NASCAR Media Conference
March 26, 2008
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you very much for joining us. Good luck this weekend.
For those on the phone, we're now ready for our third and final guest today, Greg Biffle, who is the driver of the No. 16 Jackson Hewitt Ford. Greg is a former champion of both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Comes in second this week in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Greg, you've never won a short track race in the Cup Series but you got pretty close two weeks at Bristol. What's your outlook this week at Martinsville?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly, Martinsville over the years has not been my best track, but certainly the last couple of times I've been there I've gotten tremendously better.
And I remember the last race there I was bumping on the back of the 48 car for the lead. So that was the highlight of my career, if you will and finished seventh. So really looking forward to going back this week. Don't know if I've really got the opportunity to win at that kind of place. Bristol, I would say, a win would come first there before Martinsville, but certainly not going to count us out.
But just looking to continue that top 5 streak. That's really our focus. And the reality is if you put yourself in that top 5, you're in position to win. So kind of goes hand in hand.
DENISE MALOOF: Questions?
Q. Greg, you talked about your performance last year. What helped you get better? What do you feel like you were able to do to get in that position? Because I know we've talked in the past just that obviously, like you say, that place hasn't been the best of luck for you. And also, when you just said you thought it was a highlight of your career, you mean highlight of your career at Martinsville or highlight of your career total to be bumping the 48 in that situation last year?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, probably the highlight of my career at Martinsville. I mean, every time I've been there, you know, I've been a lap down or the brakes quit working. You know, things have happened. And we've just not run as competitive there as we have everywhere else in the series.
And so to be legitimately up front and beating, bumping the leader for the lead and running there, that was certainly a bunch of confidence builder for us, or for myself personally, because Martinsville is in The Chase. And if I cannot run in the top 10 consistently at Martinsville, it's going to be tough to win a Sprint Cup title. And I felt like last time we were there that we were capable of that now as a team and as a car and as a driver, to compete in that, in the top 10.
So we just need to go back and do that again.
Q. I know the year you nearly won the title a couple of years back, a lot of the talk was about the Texas pit stop really set you back. Looking back it, as you look overall, 20th place finish at Martinsville. How much of a factor did that have in holding you back from that championship a few years ago?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly, if I got 10th at Martinsville I would have won the title. So, like I said, Martinsville has been in the past one of my downsides, is overcharging the corner; our brake package isn't efficient enough, and Roush Fenway in general, I think that particular race Matt finished 18th, Mark finished 19th, I finished 20th. All of us were kind of as a group were not that good at Martinsville.
I still think we have some work to do as a group. We don't all go in there and run -- we don't have three cars in the top 10 or top 15, normally. Normally we're 10th on back, all five of us.
So for us to get a little bit better and understand that flat track and front geometry and how to get our cars to turn really good in the center, which is what Martinsville's about, a little paper clip place, you've got to get your car to turn really good around the center of the corner and that's what makes it fast.
If your car won't do it, you've got one arm rubber banded behind your back. There's nothing you can do. You can't change your driving style. You can't loosen your car up. You can't really do anything. If your car just, raw, won't turn around there, that track's so small and so finesse, you're just kind of doomed.
Whereas, Darlington, Texas, any of those other places, Phoenix, you can kind of change your line-up, if you will. Get a little higher getting in. Get your car a little looser. Try and burp the throttle in the center. All that stuff doesn't work at Martinsville.
Q. The teams and drivers at this level seem to burst forward at times in the points then they seem to slip, too. You've been a part of that. Did you ever sense a good wave coming or does the tide simply arrive?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, you just work at it and work at it. And this sport is so humbling. It's so tough. One day you feel like you're pretty good. The next day you're way behind.
And it is hard to keep a level head and level playing field and keep consistency. That's the most difficult thing.
When you've got something that's working and going and then all of a sudden it changes, it is very, very difficult to do that.
And we look at last year. You try and look at positive things. You try and look at the bright side. If there is anything positive, you know, if you had a flat tire or something else. It's like well we had a good car. We ran in the top five or something to that effect. You always try and make a positive and build on that. But the end of last year, New Hampshire, our first race there we were 4th quick. We were the slowest car there that had run in the top 5 all previous races.
So that was the most disappointing point in my career, almost, was to be the slowest car at the racetrack ever. And no light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the year, we come back and we run in the top 10 most of the race, finished 13th.
We take the car to Dover, try to catch Carl in the end we finish second. We go to Phoenix, finish second. Five, six more laps we would have caught Johnson for the win. And then the season was over. And we've picked up right in those footsteps this year right where we left off last year.
But since it was in The Chase, since we were so far down in points, those finishes and that run we made hasn't really -- didn't show up anywhere, so to speak.
So really this all started toward the end of last year and everybody has worked, that inspired us for over the winter to really make sure we got it done this year.
Q. Last summer, after Greg Erwin was named your crew chief. I spoke with Greg, he's from the Philadelphia area. He said he totally understood that you might be skeptical of him because he's never been a crew chief before. But it appears things are looking out quite well. Can you talk about how that relationship has evolved?
GREG BIFFLE: Greg's doing a great job. He has an engineering background. Has been around the sport a long time. His father has. He has a lot of knowledge. And, any more, a crew chief has to wear so many hats. He has to be a team organizer. He has to be a travel agent. He has to be cheerleader for all the guys. He's got to schedule all the stuff. He becomes a manager, a business manager, if you will, of a race team.
And so getting the car to go fast is one of the very top priorities. But running the whole team. And that not a lot of people can do that efficiently. And Robbie Reiser certainly has been the model citizen when it comes to that. With him inside the organization I think helps us.
But Greg has done a fantastic job. And if we play our cards right, we're in this thing for the title this year. I feel like we've got it dead in the sights. We're on it 100 percent. And he's motivated and focused. I talked to him at 8:00 at night. We're talking on the phone for an hour about what they found and what they're working on and what we're going to go to Martinsville with and Texas.
We're staying in front of this thing. And I think that's what's going to make the difference in the long run.
Q. Do you see any advantages in a track being family-owned or because of the economic expense involved in racetracks these days, is it necessary that tracks be part of the ISC ASMI families?
GREG BIFFLE: That's a good question. I certainly think that independently owned tracks can prosper, certainly. I don't think it needs to be inside those two large umbrellas that own a lot of the race tracks.
If you will, you kind of look at it as Hendricks and Roush or whatever or one of the bigger teams. I think there's room for track owners to promote the track properly and keep the fans happy, keep the drivers happy, keep NASCAR happy with the facility. I certainly think that there's an advantage there or that they can survive. The thing where the advantage comes from is the bigger places is they basically have a lot of information, a lot of models to go off of. I guess if they had owned five or six tracks, they know what works and what to do and whatnot to do.
Where, if you only have one, you know, that may be trial and error, more so than the other guy, having a wealth and more knowledge than you. I think it kind of boils back to looking at the big teams compared to the single car teams. It's almost the same format when you look at it from that perspective. But I think it's certainly possible, because the racetrack really kind of stands on its own when it comes to our eyes. The racetrack kind of makes -- when I go to Las Vegas or when I go to Chicago or Kansas or Darlington, I couldn't even tell you who owns them, honestly, with 100 percent deal. So I look at it as the track and the facility and the way it's laid out and the way it works.
Q. No sense of romance when you go to a place like Pocono or someplace like that?
GREG BIFFLE: A little bit. Some of those places you know who owns them and you know that they're outside of that umbrella, just because they're unique. Like Loudon was and some of the other places. But I look at it as from a competitor, I drive through the tunnel and I think about where my motor home spot is, I think about what garage stall we're in. I think about how the racetrack is going to race this weekend and how we're going to get track position at the end and come out of here with a top five or a win. That's kind of my focus when I drive into a place.
Q. Real quick, can you just kind of talk on, you know, what sort of help you're given to Colin Braun because I know he's a big up and coming driver for Roush Fenway and he's leaning on your advice as well as Carl's?
GREG BIFFLE: We're certainly trying to help him. And the thing about it is a driver today has to have, I don't know what the proper word is, just has to have the drive or the energy to want to be competitive and want to be successful at this game. And to do that you've got to lean on people, whether that's your teammates or spotters or whoever you can gather information from and try and help yourself.
And I was working in my shop on Friday. I think it was Friday or it could have been Saturday. Must have been Saturday. I'm working on my shop in my sand car trying to get ready to go to the desert. And he called me. My cell phone rang and I answered it and they were at the racetrack. He wanted to talk to me about Nashville and get some pointers, tell him what I could about the racetrack.
I tried to explain the track as best I could to him. I told him what to watch for, what not to do. So he's one of the few drivers that have called me on my weekend off. He's the only driver that's called me basically at home and asked me for advice about a racetrack, which I'm more than happy. That's what we're here for, is to try and help these guys.
But I'm not going to get his number and call him in the middle of the day and tutor him on what he needs to do. He has to be the aggressor. He's got to be the car salesman, running around trying to figure out what the right thing to be doing is. And he's doing that.
Q. The fact that he's from a small town out in west Texas, does that really help him or is that kind of a hindrance?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think at this point in his career it makes a difference where he's from. Because he's inside a good organization and he just needs to use his resources to the best of his ability. So I think that's the most important one.
Q. I guess I wanted to ask you if you could just sort of overview how the next couple of races look to you and where you think your program stands right now?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I think that we're obviously in really good shape right now. Our program is really, really running well. I'm really nervous about Martinsville this weekend. Like I said, that place has not been my best racetrack in the past. But I'm excited about it now because we ran so well there last time.
That's what I'm excited about going back to. Texas and Phoenix, I can't wait. I just can't wait to -- I want to win a race bad. I'm not saying I can't win at Martinsville. But it is more likely for me to win at Phoenix or Texas than Martinsville.
And Talladega, of course, just throw the dice out there and see where you end up. You really can't predict anything there.
So looking forward Martinsville and Talladega are pivotal races coming up, and the rest of them we're looking forward to winning one. I'm hoping in the next four or five races we get a win under our belt.
Q. I've noticed throughout the season all of the major teams have had their chance at victory lane with Penske and Roush and Gibbs and now RCR has come alive. Why do you think it's been so mixed bag this year as opposed to last year? Is it the car?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'm kind of losing him a little bit, but I'll answer the question. I think it's the car. The playing field has been leveled a little bit simply by the fact that there's less we can do with this car. And everybody's starting to -- this is still all foreign ground for us, even though we've run this car for a little period of time the new car. There's still a tremendous amount we do not know about this car and are learning every day new things about it. So that can certainly make a difference.
The other thing is, if you get off a little bit, I mean before we were winning an eighth of an inch, let's say on your split or balance or whatever, just ballparking things, this thing is 30,000ths. I mean you're talking about such a fine line. And if something changes a tiny bit throughout the race, the bump spot gets a little weak or soft or whatever happens and you change your tire pressure a little bit, a little tweak here or there, you can go from being one of the fastest cars to trying to stay in the lead lap all of a sudden.
And we've seen that with the 48, Gillette-Everham cars like Casey Kahne, I've seen him a lap down almost at every race. And then at the end and, our guy's been like that, too, David Regan, and bang, they're right there.
And it's hard, with the old car, that would be a major adjustment, major change from running that bad to running that strong. And this car, the window is so small. So you see a guy hit that window perfect. Burton hit it on the nail head, right place at the right time. And then Carl just got it just perfect at California. Kyle Busch got going good at Atlanta. It's such a fine line. And it's easy to miss it.
Q. You talked about being excited about going back to Texas where you've won. How about the fact that Goodyear is coming back there with a tire they used there last year, compound slightly different for the sidewall given what went on at Atlanta and the 1.5 mile problem we saw there?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, it's hard to predict what it's going to be like when we get there. But I think they've changed the construction from what I understand the sidewall construction some and not necessarily the compound, is what I believe to be the case.
And I think they've just learned Goodyear is testing and learning just like the race teams are all the time. And they've just come up with a better construction that's overall better than the one they had. And so just makes sense to apply that new construction everywhere they go now. Now they've found an improvement, certainly they're going to use it everywhere. And you would expect them to, that construction process.
We used that tire out at Darlington. That's where I am at now. The tire is great here. It's a little too soft, a little too much grip for this racetrack, but the tire drives real, real nice.
So I'm pretty excited about going to Texas with that tire.
DENISE MALOOF: Greg, thanks very much for joining us today. And good luck this weekend.
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