NASCAR Media Conference
October 22, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to today's NASCAR CAM Video teleconference in advance of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Our guest today is Greg Biffle who is joining us from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. Greg is currently second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 149 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
You've been strong in Atlanta earlier in the season and in mile-and-a-half tracks throughout your career. What are your expectations for your team this weekend and at the remaining intermediate tracks like Texas and Homestead?
GREG BIFFLE: I think obviously where we are at in points, we are certainly looking forward to trying to win at Atlanta this weekend. I know everybody goes there to win, but we feel really confident. We finished fourth at the spring race like you mentioned, but we were chasing down the leader, Kyle Busch, at the end and was second, but just ran out of tires a little bit late in the race and ended up slipping back a few positions.
Atlanta, one of our better racetracks obviously, and look forward to trying to close in on the 48 there this weekend. You know, at Texas, Phoenix, Homestead, all four of these racetracks are literally my best racetracks on the circuit. So I think we are in a good position. I'd like to be closer than 149 points but I don't think that's too much to overcome.
Q. You and Carl started a run at the title Chase in 2005 in Atlanta and then Texas back-to-back. Can you talk about what he was like as a teammate then and what you thought of him as a driver then, and has that perception changed at all over the last four years?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think a whole lot. Obviously Carl is a competitive person and you know, we're eager to win every time we go to the racetrack, and we are competing about at the same level we were in 2005 with each other for this title.
So I really see a lot of the same as it was in 2005. We are both just right there, trying to, you know, inch up there in the points it really feels a lot of the same, the same position we are in. Hopefully we'll be on that end of maybe winning in Atlanta and Texas and try and close in on that 48.
Q. He won that those two races back-to-back; the success, has that changed him at all?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't know. I think that any level of success changes a person, you know, because of your demand on times and all of the things that we have to do. I certainly think that, you know, obviously Dale Junior or somebody like that does a lot different now than when they were first or second year in Cup compared to his popularity now.
I think that you obviously have to adapt to what the sport is like.
Q. Obviously tires were a pretty big concern last time in Atlanta. A couple of guys have already expressed concern about the tires for this weekend, as well. Can you just talk about that and whether or not you think the problems have been resolved?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I certainly think that we have put Goodyear in a box with this new car and new track surfaces and things.
Their ability to react has been -- they just can't upset the apple cart and start over. So it's been a work-in-progress for them. They have missed on some and hit others right on the nail head. I can think of Darlington with the pre-pave, really, really fast, probably too fast of a place. They tested twice and they picked a perfect tire. So you know, then the other extreme is Indy where we had a tire that wouldn't last.
So you know, you're not going to hit it right every single time. And I think that at Atlanta, they found something that was too conservative and we've seen that was not conservative enough. So they have gone back there and tested twice. I'm confident that they have picked a good tire for that racetrack.
But no matter where we go, I think a tire is always a concern, because let's face it, they are dancing on a fine line of having enough grip, enough speed, or not too much speed, and having longevity. That line, people don't understand how fine that line is, and that's really, really tough to get down the middle of that line. And just the weather, just some rain or something, can affect whether a tire can go 30 laps or 60 laps. That's how close of a tolerance we are working in with these good year tires.
I think we are doing a good job of reacting to these situations just as quickly as they can. The thing with at Atlanta at the beginning of the year to defend them is that they went to the conservative side of things, maybe a little too conservative; but maybe at the same time they were trying to build a little conservative into it.
Q. When you have a situation hike you had at Atlanta in the spring, what can the driver do inside the race car to combat that?
GREG BIFFLE: Just hang on. It was really slick and hard to drive. You could not put the gas down and the other cars did not have a hot of grip. But the surface of Atlanta is much like Darlington before the pre-pave. We know that racetrack wears tires out and that's what makes it so great of a racetrack and competitive.
The problem is, the new car threw a little curveball at the tire, because it used the tire much harder on the right side only. So that was a difficulty for Goodyear to try to figure that out in a short amount of time. I think, you know, it was just very, very difficult to drive. The tires didn't have a lot of grip all day. It just made it difficult inside there. You had to elbows-up all day long.
Q. Great history for remaining tracks on the schedule here; does that have any bearing at all on what we are going to see this year?
GREG BIFFLE: I think so. The places we have been competitive at, we have tended to come back and be competitive, and I don't think it's any different than Hendrick's domination at Martinsville. We have always seen them very fast there, and just goes to show you, the five ran really well. The 48, 88, 24, all four cars were right there at Martinsville.
So, you know, Roush Fenway runs good these places and we have been able to kind of hold up our end of the bargain so to speak. I think we are going to be really good at Atlanta. I think we are going to be really good at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead and I don't see are they are not and I think we can beat the 48.
Now what happens to him if he finishes fifth in all those races there's nothing we can do about that. But we can just go there and try and do our best.
Q. Sounds like it also gives you quite a bit of confident.
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, absolutely. I'm 100 percent confident. I was excited at the checkered flag at Martinsville, probably more excited than I have been in some other finishes that we finished 12th.
You know, our strategic plan at Martinsville was to finish in the Top-10, and we only missed that by two positions. We didn't count on Jimmie leading the most laps and winning. We felt like he would be strong, we knew that, but to not go to Martinsville and finish 20th or 18th or 30th was -- or get back to the lead lap was key for us to have a shot at this title.
Q. I know you're not the crew chief but you know a lot about race cars, and today the No. 83 Red Bull team was penalized, their car chief and crew chief indefinitely suspended for the car metal on the car not meeting the minimum thickness. What's your reaction to that? Would that be something that's a shocking penalty for you?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I don't know, that's difficult. I just heard about the car of today or the penalties or whatnot -- or I didn't hear about the penalties but I heard the metal was too thin. I think that NASCAR has over and over stated that they do not want us messing with this car. That's why they built it this way is to make the tech easier and do all those things. We have seen people try and get spoiler brackets through, different truck lids, different fender bumps; Hendricks at the road course, everybody has gotten their knuckles slapped with the ruler pretty hard.
And I don't know all the circumstances around the metal, the thickness and all that, what exactly happened, if it was -- sometimes they get more upset about a bait and switch; when they have already inspected it and you take it home and change it. I don't know if that's the case.
I know that the penalties can vary depending on case-by-case. Obviously they were pretty upset about what had taken place, and I think they are putting their foot down and saying, don't mess with these cars.
Q. Also, I want to ask you, and obviously you have raced for wins every week, that's just you and you feel like you can win. Do you race -- take any more chances or with any more abandon this weekend at all knowing that it's tightening up?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, if I tried any more at Charlotte, I would have been backwards in the fence. I tried all I could and I'm going to do the same Atlanta, and the same at Texas and Phoenix and Homestead. I'm going to put it all on the line, because literally, I don't have anything to lose and I have a lot to gain. You know, certainly I don't want to crash the car and fall back to sixth in points, but at the same time, we have to beat the 48 and we have to get the best finish we can.
I'm going to continue to do what I've done in the first ten -- or in the first of the ten races, and that's try and win.
Q. A couple of media people were talking about all of the rain delays, especially we've had this year, qualifying for a race, and you know, a lot of the media guys thought that maybe during the Chase, just during the Chase, like we are now in, that NASCAR should get the qualifying in to sort of even things up during the Chase. What do you think all of the drivers would think of something like that?
GREG BIFFLE: Are you talking about just the Top-10 drivers qualifying or the entire field?
Q. Yeah, I would say the entire field, that's what everybody was talking about, to make it more even during the Chase.
GREG BIFFLE: I understand. I don't know if you've looked at the weather this weekend in Atlanta, but they are calling for rain on Friday; just to further that idea. It's a possibility that we could get qualifying rained out again.
It is a possibility every week obviously. But the one thing that you have to ask yourself is, yes, NASCAR could have qualified the cars at Martinsville. And so what we have done is we would have went to Martinsville for the weekend, everybody would have run about ten to 15 laps of practice total, qualified, and then raced the race.
So technically, we would not have had any practice for the event. The only thing we would have been able to get in is qualifying, because we only have so many hours in the day, and we have to make choices in our life; you only have so much time, what is more important or what are you going to do.
And so we would have had to qualify the cars with no practice, and then just race the 500-mile race on Sunday. And it's not really practical to be able to do that. I understand everybody wants to see them qualify, but I just don't know any other way to do it other than go on Wednesday or Thursday and just in case it's going to rain. I mean, there's really -- very difficult. We're backed in a corner. NASCAR is in a very tough spot to try to be fair to everyone.
You know, with the rules the way they are with qualifying, if it rains out, starting by points, I don't know any other way to do it.
Q. How much would it mean to you to be the first guy to win Truck championships in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup?
GREG BIFFLE: It would mean a great deal. I've certainly paid my dues. I've put in a lot of hard work and effort. We've got four opportunities left to try and close that deal and it would mean a great deal to me, especially doing it with the same team: Roush Fenway, Ford; with Jack Roush and Fenway Sports Group, all and with Ford Motor Company who has been a big supporter of ours all along and would continue to be.
It would be a dream come true for me, a lifelong goal, obviously, to win all three of them, but most importantly, win the Sprint Cup title.
Q. I don't know what it is about Miami, but it seems like you've got it figured out, or maybe you just like to end the season with a big bang, I don't know. But what do you allude to that weekend, and obviously you've got to feel like that's a good opportunity to pick some points up.
GREG BIFFLE: It certainly it is, that's a weekend I always look forward to. The reason why that's so important to win is because you're the most recent winner for about three months, so that makes it a very nice off-season. You kind of make a joke about it; when you win a race and you have the next week off, you get to enjoy it for two weeks instead of one.
Well, if you win at Homestead, you get to enjoy the whole winter as the guy that won the last race. It's just that racetrack is very fun to me. Progressive banking, I think it puts on some of the best racing we have, and it's a really cool, challenging racetrack, which I raced on in Tucson, Arizona, that progressive-banking type of track. It's a lot of fun and just have adapted to that racetrack fairly well and really like running there.
Q. I just wanted to check with you on one thing. You've obviously got some ground to make up on Jimmie, but a couple of guys breathing down your neck, as well, that you've got to be concerned about. Can you just talk about your strategy and how you juggle the role of pursuer, as well as being pursued yourself?
GREG BIFFLE: It's normally you're always looking in front, back. You're looking in the rear-view mirror and looking forward.
At this point in the season, it seems like I haven't even thought about who is behind me. I don't even care about who is behind me. All I care about is the guy in front of me, and all I can do is try to beat that guy. He's 149 points ahead of me. Whatever happens behind me, if it they end up beating me or finishing in front of me, that would be a moot point for me; if I end up third or fourth in the points or something happens. Because my goal right now is in front of me, and at that point, I'm not saying it doesn't matter to me, but what matters right now, and I'm focused on, is the guy in front of me.
If I end up not making goal, certainly I'm trying to finish the best I can. But if those guys end up faster than me and end up in front of me, there's not a lot I can do about it. Obviously I'm going to do my best.
Q. You mentioned earlier that your destiny is sort of out of your own hands, and Jimmie would have to stumble for you to pass him in the standings. Can you just talk about just how that affects mind-set, knowing that ultimately it's up to a couple different factors?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, absolutely, and I know that there's a lot of things that can happen inside of a race car. There's a grocery list of things that can happen that's going to put us even in the points with him. You know, all you can do is do your best and not worry about him and not look at him and just do our very best, and then let nature take its course, for lack of a better terminology. We had the Talladega wreck, of course, and Carl's ignition problem. We've seen guys get flat tires or engine failures or all kinds of things can happen. You know, we just did the best we can and see what happens.
Q. Some drivers, professional stick-and-ball players, they think that butterflies are a really good thing to get before a big race or a big game; do you agree with that, and if you get butterflies, is there a best way to handle them?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I think you do. It's weird, when my car is running really, really good and I think I have a good opportunity to win, I get more butterflies than normal, because you know, I'm thinking, what's going to happen to keep us from winning today; versus, you know, saying, okay, I need to concentrate on getting a Top-5, we don't have that great of a car. I'm just going to run too solid of a race today and get the best out of it I can. You're almost in reverse; then it seems it's almost like backwards from what you're think.
The minute the engine, the thing starts making noise and you can smell it, everything is gone and the adrenaline is all there wanting to go, that's all out the window. Your brain cannot process anything but: We are going to be to go 208 miles an hour down into this corner side-by-side in just a few seconds, a few minutes. That's all out the window at that point.
Q. So even if it's like, say it's Homestead and you're say ten points from Jimmie and now it's really intense, you turn the engine on and it's time to go?
GREG BIFFLE: It is. And that's the only thing I can do is just be the most -- because I know what's going to be the best for me is to get in there and be the most relaxed as I can, drive the car to the best of my ability and focus and concentrate and not be afraid of making a mistake. I need to be conscious of it, but at the same time, I need to just focus on the job at hand, and that is finishing three points or two spots ahead of the 48.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to the media that joined us today, and Greg, thank you for your time and best of luck this weekend in Atlanta.
GREG BIFFLE: Thank you, I can't wait.
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