NASCAR Media Conference
May 24, 2005
THE MODERATOR: This obviously is the NASCAR Nextel teleconference, and remember that the Nextel Wake-Up Call is on hiatus until next week at Dover, and that's the weekly Friday visit by the driver into the media center and that resumes next Friday. Today we have Greg Biffle with us who is, needless to say, having a super season. He is tied with Jeff Gordon for the most wins so far this year. They have three each and he's second in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings heading into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. He's just 41 points behind the standings leader Jimmy Johnson. Greg, the Coca-Cola 600 is one of the Series' big events, marquis events, and it is the most-watched race television on Memorial Day weekend, and it's 600 miles which means a lot of stamina and horsepower and track conditions that change constantly. So all of those factors go into making this one of those events that I know each one of you guys really want to win, and also, now, you've got the possibility of a qualifying speed record being broken this Thursday, it happened last Thursday and could very well happen again this Thursday. What's your take on that.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, absolutely, and I think we'll see for sure a new track record. Actually our qualifying lap that we did at -- obviously, it's timed different because it's timed different in the pit stop and everything, but the lap of qualifying that we did was about 2/10ths under the practice record. So it will definitely be broken, that's for sure, guaranteed, and by a lot, I bet. It's going to be pretty fast. And yeah, I mean, we're excited for the 600-mile race. It's fun, definitely challenging. You're inside the car for a long period of time. You go through a lot of track conditions changes, especially Charlotte, old Charlotte, or Lowe's Motor Speedway used to change a lot with the temperature and sun and then cool down at night. So we're curious. I think everybody is eager to see what happens to the racetrack from afternoon to evening with it now being ground. You know, definitely endurance, the transmission has to hold up, the engine, everything, pit stops, you've got to make the right decisions, stay in the lead lap. There's a lot of things that come into play on that length of a race.
THE MODERATOR: And we're all looking forward to it, I know that's the case. Let's take some questions for you.
Q. Even before you had the National Guard sponsorship, or has the National Guard sponsorship enhanced your feelings toward exactly what this weekend is as far as being a Memorial Day weekend for all of those who died in uniform?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's hard to put into words what it means to be able to drive for the National Guard. You know, so many -- I get to meet so many soldiers week-in and week-out. I'm met a soldier just this last weekend comes to mind, the soldier lost his leg, and was coming up, getting pictures, getting autographs, was excited to be at their track and get to meet me. And it's so satisfying to see that those folks are excited about the program, excited about the racing and defending our country, and I feel like I'm just a small -- very small part of that, you know, the National Guard. And I'm really excited to be, you know, able to carry our flag every week in the race. And to be able to win three times this year, I think it's done a lot for our soldiers, a lot for all of the people serving, and amazing stories I hear. Just I'm amazed every single time I go to the racetrack, a different story out here, somebody did this, somebody did that, guys with the 16 on their helmet and their fighter jets and flying the helicopters and all kinds of things. So it's neat to see the support throughout the community, and it's neat to see all of the support for all of the folks over here, all of the citizens over here supporting our troops.
Q. Wonder if you would talk about the Roush Racing Engine Alliance and how much of this surge by Roush Racing the last year and a half is due to that; when you get in the throttle, do you really notice a difference?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes. It's clearly -- you can notice the difference. You know, it's made a pretty big difference in our race cars. I mean, it has, and the power makes the car drive different, you know, if you take away 40 horsepower from a car, when you put the throttle down the center of the corner to come off the corner, your car is going to drive different. It's going to drive tighter. It's not going to turn as good, because it doesn't have the drive of the rear tires as it would, like if you lose a typical scenario -- you lose a cylinder in a race, your car gets tight because it doesn't have the power anymore. So it's definitely made a difference in the way the cars drive. It's made a difference in overall performance on the racetrack, and I'd be willing to bet that we have if not the best, I guarantee we're No. 2 in the sport as far as power and reliability. You know, I put our stuff up against anybody's any day of the week, and on the chassis I feel that we have nearly the best, if not the best, engine program. And that's due to the hard work of Jack and Robert Yates and Doug Yates, those guys are phenomenal geniuses in my book; and Ford, you know, Ford has got behind this deal and supported it and funded it some and said, hey, you know, let's make our engines as good as we can; and we've transitioned to a new cylinder head block and we needed that support. It's. Amazing. I'm at the engine shop now and ate lunch with all of the guys here, and there's a huge group of dedicated people building these engines.
Q. With all of the on-track stuff we've seen, some of the incidents, can you talk about as a driver how you have to calm yourself maybe and not hold grudges from week-to-week? Natural instinct is to hold a grudge, can you talk about how you deal with that from a week-to-week basis?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, it's actually really easy for me. It may not be as easy for other drivers and other people, but I've got a pretty good philosophy and I really use it and stick to it religiously because I can't fix the past. And so to go to the Coca-Cola 600 for instance, it's another points race. Let's say the last race was a points race obviously, all of the ones we race are, and the last race was a points and I had an incident with somebody. Why am I going to jeopardize this week for something that happened last week? And no matter what I do, I'm not going it get my points back. And if I wreck the guy back or if I knock him out of the way, sure enough, he's going to do it to me again sometime in the future. So this maybe not is going to ruin this race, but it's going to ruin another race down the road. It just -- you can't just be a pushover, but at the same time, you can't really retaliate, you know, with these cars. They are so aero sensitive; it just doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't make any sense to do that. And a lot of times, most of the time, the stuff does not happen on purpose. If a car gets spun out or something happens, normally the guy wasn't like, oh, hey, I'm going to spin this guy out because he's in my way and I can't pass him. That typically doesn't happen. Typically what happens is the guy gets in the corner harder than he expected and the guy in front of him slowed down faster than he could slow down, the nose started pushing up off the corner and he lifted up off the gas and couldn't get it to start turning before he got touching his quarterpanel, whatever the case is. It's not typically ever, hey, I'm going to drive through this guy because, you know, he's in my way. So for somebody to get out of the car and start throwing stuff like a baby at somebody else and not even knowing the situation, not even knowing what happened; and No. 2, you get turned in the fence the wrong direction, if you're going to spin a guy out, you're not going to spin him the wrong direction into the fence because then you're going to wreck yourself, too. So for somebody to be mad at a guy that did that, I mean, you'd have to know -- you'd have to be intelligent enough to understand, hey, there's probably more to that wreck than what I saw or what I just happened to me. All of a sudden when you get whacked and turn the wrong direction into the fence, you can pretty much guarantee that there was more events than just a single-car incident.
Q. I assume that there are certain drivers out there that you race differently than others, and not asking you to name any names, how do you balance that? You mention, you say you don't want to be a pushover; how do you balance not being a pushover with not doing something and then at the same time, you know, making sure that there's certain guys out there that you know maybe they are more susceptible to, let's say, making a stupid mistake versus other drivers who may be smarter?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, you just have to race them around a little bit different. You've got to know what guy is going to try and chop you off going in the corner. I can give you a list of two or three cars that sure enough, if I've got a nose inside of him and we're going down on the corner, he's going to cut to the bottom whether I'm there or not.
Q. Who would that be?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, who would that be? There's a few of them. But the thing is, is you've got to weigh out your options, okay. One, and I hate to explain it all, because then everybody will start beating me, but one, I do keep my nose in there to let the guy come down and smash my right front fender in, and if I spin him up the hill or knock him out of the way, my car is not going to drive the same anymore. And I see it week after week, the guy's fender's bent out and I'm going, perfect. Because now he's not a factor anymore. And it may be the 20 car, it may be the 9 car, or it may be 97 car or the 24 car, it doesn't matter who it is. If you see their fender bent in, you know, hey, they have got a problem. You know, I don't know how it got that way, whether somebody ran into them in the back and they got up into the wall or they got up into another car, or whatever the case is; their fender is bent in. You know, these cars, you can't do that. So there's just, you know, part of this Nextel Cup racing and Truck and Busch Racing is knowing your competition, knowing them, knowing what their tendencies are, knowing about where they are going to run on the racetrack, what they are going to do, how a lot of that -- you've got to figure that stuff out in order to be competitive and race with these guys.
Q. You're being called in a lot of places, the garage area, quite a few media outlets, the hottest driver in NASCAR, and I'm just wondering what you think or feel about this. I mean, is this a burden to you or a challenge or just a down right thrill?
GREG BIFFLE: I guess a little of everything. You know, it makes you feel good that people are looking at you like you're a contender and a serious one every week, which I think we are. I'll be the first to say that I think that we are -- you know, you never know what's going to happen next week. So I hate to go out there, but I feel that we are probably one of the best teams right now this particular week or instance we're at. We've got a great car for the 600. I've got a great car for Dover, and I'm taking my car that I won California and Texas with, I'm taking it to Pocono. So I feel like, you know, we're certainly capable of winning the 600. We're definitely capable of winning Dover and definitely capable of winning Pocono. So, would it surprise me if we won all three? Yes. Would it surprise me if we won two of them? Not so. It would be -- I would be thrilled for sure. But we're certainly capable of winning. I feel that confident, and when the team feels confident and driver and the whole program, you're running like that, it helps. But I certainly would not be disappointed if I go run the next three and don't win any of them. But I feel like we can. I don't think there's a lot of teams out there that can say that right now, hey, I think we can go win all three of these. To have a lineup of cars like we do and racetracks coming up, that feels pretty good to be at least, you know, the top five competitive in our sport and on top of our game.
Q. What do you think about possibly becoming the first driver to win a championship in every series?
GREG BIFFLE: I think it's pretty special. I'm certainly excited about it. I'm working hard toward it every day. You know, I'm really involved in the race team and our race cars, what we're doing and staying in shape. I'm working hard, I'm staying focused on winning races, and I want to be the toughest team when it comes to the last ten races. I think we are -- I think that we are the toughest team right now, but that doesn't do any good until it comes to the last ten. Somebody else may be better by then, you know, certainly a ball can change courts. Somebody else can turn the corner and be hitting on something that's better: The 97, the 38, the 24, 48, there's a bunch of cars; the 6. There's a ton of them that could be better than us when it comes to that time. Right now, I feel we're the best, and it could change this week, but I'm really excited about trying to win the Nextel Cup title this year, to have all three. It's funny, I joked about it, I always said that I would retire. I said I'm retiring the day that I get my third title, whatever it is. I don't think I'm quite ready to retire yet, so I might have to revise my plan. Certainly I don't want to revise winning the title this year.
Q. And what was the tougher transition for you, to go from the Truck to the Busch car or the Busch car to the Cup car?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it kind of a two-part transition. As a driver, it was probably tougher moving from the Busch to the Cup, but not that much tougher than from the Truck to Busch. What I think I underestimated, and certainly with the team, grossly underestimated, was the quality of race car you had to have to even be remotely competitive. To even run in the top 20, you had to have a damned good race car. And I mean, on a first-year team coming in with new people, new guys, new body hangers, basically a team that's new and into a new building, added on, yeah, we're with the 6 and 99, just that transition just took, you know, two years for us to get to the level we needed to be at to be competitive. You know, I went and drove the 55 car and the 44 car for Andy Petree Racing, and Richard Petty and was competitive as a driver in those race cars, qualified in the top five almost every time I drove them and led the first Cup race I was ever in in the 55 car at Richmond. So, you know, I was able to make that transition, and learned a lot, but the cars just took us extremely longer to get to where they are at today. You know, today I feel I have probably the best cars or one of the best race cars in the series right now sitting in the trailer ready to go to the racetrack.
Q. And back in Washington when you were growing up, did you ever imagine having this much success?
GREG BIFFLE: No. You know, growing up I didn't really -- my ultimate goal or fantasy wasn't to be, you know, Nextel Cup champion or racer. But I suppose later on when I was late model racing and street stocking, got a transition into late models, I suppose at that particular point the question reflects on more, yeah, I dreamed about racing against Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt and those guys. But you know, to be on top of the game right now, to be the guy that is right there with them is something different. Yeah, I never pictured myself being in this position.
Q. Even though NASCAR is age-friendly, if you will, have you made any skepticism regarding your longevity in the sport?
GREG BIFFLE: Not in my longevity, but I've felt like I've answered a lot of questions -- or I feel like there's been a lot of focus on my age. And I don't know what the phenomena was about that other than I raced the Truck Series for three years, raced the Busch race for two, and now it's my third year and I've kind of come out of nowhere so to speak, and I think what people are saying is: No, he didn't come out of anywhere; he's been here the whole time. But, you know, I recognize that I'm older than these guys. I'm one year -- you know what's funny is I'm one year older, a little over a year older than Tony Stewart. There isn't this big uproar about his age or Jeff Gordon's age. I'm two years older than Jeff. So, you know, I just -- it kind of -- stopped me thinking about it a little bit, what's the big emphasis on it. Well, the emphasis is guys that are 20 years old like Kyle Busch coming in and having the opportunity, I just didn't have the opportunity they be, and I got the opportunity now and I'm taking advantage of it.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the track at Charlotte, it's been, is it going to make for better racing or worse racing come race day or what?
GREG BIFFLE: You know what, I think it was our first time around this weekend. So a lot of us probably weren't -- well, I know a lot of us, all of us didn't know what to expect. I certainly was way off in my setup when it came time to race. The track had got some rubber built up on it, and I think it was just a matter of -- it was probably let my guard down more than anything, because we typically go to a racetrack when it's new, or we call it green, doesn't have any rubber on it. Like if we go test Kansas City or Chicago or anywhere really now when it's been rained on and seasoned and there has not been any cars running on it, it typically has a lot of grip; and that's what we found when we went to Charlotte, had a ton of grip. Well, after the open race was on it, after all of the practice, after all the stuff, it started to get the rubber built up on it, and then we had not adjusted to that yet. I think that we're going to see a different race. I think a lot of guys were a little off on their setup. Now when we go and practice the Busch cars and the Cup cars there for the weekend and people having that open race, I think we are going to see a lot different race, and a lot of side-by-side, definitely two-groove racing. I'm a confident believer in that; that they have made the racetrack better, and it's going to put on a better show and than it has in the past.
Q. I've never had a chance to ask a lot of Cup drivers about this, the length of some of these Cup races, you go into Charlotte, the longest race in the business, do we need to go four-plus hours to prove the point? Can we not do it in two-plus hours, maybe three hours? What's your comment on the length of some of these shows now?
GREG BIFFLE: I think that you certainly need to have one event a year like the 600, you know, to prove the longevity that the drivers, the cars, the engines, everybody can do it. But some of the other venues I agree with you 100% on; Pocono, some of these other races, are too long of a race. You know, I mean, yeah, we could prove the winner and in a condensed time factor, and I think it would be better television if they shortened that up a little bit. I'm thinking they don't need to take much more than a half-hour to 40 minutes off of it, the length of the race, and they are going to have -- be right where we need to be. So, I agree with you, some of them are just a smidge too long, but the Coca-Cola 600, I think that we need to keep an event like that, but not -- you know, maybe tailor back some of the other races so they are a little bit shorter.
Q. There's lots of talk, lots of rumors about a possible Truck race in Canada in the next two or three years, maybe even a shorter duration of time. Comments about racing north of the border?
GREG BIFFLE: I mean, I think it's going to be -- I think it's great. You know, I think that our sport needs to go to Canada and there's lots of race fans up there. I can't believe how many fans there are there, and I think the road race in Mexico City was a success. I think NASCAR has to be happy with that and the fan turnout and all of that down there. All of those folks I think had a great time. Even the Mexican guys that raced in the race did a great job. So definitely I think that, you know, it would be worthwhile to explore that.
Q. Talk about the synergy within racing at this moment, everybody with the exception of Matt Kenseth has been at the front and has won. What's it feel like to walk into the shop?
GREG BIFFLE: It's nice. I mean, it's really nice. I just came in the engine shop this afternoon, and of course they won this weekend with Mark's engine. It's exciting to be at a place like this. You don't realize how much it does for the people. You've got to think about how many people show up for work every day and never go to the racetrack. They have never been to the racetrack or good a few times a year and work on those race cars every day. They are behind the scenes, or if it's behind-the-scenes people, those people are the ones that are excited and put in 110 percent of their effort. You know, it's really like a factory worker getting -- that's his recognition, that's his pride. That's no different than men or women building cars, Ford Truck or who work on an assembly line or something, and that's winning races. It's the best product in America or whatever the case is, it's those guys that get excited and they give it 110 percent. They are not coming to work, well, we crashed again or we ran 25th all day. You know, they feel like it's a dead-end road. They are never going to win a race, they are never going to -- whatever the case is. These guys, that does a lot for organization and winning races and being upbeat. It does a tremendous amount.
Q. Do you feed off of their energy?
GREG BIFFLE: Absolutely, yeah. All of the guys are pumped up. They all of the guys are excited, and I want to win so bad for them. I never wanted to win so bad in my life than when I was driving the Brucko (ph) car in the Busch Series. Those guys work so hard on their race cars, they are over in Kentucky and they are not in the limelight. Man, they work hard. They are a good, solid group of guys that enjoy doing what they are doing and work their butts off. And for me to win a race for them this year and have not won in three years, well, it's really exciting for me.
Q. Does winning and running well during a season, does that energize your quest to win future races?
GREG BIFFLE: It absolutely does. I mean, you'll be -- keep your eyes on the 9 car, because after you win one, the greed or the want and the energy inside you, your blood is boiling to win more. I mean, it's like a -- it's like a drug. You win one and it's like, you just want to win all of them. You want to win every time you show up because you feel like you can. I did win, I have won and I want to win again, worse than ever. It's kind of funny, when I won at Michigan, that unrestricted race, I was like, I wanted to win so bad again it was unbelievable. I wanted to win worse than I did before I won. You know, because before you win, it's a question mark; when will he win a race or can he. Now that you've done it, it's like, there's no reason why I can't win next week, or I should. You know, it's that energy.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, that will do it today. Thanks for your time. Good luck on Sunday.
GREG BIFFLE: Thanks, I appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your anticipation, and we'll see you all next week.
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