more chances on the setup, whether it might work for the race or not, that's basically what we've been doing.
Obviously it didn't work Saturday night at Bristol, and we're hoping that Atlanta turns out more like Indy and Michigan for us and Pocono than what Bristol did.
JAYME AVRIT: Thank you. And also, you and Kevin Harvick filmed an episode of Dog Whisperer in Daytona back in February that will be premiering Saturday at 8:00 p.m. on Nat Geo Wild. What was it like working with Cesar Millan to help dogs supported by your foundation?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it was a lot of fun. I mean, Cesar is an amazing person, and to see what he can do with an animal, I was absolutely fascinated by it. You know, we went to a shelter down there that we had granted money to during‑‑ around the Daytona race to try and help. They had a few cage aggressive dogs, as you approached the cage the dog would want to protect its area. And it's hard to adopt out an animal that appears to be aggressive like that. He really explained why it's the way you approach the cage and why the dog does that, how he's protecting his space and his food and other things.
So it's amazing what he can do with an animal, and it was a lot of fun to film the episode. I'm a huge fan of what he can do with animals. It was a lot of fun to see that dog change its demeanor almost instantaneously.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about with Stenhouse coming over and replacing Matt and just deeper down a little bit, what it means with Trevor Bayne obviously being disappointed, and obviously so, is it more of a case, is it one of those deals that you just have to wait for your opportunity? Some people are kind of saying maybe he's just a one‑hit wonder type of guy. Is this just the dynamics of NASCAR that rides are very hard to come by and you just have to wait your turn, if you will?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I pretty much got the question, but the one‑hit wonder, that was referring to‑‑
Q. To Trevor.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, so here's the deal: I think Trevor has got a lot of talent. He's a talented guy. But here's the thing that people have to understand: If you look at the restrictor plate finishes going back let's say five years, we take Talladega and Daytona and look at the finishes, there's a different group of people in the mix typically than there is on a normal‑‑ our everyday, what I'm going to call our bread and butter NASCAR track, mile‑and‑a‑half, miles, Bristol. They're different guys.
And the reason for that is that the playing field is sort of leveled out a little bit at those places because a lot of‑‑ not technically driver ability, it's a different driver ability at a restrictor plate track. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm not saying that people get lucky. It's a different driving characteristic and ability. And the car is kind of the great equalizer. Actually all of the cars are equal, or really they're more equal there than anywhere.
So yes, he won the biggest race that we have, the Daytona 500. Certainly you can't say the guy got lucky or he's in the right place at the right time, but you can overweight somebody by saying they won that race and let's‑‑ he's going to take the series by storm. That's a false statement.
Now, if he won at Texas or Darlington or some of these other places, that would be a bigger statement as far as competitiveness on what he's going to do in the series or what a driver ‑ I don't want to single him out ‑ what a driver could do in the series versus winning at a restrictor plate track. They're just as hard to win, but they're in a sense a different animal than our everyday racing.
And I don't know if that kind of makes any sense at all, but‑‑
Q. It does.
GREG BIFFLE: It is different. And to hold him to a higher court or higher level because he won the Daytona 500 is kind of unfair in a way. That's basically what I would say about that. It's a different style of racing. It's a whole different format.
You know, you can look at other finishes and read into partly what I'm saying. I think Gilliland finished third the year before and some other cars. I mean, that's the best finish of those teams, of the 38 or some of those other teams. They get their best finishes at those tracks sometimes, and that's an indication that the playing field is a little more level.
Q. You mentioned that you guys have been taking risks at your setups and kind of testing some things out, but you still have had pretty consistent finishes. Does that give you a confidence going into the Chase knowing that even if you are off on the setup and you guys can come back and at least get a pretty good finish even if you don't have maybe a top 10 car or a top 5 car?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, you're exactly right. You're reading into the thing as a whole. That's where the confidence comes from with myself and the team, that I feel like we have an opportunity to make a run at this Chase. It's because even though we didn't win, we were off a little bit, finished top 10, top 5, whatnot. So yes, that's a whole bunch of motivation for us going forward, and the 10 racetracks that are in the Chase we run very‑‑ there is only one that's a little troublesome to us, and that's Martinsville. We typically, even as a company, don't run that well at that track. But I do run better in the fall at Martinsville than I do in the spring for some reason.
So that's one that we're looking at. But the other racetracks, we're super excited about Kansas, Chicago, Texas. We run good at Dover and Loudon, Homestead, Phoenix. We're jacked up about these racetracks and how good our cars and team is right now. We potentially could win two or three of those races fairly easily and have strong finishes in the other ones, and that quite frankly could be enough.
Q. Richmond has always been the track that's the cutoff for the Chase. Do you think that's a good track for that cutoff, and what makes it a great track to be sort of a level playing field for everyone to make that last try for the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I think Richmond is a good track for that. It's a great short track, middle of the road for us. It's kind of I would say mainstream. I would say it's a good track for the cutoff, I really would. And I like the track‑‑ of course I'm a little biased, but I like the tracks that are in the Chase. It's a good mix.
The only ones that I would arguably say that‑‑ of course I'd rather see something else besides Martinsville, but it's a short track, and it having a restrictor plate race in it is kind of a bit of a gamble, a bit of a roll of the dice. I think we need to go to Talladega for sure. But for instance, I'd rather see Atlanta in the Chase than Talladega prior to Richmond because that would be‑‑ think about that. That would set up the wild card and the Chase, the run to getting in the Chase would be just as exciting. And you have a little more control of your destiny that way in the Chase than you would with a restrictor plate race.
Everybody knows as well as I do you can have a 15‑car wreck, 20‑car wreck at those places, and it seems sometimes unfair that that can make or break your whole season.
Q. I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about the point you talked about being aggressive when you mentioned earlier and what you guys have done here lately. And I know while you said it didn't work at Bristol, obviously you got the win at Michigan, a third at Indy, a sixth at Watkins Glen. In one sense, how does it help for the Chase in the sense, can you afford to be as aggressive at the start of the Chase as what you are now when it doesn't matter to some degree what you do because there isn't as much of a penalty because you are in such a strong points position? Can you afford to be as aggressive once the Chase begins as what you've kind of indicated you guys have been the last few weeks?
GREG BIFFLE: I think we will be, and we'll have to be pretty aggressive on the setups. You know, simply for the fact that we will have to be conscious of our finishes. That's going to be a huge factor. But it's almost like if it's not broke, don't fix it. You know, what we're doing is working. We're having consistent races. So we're only going to be six points ahead of let's say half the guys or whatnot in the Chase, and we're only going to be three behind, right now, four of them. That could change this weekend.
So it's going to be really tight in the points. So that 20‑point cushion I had, down to 11 or 12 now, all that is going to disappear, and it's going to be really super tight on the points, so each position is super important. And I think everybody realizes that going to Chicago. But that's a strong place for us. We're going to go there with what‑‑ typically what we tried at Michigan and Indy and Pocono and see how it works, and we're getting decent fuel mileage. We just feel like we have to capitalize at the ones we really feel strong about and survive in top 5, top 10 finishes at the ones that we end up missing a little bit on.
Q. I also want to ask you, obviously starting out it was a situation where Tony threw his helmet, wasn't penalized, it wasn't the first time it's happened in NASCAR this year, obviously Todd Bodine did the same thing at the truck race with Nelson Piquet. From a competitor's point of view, when you see some of that freedom to express some of that displeasure as opposed to what it had been in previous years where NASCAR kind of clamped down a little bit more, are you comfortable with that, or would you‑‑ do you like having that freedom, or is there a point where the line is crossed and things like that NASCAR needs to kind of step in a little bit more?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I completely agree with NASCAR about not penalizing the guy for throwing his helmet. We got a little carried away on trying to be too proper, and I think we have in America all together. We're too‑‑ some things that hurt us today, we're too politically correct, we can't make anybody mad, we can't play favoritism at all between somebody that does a better job than the next person. Sometimes we can't fire people.
I think that we've gotten, in our society, a little too protective and in some cases sue‑happy on just things that happen. And I think throwing a helmet, you know, you're hot under the collar, you're expressing your displeasure for the guy. As long as it doesn't get carried away.
Now, as long as it's not dangerous to the‑‑ Matt was on pit road. The guy didn't run out in the middle of the racetrack. I think if it's kept within reason and doesn't get out of hand, every week we have somebody throwing a helmet on the track, then I think it's okay. Obviously anybody would ask just consistency within the rule on that; I think fair for everyone. That's the way I feel about it.
I mean, retaliating with a car I have a much greater problem with, and allowing somebody that says on the radio that they're going to go back and retaliate and retaliate instantly after an incident happens, I don't agree with that. If somebody gets spun out on accident or typically a racing deal, and the wrecked guy goes and fixes his car or waits for the guy to come around under caution and wrecks him, I think that guy needs to be penalized points and parked for the event. You know, that is‑‑ that type of retaliation I don't agree with.
Q. I wanted to ask you, a lot of people expected that you would make the Chase this year. I don't know how many expected you to be leading the points going into it, and I just wanted to ask you what kind of a statement you feel like that makes as opposed to just getting into the Chase but to be the points leader going into it for the regular season?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'll tell you what: We've got a couple races left, but to lead the points for the second time this season, it feels really good. It feels kind of gratifying, satisfying that we've been able to do that. Obviously when Jimmie Johnson got the lead after Pocono, he took great pride, and so did the media and everybody else, to point the fact out that the 48 team is back and all the things that comes with it.
So you know, I think that I feel good for myself and my team, more importantly, and my crew chief Matt Puccia, they've done a tremendous job with pit stops and giving me the cars it takes to compete and lead the points.
I think that we have a strong chance at the title this year. And I mean, hey, we all understand the wheels could fall off this thing the first or second Chase race, and who knows what can happen. We've seen from one extreme to the other. But we're certainly proud of where we're at right now.
Q. I'm curious about your car selection for this weekend. Are you running your best mile‑and‑a‑half piece or are you saving that for on down the road in the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: We're saving it for the Chase. We're going to take the best mile‑and‑a‑half car we have to Chicago, and if today's means‑‑ if you can tell the difference between the best and the second best and the third best, our car lineup right now is phenomenal. We've got the best cars that we've ever been able to build lined up for these next 12 races. But to say that we have‑‑ one is better than the other is pretty hard to do, but we're taking tactically our favorite to Chicago, and we're taking a really, really good car, or better than we've run all season, to Atlanta. So we're in pretty good shape for cars.
Q. I know some of the drivers have been asked about this, whether the points leader after the first 26 races should get a little more for doing that. How do you feel about that? Would you like to see, I don't know, more bonus points or something?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, obviously I'm leading the points, so I'm going to have a biased opinion. But really truly an unbiassed opinion on this is that you ask any driver, and it's very difficult to lead these points and to be where you're at in the points, and to say we don't care what you've done in the first 26 races, we don't care how solid of a team you are, you get no reward other than winning purely going into the Chase is a little‑‑ that's probably a little undeserving of our sport, because our sport has been founded on for years the points system rewarded being consistent, turning out good finishes and being able to‑‑ highs and lows, right, run good at a road course, run good at a restrictor plate.
So I feel like you need bonus points for wins, but you also need to seed the Chase maybe a 10 through 1 for the top 10 drivers in that Chase. It gives us some extra incentive to be fifth in points, to be second in points, to go for the win, because you get the three bonus points for winning.
So I would say we had a much bigger discrepancy before we bonused it for wins from the top to the bottom.
But I feel like at least give them some kind of an advantage for‑‑ or some reward for leading‑‑ and I think the guy that comes in the Chase seventh should have maybe one or‑‑ yeah, he should have a couple point advantage over the guy that comes in 10th because the team has done a better job over the regular season than the next guy. And if the guy in 10th has a win or two, well, then he goes ahead of that guy.
I think that‑‑ it should be done both ways: Rewarded for the win but a minor reward for being where you're at in the points.
Q. A lot of teams have found hope in what Tony Stewart did last year, turning things around and getting hot when the Chase came. How realistic is it for teams to believe that they can repeat what Tony did last year?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, what Tony did last year was remarkable. I mean, I keep going back to that, and I always remember, there's a couple things in my career I'll always remember, and one is me racing Tony for that last Chase spot. And if you look back, like three races to go, I had it. And it came down to some final races that we slipped, and we ran out of gas, we had a bad pit stop, did some things and handed it to him. And him coming out and saying, we don't even deserve that Chase spot because we're terrible.
And to go from there to winning the title and winning five races, you're right, it gives a lot of teams inspiration that, hey, we're not that far off even though we're running 15th. We're not that far off of winning races, and it's such a small, small change from running 15th or whatever to leading these races and winning. That window has gotten so small and so competitive, it's amazing.
You look at us this weekend, we led I don't know how many‑‑ I saw a stat, Roush Fenway led 111 laps of the Bristol race between the three cars. I was the highest finishing car at 19th. I mean, it's a dog‑eat‑dog sport, and you can be from the top to the bottom and not‑‑ very, very little change.
Q. You said it was inspiring. Would you be surprised if you see it happen again?
GREG BIFFLE: I think so. I mean, we've got to think that that was pretty amazing what happened, and let's face it, there's a lot of luck involved in this sport. You've got to be the right place at the right time. Things went his way. He was about to run out of gas at Homestead, or he had to pit in the next couple laps and the caution came out. Or he was pitting that lap, I don't remember.
So there was a lot of things that happened that put that‑‑ I wouldn't say put the championship in his hands but put it within reach for him. Just one of those things happens, and he doesn't win that title, or win five races. Everything has got to go your way, and these things‑‑ that tells you how hard these race are to win. You've got to have everything go your way. You've got to have great luck, great pit stops, you've got to have fast cars and not make mistakes.
Q. You were talking about how many of the Chase tracks you feel you guys can run well at, and looking at your stats, of the eight tracks that have already been run this year, you've got an average of 6.4 with five top 5 finishes at those eight tracks. When you think about those numbers that you've already put up this year at those particular tracks, how much does that allow you to build on and back up what you were saying after Michigan, that yes, we should be considered a true title contender this year?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, you're exactly right. You've done your homework. The stats kind of speak for themselves.
And the other thing is we run‑‑ why teams do this, it's kind of a mystery still, we run better at the spring and the fall of the season, and we tend to be our weakest through the summer months. Don't ask me why, if it's the track lineup, if it's the grip, if it's‑‑ who knows why. So that gives us confidence, as well, if we make the Chase we have a solid chance because it's the fall season, good track lineup, we tend to run good at those places. That's one reason why I feel.
And how we're doing, just plain and simply, on our performance, and then how we compare to the 48, the 11, the 18, how we compare to those guys right now gives us a lot of confidence right now that we can run door to door with them for the final 10.
Q. You've got a Truck championship, a Nationwide championship, and on a couple of occasions you've come down to the end battling for the Sprint Cup championship. What have you learned during those years that you think here's what works for us, here's what we do right, and here's maybe where I've slipped up along the way?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, so it's painfully apparent that we've come close a few times, and hopefully this is the season that we can make it over the‑‑ feels like we've been rolling that concrete ball to the top of this hill several times and we're trying to nudge it over the edge this time. But what it's going to come down to for us, '05 was a pit stop, one pit stop cost us the title in '05, one pit stop. And we've got 10 races‑‑ and I don't know how many pit stops if you did the math in those 10 races, but we've got to come onto pit road under green flag, we've got to make all those pit stops on green flag or caution flag, and every position is going to count for us. And it's going to be no mistakes on my part, the team's part, mechanically. We just have to‑‑ and we all know that. We're all aware of that, and we've all prepared, been preparing the best we can to be flawless in those 10.
Q. On that same subject, should you win that championship this year and complete the stellar trifecta, the Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup championships, you'll be in a special spot. Do you think about that week to week?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think about it week to week because it consumes me when I do think about it or talk about it or daydream about it for five or 10 minutes when you're driving down the road. It is; it puts you in a special spot in the sport. Because of my background, because of where I came from, how I did it, all of the things that go into that, it's pretty overwhelming to think about, to be in that position.
So I try not to think about it a lot. It's always right there when somebody mentions it. I'm just thinking about how can I win it this year is what it comes down to, how can I do it. And that's what I'm focused on mostly.
Q. And do you have a special spot for it on your trophy case already?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I don't want to jinx myself, and actually I haven't done it, and I'm not superstitious, but I've got a spot picked out. I've always said I'm going to build this trophy case with the center one missing and all that, but I'm going to make it a special place when I do have the third one. And I proudly display my trophies, and they're always kind of changing things around, a little addition on my shop here and there. I'm looking for the‑‑ can't wait for the day to complete that trophy case.
JAYME AVRIT: Thank you very much for joining us today. We wish you all the best of luck this weekend in Atlanta and looking ahead to the Chase.
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