NASCAR Media Conference
April 22, 2009
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR cam video teleconference in advance of this weekend's events at Talladega Superspeedway. Joining us today from the NASCAR research and development center in Concord, North Carolina, is Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Greg comes into this Sunday's Aaron's 500 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. He's only 16 points out of 12th, which is the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility.
Greg, it's a big event at a big track as Talladega celebrates 40 years of racing this weekend. What is the outlook?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, certainly, you know, I'm looking forward to the checkered flag at Talladega 'cause that's the big thing. We always run well there. The thing that's missing, everybody talks about it, is missing that accident. Inevitably one is going to happen at some point throughout the race, those cars are that bunched up. That's what makes Talladega so exciting for the drivers and the fans, is that bunched-up racing.
You know, what we look forward to is being able to finish that race and get a good finish out of it. That's certainly what we're looking forward to.
There's no doubt we're going to run decent at Talladega this weekend. The big picture is staying out of trouble and minding our Ps and Qs till the end of the race.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll now go to media questions for Greg Biffle.
Q. Greg, since you were probably clearly the unluckiest driver in last Talladega's race, getting wrecked by your own teammate, I was curious if you ever heard the old legends from older drivers that's called the Talladega Jinx or the Talladega Curse, where Bobby Isaac once heard a voice in his car that said to park the car, he did, got out of it. Have you ever heard those old legends?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I've heard about those stories a little bit. I never heard the voice, though. I wish I would have last year and pulled down out of the racing groove at that point.
But, you know, I felt hike I had the Talladega jinx for a while because I think out of seven, I don't know the exact stats, but out of seven races there or something, I'd only finished two of those races out of seven.
But, you know, like I said, we've always run well there. It seems like I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time some of those. I made it through a few at Talladega that I don't know how. So, you know, I've been on both ends of the fence on that. I've heard about some of those stories.
Q. What did you feel about Mark Martin's win for NASCAR, do you think it makes a statement that drivers need to work harder to stay in shape? Do you think maybe this will make drivers want to drive longer after a lot of people said they want to shorten their careers lately?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I think so. Certainly I was so excited for Mark Martin. It was a big statement for NASCAR. It was a huge statement. If you're in reasonably good shape, you have good equipment, you're a great driver, you're going to win races well into your 50s, you know, just as easy as a guy that's 18 or a lot better than a guy that is 18, 19 or even 25.
In our sport, it's a little bit different. There simply is no replacement for experience. Over and over again, just experience spells success a lot of times in our sport.
And if you're in that right equipment and you're competitive and you're focused like Mark Martin is and, of course, like I am or a lot of other drivers, you're going to be winning races hopefully until you're 50 years old like Mark Martin without a doubt, without a doubt.
Q. You really haven't seen a rookie driver emerge as a Chase contender, not even a top-20 contender, since you had Hamlin a few years ago. Why do you think that is?
GREG BIFFLE: I really don't know, other than the rookie talent or the rookie contenders that you're speaking of, you know, maybe aren't as big a group as they have been in the past. But I'm here to tell you, these cars are very, very hard to drive, very hard to compete at this level. That's what experience does for you. It's just a difficult spot to be in. It's so hard for a rookie not having a lot of experience at these racetracks. I think we all can agree that Joey Logano does not have a tremendous amount of experience, hasn't maybe run a full season of Nationwide or anything, or Craftsman Truck Series or anything.
So it's the school of hard knocks here in the Sprint Cup Series. You can't come into this series without experience and run well. It doesn't matter what kind of car you get into. You can get in a good car and run good for a while. If you took Jeff Gordon out of his car, put a really good rookie, or Jimmie Johnson, he may run good no 10 races, but I think after that it's going to come onto his shoulders to continue that progression of what it's going to take to stay competitive in this sport. And that's where you come up with that empty void of the lack of experience and knowledge with these cars.
Q. I know we run the plates at Daytona and Talladega. Everyone tells me they're very different. Can you explain to me the difference between the two tracks?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, man, it's just so different. It's hard for a fan to get their arms around and grasp because they look the same on TV, or if you look at them probably from the grandstands.
But, you know, Talladega is so smooth. It's incredibly smooth. It even drives like it doesn't have a lot of banking to it. Daytona gives you that feeling that it has, it's kind of backward. Daytona feels like it's got more banking and it's rougher. You drop down into a corner. It gives you the fact, like Dover, or you go off into the corner, it kind of goes down. It's very rough. The surface is very coarse, like Darlington used to be. Now Darlington is very smooth. So it's almost like you have a big, fast racetrack, and it's almost the grip level or aggregate like Darlington was where you don't have a lot of grip, or you have grip for a few laps like Atlanta or something. Where Talladega is more like Las Vegas, or Charlotte now, where you run that same speed lap after lap after lap, and the racetrack configuration is big enough and wide enough. The corner entry and exit, they're kind of wide open, that there's just no handling involved. It's almost like you're going slow at Talladega, to explain it, because the car handles so well and the track is so smooth. You sort of lose that sensation that you're going that fast.
So from Talladega to Daytona, it's just completely different animals altogether. They're nothing alike.
Q. Unfortunately you've been a victim off this as well this year. Why do you think we're seeing so many problems on pit road and why is pit road so critical this year?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly pit road continues to be very critical, more and more. As you group the field tighter and tighter together competition-wise, what happens is it makes it harder and harder to pass on the racetrack. So to gain a position on pit road is big because a lot of times you can't gain it on the racetrack. So technically the race is pit road now instead of on the racetrack. It's not that literal, but it could almost be viewed as that.
And NASCAR came out with a longer wheel stud for safety reasons to make sure that the lug nut had enough threads showing. So what that's done is it put more stress on the teams to, one, stay on the wheel longer to get that nut down tight, and two, to keep that lug nut on the end of the wheel stud, it's so long, that sometimes it's falling off. That's just an issue that the teams are working through and they're having a little difficulty with that change. That tells you what a fine oiled machine these pit crews are. When they get a change like that, it becomes very difficult to change the routine and to overcome some of those just very minor changes and issues.
Q. Greg, if you can just kind of put us in the seat at a place like Talladega, what is it like from your vantage point. That's something that most of us don't get the opportunity to do. When you're in the pack, what are you seeing? How much are you mirror driving? What are the sounds you're hearing? How are you telling when to make a move? What does it feel like as it gets hotter and hotter as the race goes on? Can you put us in the seat to give us a little more of that experience of what you go through on Sunday.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I wish I could. I wish there was a seat right next to me where somebody like yourself could ride with me in these Talladega restrictor plate races and see how intense it is inside there. I mean, you might as well bring a gun with you, because you want to commit suicide before you go through all the things that you go through on a racetrack like that.
There's so much stuff going on all around you. You have two cars wide on the bottom. You're three-wide. There's a guy outside of you. You're four-wide. Is there another car looking on the outside of him to make it five-wide? And then the lane that's moving in front of you, you got to always be looking in the mirror to be ready for a guy to push you from behind. If you're not expecting it and that guy comes at you from behind, you're thinking about moving over a little bit, you move the steering wheel a tiny bit, the guy hits you, now you're crashing. The spotter is talking to you constantly.
There is just so much going on all at one time constantly that that's how these accidents start, is you cannot process the information quick enough with everything that's going on around you, and a lot of times what will happen is somebody will get beside another car and that guy will have to move up the racetrack, this guy doesn't know it. It's very, very intense.
It's either feast or famine. You will either be single file driving around like the most boring thing you've ever done in your life or it's just chaos and you're two- and three-wide. That's how it is most of the time.
Q. What is it like for you guys after the race? I've heard different drivers talk about the headaches or just how draining it can be. When does it hit you? When you get out of the car, on the bus, on the plane? How do you feel after one of these races?
GREG BIFFLE: You feel really, really worn out. You feel as worn out as you've ever been because of the fact, the mental capacity it takes to constantly be thinking and processing, Can I get through that gap? Is that lane going to move? Two cars up is it kind of a mediocre car, he's not very fast today. You have to get the 43-car field registered in your head, what guy is running good, what guy isn't, who should I be in line with, who is in line three cars up. So all of that kind of sits on your shoulders a few hours after the race. You're like, I'm glad that's over. It's kind of a relief. It's amazing how draining it is, plus the physical aspect of it. It's very hot inside the car. Those cars don't have a lot of air circulation on the restrictor plate track. There's a lot going on.
Q. There's probably some thoughts amongst the drivers as to how you can avoid a wreck at Talladega, even though we all know you probably can't. Everybody probably thinks they have their own way of trying to do it. I'm wondering whether you have some thoughts on that?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly, you know, we all have ideas how you avoid a wreck. A lot of people say if you can stay at the front, that's your best opportunity to stay out of a wreck. I was running third in a Nationwide race and Scott Riggs flew upside down across the hood of my car when I was running third. So I guess that didn't really work out. I wasn't in the safest place to be, yet I've been caught up in accidents at the back.
It is difficult. Some people feel like the top is a safer spot than the bottom. I really don't feel like there is a better spot to be. Certainly not being in the middle probably is a safer spot, either the bottom or the top. It gives you an opportunity, at least you don't have another car there. On the bottom, there's nobody below you. It doesn't mean you can drive down there, but at least you're not going to get hit from that side.
You know, I don't think there's any safe spot to be to avoid a wreck. Those are some things you can do. Not be in the middle probably and just really paying attention to what's going on around you and be prepared.
Q. Can you talk about pulling out and/or not pulling out, the thought process in your head.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, you know, when you pull out a line to try to make a pass, there's a lot of things that lead up to that. The car is closing behind me. Who is behind me? Is it a teammate? Who might run with me? And then what has that lane done all day? You know, certainly the beginning of the race, there's no problem trying it and seeing what happens. But the game changes. The rules change at the end.
If you pull out at the end, a guy right behind you might go, That's a guy I just gained a spot on. Instead of I'm going to try to gain three, four, five, he may elect to stay in line where earlier in the race he went with you.
It's definitely a dancing game to see who ends up being a partner.
Q. You may not have a Talladega trophy, but you have a lot. Like Mark Martin says, do your trophies get invisible after a while?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, they do. I think you sort of take it for granted. Not take it for granted, but you think about the next one. A lot of times what happens is, we all say it, you never know when that next win is going to come or if that's your last one. And what happens is, you know, you're flying home from the race, you're thinking of next week already because you know next week is a challenge, that that's one week you haven't won, then one, then two, then three. You know, the racer in us wants to win. And when I won at Loudon last year I'm on the way home thinking, How am I going to win at Dover? What am I going to do? How is the race going to play out?
As Mark said, those trophies become invisible, they're a thing of the past. It's kind of funny, kind of spring cleaning my office, my area at my shop, moving some stuff around, seeing the trophies with 2004, 2005 on 'em, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, it does kind of bring back memories, but at the same time, you know, it reminds you how important it is to still win races.
Q. Is every race still an adventure for you?
GREG BIFFLE: Every race is an adventure, absolutely. And you look at that race, this is my opportunity right here. You don't get that many of them. And what's frustrating for a driver that people don't understand is, when you finish the race, when you finish third, like I finished third at Texas, I was mad. You know, there was a lot of anxiety, like, I should have won. We wanted to win. Everybody wants to win. When you led, you had probably one of the fastest cars, you finish third, you're not very happy.
On the other hand, when you run 10th, 11th, 12th, 7th, you work your way up, good pit stops, you finish third, you're all excited because I got a third-place finish.
You know, you can be excited and disappointed with the same finish depending on how it comes. But we all want to win so bad. Keep in mind, we only have 36 chances a year to put a trophy in the trophy case. 36 chances is it in an entire year.
Q. First of all, how is the installation of the fence going?
GREG BIFFLE: It's going good.
Q. We heard a lot this week about the fact that Roush Fenway is going to have to downsize at the end of the year. I was curious as to whether or not those concerns have gotten into the facility at Roush Fenway, if that's any concern to not just you but all of the drivers and crew members, if there's anything that y'all are doing to try to keep that at the back of your minds or if that's something you're having to deal with, knowing it's forthcoming?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I think it makes it -- I don't know if it makes it easier or not, but we've known for sometime that we're going to have to reduce the number to four teams. We've worked hard on putting in place an alliance with Yates Racing, that our teams can still communicate and still share technologies, us all being Ford teams. I think we've positioned ourselves well, that really it's going to be simultaneous change or seamless between moving one of our teams or selling one of our teams over to Yates.
I would imagine that would be what's going to take place. I don't know that for a fact, but I anticipate that's what would happen, to move a team over there and have those guys run it over on their side.
You know, I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. I continue to focus on the 16 and winning races and making the Chase. I know that that situation will just work itself out when it comes time.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, Greg, so much for joining us today and giving us your time. Good luck this weekend at Talladega.
GREG BIFFLE: Thank you. Anytime.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks to all the media who participated. We certainly do appreciate your coverage. We'll see you next week.
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