NASCAR Media Conference
March 28, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. Today we are joined by Greg Biffle, driver of the No.16 3M Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle is the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader. Greg has scored thee top‑5 finishes, four top‑10 finishes, one pole and an average finish of 5.6 in the first five races of the 2012 season.
Greg, you've run well this season on all types of tracks. Talk about your impressive start to the season and how your team has been able to run well on every track where you've raced.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I tell you, it certainly has been a relief for myself and I know for the 16 team, all the guys, the entire company, that we've gotten off to a start like we have.
We've been in position to win a few races, and then also we've been in some spots where we know we need to be a little bit better, for instance, Bristol and California. We were not as competitive as we wanted to be. We were a top 10 car, but we're not satisfied with that. In some cases we were top five. We're striving to be the best and on top. We have a little ways to go.
But certainly we have started off, you know, tremendously. Like you mentioned, every kind of racetrack we've covered so far we've been competitive at. That really makes us feel good about the rest of the season, as well, as how we've started.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for today's NASCAR teleconference guest, Greg Biffle.
Q. Tony Stewart's start. As you know, he's usually not this hot this early in the year. How much does his start concern you? Do you think he can maintain this kind of pace?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, that's a great question. Obviously it concerns us because, you know, we're still trying to figure out what he did last year to not win. It's kind of a storybook thing. I'm sort of part of it in a small way because Tony and I and Clint Bowyer were battling for that 12th position in the points to get in the Chase. With three races to go, I had the spot and Tony didn't, or four or something like that. We were neck‑and‑neck. It was like, Who is going to get it, between Tony and I?
He made the comment that he doesn't deserve a Chase spot because they're not running good enough. It's funny how it went from that to winning five of the ten, and then continuing this season, you know, starting off the way they finished the last ten.
It's obvious that they found something, some combination, a spring, shock bar, geometry. They've found something that's working for them and is making their cars better than everyone else. That's what this game's about, obviously, whether it's baseball or football or anything else, it's finding a play or a pattern or something that is better than your competition.
Clearly it's trickled down to the 39, because he was not that spectacular last year and is running much, much better. Not as good as the 14. But they clearly have something figured out.
I kind of know what that is like. In '05 we were in that position. No matter what we did, we were right there competing for wins. We won six races in a season. So I know what it's like and I know the position they're in. We're just trying to figure out what the heck they're doing to be that competitive.
The other thing is you think about, too, when you're in that position is, When is it going to stop? When you get on to something, it's working for you, there's no telling how many races you can win. So that's definitely there, too. He can win 12, 15 races if whatever they're doing keeps working for them and nobody else figures it out.
I mean, that's pretty farfetched but not really when you look at winning five of the ten, coming out and winning a couple, and it doesn't look like anybody can compete with him. The 48 wasn't going to beat him at Las Vegas. I was close, but I wasn't going to be able to beat him. I don't know about California. It was a little more stretched out, so I didn't quite see as well, how dominant, fast he was there.
Q. How do you keep going the way you're going in the sense of we've seen guys lead points early in the year and then kind of fall off?
GREG BIFFLE: I've had a lot of success and I've had a lot of failure in racing over the years. So, you know, we're focused and prepared, getting prepared every week, to go do the best we can. I know, and probably the team knows, it's obvious or it's clear, we won't lead the points the entire season, okay, or up to the Chase, however you want to say it. Hopefully we're leading at Homestead or after Homestead.
I know that we're probably not going to lead the points the whole way. So I'm happy and proud of our team fighting to stay in the points lead running as good as we can every week. But the reality is I know that we may not. If and when that happens, certainly I'm not going to let that take the wind out of our sails, you know what I mean? We're going to work as hard as we can to keep the points lead, keep in the top five, keep in the top three.
Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. We're going to show up at Martinsville, Texas, Talladega, Kansas, we're going to show up and run as good as we can, try and win to get points for the Chase. Hey, if we continue to lead the points, that's a bonus.
That's the attitude. We've all got a positive attitude. If we're not leading the points, we still are going to have that positive attitude.
Q. You said hopefully you're leading the points after Homestead. You've talked a lot about Matt Puccia this year. If you looked at it statistically, he's still a guy who hasn't won a Cup race, and I don't think he's been a crew chief in a Cup race. What about him would make you think he can win the Chase on his first try?
GREG BIFFLE: That guy, I promise you, if anybody can take me to winning a championship, it's Matt Puccia. He never gives up, never leaves a rock unturned. He's the hungriest guy I've ever seen in my whole life and is the most focused to win a race. I cannot wait. I can't wait till we win a race because he deserves it.
I'll tell you what, in my opinion, I'm a little prejudiced, but he's working harder than anybody in the garage, all 43 or 42 other crew chiefs. I feel like he's working the hardest.
When he does win, when we win here hopefully in the near future, it will be well‑deserved.
To answer your question, I think he's totally capable of winning a championship. Very good under pressure, is not going to waiver from his plan, and his stuff is going to be the best prepared out of the 43 cars when it shows up.
Q. What do you attribute to this start of the season, leading the points, higher finishes than how you competed last season?
GREG BIFFLE: We just got done talking about Matt Puccia, my crew chief. A lot of credit is due there. A lot of credit is due to the shop, our engine program, fuel injection. This has been a really seamless transition for us. It's been a good year for our cars mechanically, our cars aero‑wise and competition.
Matt has got a plan, and he's leading this team like a 10‑year veteran crew chief or a 5‑year veteran crew chief that's won multiple races or championships. It's just clear he's got a great group of guys together. I give him a lot of credit for where we're at today.
I'm telling you, I'm not doing a lot different behind the wheel. I'm giving it a hundred percent all the time, focused. My head's in the game, paying attention to the car's setup, stopping in the pit box. I mean, I'm doing all the things that I had been doing. It's just the results are different.
Q. You mentioned that Martinsville is not more most favorite track. With that in mind, how do you look forward to this weekend? Are you going to be points racing?
GREG BIFFLE: I want a grandfather clock so bad, I got a spot picked out for it (laughter).
Let's face it. You look at the stats, Martinsville hasn't been our best place as a company, let alone me as a driver of the 16 team. Although I've run very well there in the Trucks and Nationwide, qualified third, ran good.
So if the car's right, we have a light weight car we're bringing, we've been working on brakes extensively, if all the stars line up, we've led some laps there, too. So I think in all situations right, we have a chance. Not sure if we have a chance of winning, but we have a solid chance of running in the top five.
I feel a lot more confident about Texas or Kansas, Talladega, of going out and dominating or running like Tony's ran than Martinsville. But I'm not saying we can't get it done there either. We feel like we can as a team, and I can't wait to go there. I'm excited.
I like challenges, and Martinsville is going to be a challenge for us. I'm ready to go there today.
Q. You mentioned a light weight car. Aren't all the cars supposed to weigh the same?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, they are. I guess what I mean by 'light weight car' is we try to get the center of gravity‑‑ obviously, when you drive a car in a circle, the lower center of gravity you can get the vehicle, the faster it will go in a circle. Just like when you take the off‑ramp in an SUV versus a passenger car, the lower that vehicle, the weight, the lower the weight is to the ground, the quicker it will go around that corner.
So we build the cars ultralight, then they have ballast, tungsten or lead in the frame rails. You're able to put more weight in the bottom of it which in turn makes the car go faster.
Q. Greg, you've raced in the NASCAR stock cars, you've raced in the trucks. Can you explain to the race fans some of the difference in driving the truck as compared to the stockcar? Or do you agree with some of these fans who say, It's just racing?
GREG BIFFLE: To be honest with you, they're relatively the same because a lot of the components. If you cut the bodies off of both of them, had them sitting in the shop, said, Which one is the truck and which one is the car, it's really hard to tell. The suspension, the brakes, you know, the shape of the engine, obviously the gearbox, rear‑end, transmission, all that stuff is identical, the same.
Really what makes them drive different is the height of the front splitter and the type of spring and they don't have a bump‑stop on the shocks, then of course the aerodynamics of it.
So when you drive a truck versus a car, nowadays with this car being with more flat sides, whatnot, it drives a little bit more like the truck did. But you can still tell the car has a little lower center of gravity, acts a little bit different than the truck does. But they're not as far apart as you would think. You go out, get in your pickup truck, go down to the gas station, versus your car, they're not that far apart.
Q. Talk a little bit about the perils of racing at Martinsville. How does that wear on a driver and how tough is that?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it's really tough. It does wear on the driver simply from the fact, you know, from my point of view, I don't want to have to run into that guy or bump him out of the way. You don't want to have to do that because that creates a little animosity between you and that guy.
But, on the other hand, that's part of this racetrack, is there's a lot of contact because the speeds are slow enough that typically when there's a little bit of rubbing or pushing or shoving, a guy is not wrecking, so you can get away with it. When you go to a fast place like California or Texas, you bump a guy, all hell breaks loose. You have a huge wreck.
Here you can get away with a lot more. But that's just part of Bristol, is it's a slow racetrack and you're on the gas and the brakes so quickly, in such a short amount of time, it makes it really hard to get an advantage on a guy, get beside him or underneath him because the straightaways are so short and the corners so slow.
Sometimes the only way around 'em is a little bit of roughing up.
Q. Is it safe to say the fans can expect to see a little more action this week than in the past couple races?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's obvious. Absolutely.
Look back at Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. They've had a little contact. I think they're definitely going to see some action this weekend.
Q. Speaking of Junior, how good would it be for the series to see him in Victory Lane? He's a guy that is going to be there near the finish.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it would be. Yeah, it would take a lot of pressure off of our sport because he's such an iconic figure in our sport. I'm glad it's not me, I can tell you that. It's been 40 or 50 races or something, not near as long as him, since I've won a race. But, you know, there's a lot of people wondering when he's going to win again.
I got enough people asking me when I'm going to win my next race. But when you have a figure like that, that means a lot to our sport, you know, some of us joke a little bit about getting him a win, let everybody think about something else for a while.
Q. Certainly no one could ever say things were fixed in NASCAR, you would figure they would get that car in Victory Lane somehow.
GREG BIFFLE: That's right. So many people with conspiracy theories out there. It's pretty cut and dry. I mean, he was leading that thing coming to the white flag last year, the Coca‑Cola 600, I was leading with half a straightaway, I had that sewed up until Jimmie Johnson's engine blew up.
He had taken the white. If anything, if the caution would ever have come out, he would have won that race. The 29 ended up winning. But if you're going to get one, that's as close as you're going to get ‑ and getting one at home, too.
Q. Greg, my question regards your pit crew. A lot of your crew was Ricky Stenhouse's Nationwide crew. How many are the same and how has that transition been for you this year?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, the actual pit crew itself, the over‑the‑wall guys, I have the entire 6 Cup team from last year. I have David Ragan's entire over‑the‑wall crew, kept them all together. The tire changers are used to working together with the guy carrying the tire, the jack man, the fuel guy. All those guys are together.
Probably what he's referring to is some of the team members are from around the company. We kind of had to downsize some. I have a few guys off the Nationwide, I have a few guys from my old 16 team, then I have a few guys from the 6 and so on.
It's been a good mix of people. I give a lot of people who my crew chief and the company for putting together a good group of people, recognizing talent, assembling them together. They've done a helluva job so far and I'm really happy.
Q. I'm sure that's helped with your qualifying efforts. You've been in the top 10 at every track. Is there a track that's intimidating you from a qualifying perspective that you're nervous about getting another top 10 in?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'd have to say the next track is probably it (laughter).
The qualifying times are so dang close together at Martinsville, it's extraordinarily tight. That can be a track that you bump the curb, you make a little tiny error and you can be pretty far back.
Out of the challenges coming up, qualifying‑wise, that's probably got to be at the top of the list because it's so technical.
Q. I wanted your thoughts on the changes to the All‑Star Race that were announced yesterday.
GREG BIFFLE: I didn't see them.
Q. It's five segments now, 20‑lap segments. If you win one of the first four, you get to be one of the first four coming down pit road for the last segment. Couldn't get more from you than that if you didn't see the release.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I don't live under a rock, but I hadn't seen the whole thing yet.
Certainly they've put an emphasis on winning because being one of the first four coming down pit road is critical. Let's face it, most of the guys that have won the All‑Star Race, it's from track position. I've been so dang close a couple times of winning that thing, you know, catching Kasey, inside of him for the win, you know, track position is king. Certainly winning one of the those first four segments is going to be critical.
Q. You've said a lot of things about winning. As far as drivers and team members, crew chiefs, you hear you're supposed to stay grounded and humble, but yet you earn bragging rights... How do you balance those two elements?
GREG BIFFLE: That's a good question. Somebody asked this question I think in the media center, if we were happy with the way the season started or not, this or that.
I said, Listen, you don't want to come off as being arrogant or whatever the case might be, but let's face it, brutally honest, this sport or any sport is about winning. That's all it is, it's about winning.
Nobody tries to be second or third. It doesn't matter if it's a relay race. It doesn't matter if it's finding something. It just doesn't matter. In life, any kind of race, it's about winning. That's truly what it's about.
So you're never happy unless you win or you're winning. I mean, I don't mean happy as you're not satisfied, but you're going to continue to work hard, or harder, be aggressive, until you win.
That's every team, you know. And when I say we're looking for a good, solid, top‑five run, we want to be in the top five, and the reason why I use that analogy is because a winner usually never comes from out of the top five normally. Normally the winner of that race comes from the top five positions. Obviously, he comes from the first one. But if you're not running in that top five, you don't stand a snowball's chance of winning that race.
That's why you continue to work as hard as you can to get track position, to work on your car now to compete with those guys in front of you, is to win these races.
I'm sitting in Matt's office. We're trying to figure out how we're going to win at Martinsville, how we're going to win at Texas, right on down the list. If we come up short, we come up short.
Are we happy with finishing third or whatever? Yeah, we're happy because we went there, we gave it a hundred percent, and that's the result we ended up with. But we're going to continue till we reach that Victory Circle.
Q. Do you think a driver requires leadership skills?
GREG BIFFLE: I do, to some degree. He has to be part of the solution, too. There's two kinds of drivers. There's some drivers that don't want to be involved or are kind of disconnected, get in the car and just drive, try to say what it's doing, and the crew chief just works on it. Then there's another driver that has more of a sensory system, can detect a problem and try to be part of the solution or figuring out what's wrong with it.
You can take a car that's set up perfect and is fast, is running up front, like Tony's car. You could take probably 25 guys and put them in that car and they're going to win, or 30 guys. But if you put them in a car that's not running good, say, You have to get this thing running better, there's not as many guys that can do that. There's less guys that can do that.
You take a car that's perfect, pretty much the 43 guys driving in our field could get in that thing and probably win on a given day. But to get it to that point, that takes a different qualification.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, again, for joining us today, Greg. Best of luck this weekend in Martinsville.
GREG BIFFLE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank the members of the media for joining us, as well. We appreciate your coverage.
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