NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Camping World RV 400 presented by AAA
Topics: Camping World RV 400 presented by AAA
September 21, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winner of today's race, Greg Biffle. Greg, tell us about your run.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it was an exciting day, to say the least. I think a lot of people got to see great racing, the fans, everybody. Dover always puts on a great race.
This place is so tough. I have to say that I thought I was going to let these guys down. I got the car too loose on Saturday, yesterday, for the race today. I guess I misjudged the weather, how sunny it was going to be, how slick the track was.
I had to pit only eight laps into the race, give up all my track position to tighten my car up. You know, didn't know it was going to continue to be looser as the day went on and the sun went down some.
That was really what we fought. Once I was able to get the track position, get near the front, you know, it really worked out. Obviously, hell of a race with my teammates and the 48 and everybody.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by today's winning crew chief, Greg Erwin. Tell us about today's strategy.
GREG ERWIN: The strategy was to take what we thought was probably the best racecar on Saturday with a guy that's had a lot of success here and not screw it up. We figured this thing was going to be four tire runs most of the day. We felt like we had enough segments there in the center of the race that were long runs where we could watch the car kind of come through traffic. We were able to make most of that track position up by the second pit stop that we gave up.
But we did keep tightening it up all day. It's sort of a fine line you walk there between overadjusting and just getting it to where he can really run hammer down and do what he did there the last 50 laps. It was spectacular. I hope the fans enjoyed it. It doesn't get any better than that.
THE MODERATOR: Joined by team owner, Jack Roush. Jack, tell us your thoughts on seeing all three cars up front there.
JACK ROUSH: I'm just proud to be here, as I was last week, with Greg and Greg.
You know, I'm obliged to be on the winning pit box whenever the checkered flag comes out. I was really in a quandary today of what I should do. I've been pretty lucky of making my move when it counted in the past. I've never been on the wrong pit box when one of our cars won. Today I really had a problem.
I was confident with Greg having four tires, the fact they tightened him up, the problem we were hearing on the radio, everybody was having a problem being loose. Greg just about lost his mind there for a while.
Right after that, we realized he still had some of the fastest laps. If we tightened it up, or if Greg had the presence -- Greg Erwin, had the presence to tighten it up just enough, he would be a factor at the end. Then Bob Osborne and Carl only took two tires, which was their undoing.
Matt was really good. The best car we had may have been Jamie McMurray. Of course, he got tangled up in a wreck early on. They made a great save by coming in with 10 laps, giving up their track position. Greg kept it out of trouble, ran clean until he was able to get the track position, figured out what he needed to win the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Greg, you couldn't win a race in the first 26. Now that we're in the Chase, you can't lose. What's going on?
GREG BIFFLE: I wasn't trying before (laughter).
I don't know. I don't know. It is quite coincidental. I have put more emphasis I think on this. The reality of it is we haven't been good enough in the past -- our car hasn't been good enough to win. And I hadn't got it good enough on Saturday to win races. I felt like I'm going to be more involved in these last 10 races leading up to the Chase, to be more involved with the adjustments on the car, understanding what everybody's doing, trying to understand it a little bit better. It's starting to pay dividends for me.
But, you know, we were so close to winning several times leading up to this, the most recent in California. We had a great run at California, if you take Jimmie Johnson out of the picture. We're kind of in a league of our own, and he was in a league of his own.
I feel like this has been coming for a while. Just a lot of focus, concentrating on what we're doing right now, because it doesn't get more important than this.
Q. Greg, back in June you were chasing Kyle Busch down. Couldn't do nothing with him. What's different from June to today when you were passing everybody with no problem?
GREG BIFFLE: The springs I decided to run on the car today, you know, just I knew -- I thought about it. We talked about it. I just said, In order to be able to come back and run better, we're going to have to find a different setup that will run better in traffic, you know, run around cars differently. Like I said, I got the car a little bit too loose. I figured I had it just right on Saturday. Obviously just barely pulled it out today.
But I just came back with something different than I ran in the spring. It was kind of a test when we unloaded it off the truck, and it ran well. Our engineering department, everybody's helped us get pointed in that right direction, modeling, seven-post, all those things. It wasn't like an out-of-the-blue guess. It was something that we had been working on.
Q. Jack, every team runs better or worse at certain tracks. It makes sense you guys would run real well at Michigan, your own backyard, home race. You guys really dominate here. Even the races you haven't won, you've had a lot of guys in the top five. What specifically about Dover works for your cars and your drivers?
JACK ROUSH: Well, the racetrack is real fast. You wind up carrying a lot of speed in the corner, you get back to the gas as quickly as you can, you hold your breath and try not to hit the wall. I'm speaking for the drivers and what I've seen. Mark Martin was really good. Greg Biffle right behind him, had much the same interest in a racetrack. Matt Kenseth, Carl now, and Jamie, they all like to be all up in the gas. They're extraordinarily brave. If we behind the scenes get the car where it will do what it might, they're the guys to close the deal.
I've been blessed with people like that my entire time of being in Winston Cup and NEXTEL Cup, and now Sprint Cup racing.
Q. Over those last 25 laps, Jack, how many heart-stopping moments did you have? Greg, was it as much fun from your seat as it appeared to be from the outside?
JACK ROUSH: Well, you know, this is like a big Bristol. I know the first time I went to Bristol and today, I hyperventilated. I really need to have a paper bag to put my head in so I could take in some CO2 and not take in all this oxygen that was making me crazy. It's hard not to lose your mind when you have as many opportunities as there are with the multiple cars to be involved in something that's just going to break your heart, just holding your breath, breathing too fast, both at the same time as you watch it unfold.
GREG BIFFLE: I could tell you one thing, I was just sitting here a little bit ago when we first sat down, and I wouldn't have wanted to have been in his shoes. I would have crapped my pants watching those three cars run into each other, going crazy out there, you know. That's not a position I'd want to be in, I can tell you that.
But the position I was in, it was kind of fun a little bit racing with Matt, because Matt is so smart. Matt Kenseth is a smart driver. When I got to him and got underneath him, he just moved up. He didn't give me a chance to get on his outside 'cause he knew I passed him twice or three times earlier that day on the top. Matt knew not to let me up there. So Matt decided to take that line and give me the bottom. This isn't his first rodeo.
And then Carl came up there and gave me actually a little bit of help, got Matt a little loose off four. He didn't clear a lap car down the frontstretch. I said, I know what I'm doing here, I'm going three-wide right in the middle of these guys, right down on Matt's door. I'm going to try to, you know, get the upper hand on the outside.
That's what happened. I went down on the corner. I figured the lap car would go high. I was able to drive in the middle of him, take his groove away up off the corner, get to Matt's outside. I bet he was spitting nails down there in turn three and four once I got to his outside because I had a little bit faster car. Being on the bottom here, you just can't get the gas down, get up off the corner. Matt was loose already. He was leaving black marks when he was racing Carl out there for 20 laps. I just sat back and watched them for a little bit. Figured it was my time to try him.
Q. When we spoke on the phone earlier this week, I think you said you felt your team was the best running, most consistent team that hadn't won. Now you've won two in a row. Did you see this coming, maybe not two in a row, but success in the Chase early?
GREG ERWIN: Yes. Success, yes. I feel like this team has made improvements second time back to a lot of these tracks. That's a tribute to the guys on the crew, our team engineer, the relationship that Greg and I are starting to develop. I think we talk about a lot of these races after the fact Monday, Tuesday. We talk about a little bit of a plan for the next time. As he alluded to already, he's got ideas about things that he wants to try. We've got ideas about things we want to try. Then we sort of put a plan in place for Friday and most part of the practice on Saturday. We sort of start to filter through what's working and what's not.
I think we as a group do a pretty good job of that. So, yeah, I did see it coming. But, like I say, two in a row, that's a little bit higher than anyone's imagination or expectations really.
Q. Greg Erwin, you've been with Greg for about 15 months. You just had that one win at Kansas. Now you go from a relative unknown, to a guy who's contending for a championship after two wins.
GREG ERWIN: I mean, I'll take the biggest part of that blame for the struggle with the old-style racecar last year. I didn't hit the ground running in my new position there at Roush. There was a lot of work to be done. There was a lot of things that I didn't know about the racecars at that time that we had. Obviously, I didn't really have any kind of relationship with Greg. So learning him as a driver, we had personnel issues. We had some pit crew issues. Quite honestly, I felt like we made some strong improvements towards the end of the season.
The win at Kansas in the old-style car was pretty nice. We did have a fast car, shortened race or not. But I think when we saw this COT thing came through, we started running the COT car last year, we had very good finishes last year. Truthfully, that's a testament to the guys at the shop, the engineering department again, the fab shop, the gear and transmission department. As a group, we've got some of the best equipment out there. I think it shows.
Q. How much does the fact that you guys haven't won, chasing, trying to get better, how much has that helped you hit the ground running in the Chase, compared to other teams that have been doing good stuff in the first 26 races, then decided not to try to break what's working?
GREG ERWIN: I mean, with the exception of three teams that won the majority of the races this year, we were fortunate to have one of them as our teammate, so we've got a pretty good benchmark. We have a good open policy there. We're able to learn. They're able to learn from us. I think that's what's important about the whole thing, is any time you put a bunch of hard-working people together, you give them enough latitude to go off in their own direction for a little bit, somebody's going to stumble on something. Hopefully, the whole group will eventually benefit from it.
Q. Jack, the performance of your organization right now obviously makes it easy to draw comparisons between now and 2005. Is there one thing you can put your finger on that is completely different and is a tremendous improvement between that organization and now? How confident are you knowing that now we're going into the one-and-a-half-mile tracks where your teams have been exceptionally good?
JACK ROUSH: The main thing that I see, in 2005, we had just started to take a serious look at the algorithms, the predictive things, the data analysis programs that some of the other teams were using. Most weren't, but a couple had started to use them. We were just starting to look at that stuff. We didn't have the organization in place. We hadn't partnered with Ford to the extent we have in the meantime. So we weren't in a position to be able to go testing. As Greg Erwin said after the last race, to spend three days, four days with three or four people looking at the data to figure out what it said.
Now we know how to use the data, we know how to use the tests to our best advantage. Our test sessions at the racetrack are not like prequalifying sessions. You know, there are things where you go out and work through a matrix of questions, and you wind up with data that you come back and peruse later to find out the value in.
We're able to use that now to the greater extent. So more and more, it's gone -- 20, 25 years ago, it was a driver and a crew chief. They had to believe in one another, trust one another. They came up with stuff that normal homo sapiens wouldn't think of. Today, it's the job of the crew chief and the driver to peruse through the things the engineers are proposing and to find which ones suit their circumstance. We're able to do that, I think, as well as anybody today. That's the big thing.
Well, we think we're ready to go to one-and-a-half-mile tracks and race. We were confident that we would make a good showing at Dover. We were apprehensive about Loudon. That same apprehension flows to some extent, in my mind, to Phoenix and certainly to Martinsville. We're apprehensive about Talladega, the amount of control we use there in determining our destiny.
The mile-and-a-half racetracks, we'll probably stub our toe there. But we think we've got the code on mile-and-a-half racetracks, and we'll be able to maintain whatever our performance level is at the other places, we'll at least be able to maintain and win some more races.
Q. All the stuff Jack talked about, the complicated things, attention on the Chase, the stuff it takes to be a Cup driver these days. When you get down to the end of the race like that, you're racing two guys you know and enjoy being around, does that sort of get it back to why you got in this to start with? It's a lot of pressure, but that must be what it's all about. That's got to be a blast for you.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, I can't tell you how proud I am or excited that I was to be racing Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards for the win. Man, we were going at it. And that's Friday, Saturday night short-track racing where you came from. It's a lot of fun. Get in there and beat and bang a little bit. That's just what we love to do.
But there's so much on the line right now. It takes a lot of mindset, it takes a lot of concentration behind the wheel. It takes a lot of execution to not make mistakes at this level. You can't make mistakes today and come out.
But, you know, we got to beat the 99 car. He's been right on our bumper every week. We got to start stretching it out. Somehow he's just right there and won't go away.
Q. Jack, as close as those three cars were, is it kind of a testament to where you guys have advanced with the COT, that if you have three equal cars with relatively equal talented drivers, we can see the kind of racing that the fans deserve?
JACK ROUSH: The Car of Tomorrow, Greg and I were just talking about that here behind Greg Erwin as he was answering a question. You know, I was surprised to find that the two Gregs don't plan to take the car that they won Dover with to another race this year. They don't need it, with the dozen or so cars in our mainstream that we use. They're all similar enough; they've got confidence in one being the same as the next. They don't need to go back and hurry to get that car back in shape.
That really bodes well for the closeness of competition. Once you get to the point as an organization, you understand how to make the bump stops work, you understand how to make the shock absorbers work with the benefit of the computers, we're able to replicate the car and get any number of cars that work the same.
The thing that winds up being the difference that the crew chief and drivers have to focus on is what they think the racetrack's gonna do and what they think their tolerance is to have the thing loose on one end of the fuel run and tight on the other if it's going to make a swing.
So realizing that the guys have got the ultimate responsibility and the prerogative to do what they want, they come back and make the changes to say, All right, we believe this shock is best, we think this is the best package for the cooling in the car, these are the best brakes, now what are we going to do for the last bit of wedge and for the cross weight, the nose weight, the other things that would determine how it would work through a tire run. That's the thing that guys really race with.
In a way, you know, when we used to have the previous car we had, the crew chiefs would make a decision to cut the nose off to make a big aerodynamic change in the car, and you really didn't have maybe the number of cars that you had the confidence in that you could go from one to the next. You would have to literally turn a car around for the next week if the racetracks were similar and you felt that you didn't have another one that was similar, which was generally the case.
But the Car of Tomorrow is working well. It bodes well for having close competition. We're now able I think again to see what the drivers and the crew chiefs can do with one another when they don't handicap themselves by going the wrong direction.
Q. Greg, can you talk about the past two weeks, having such success in a season where you haven't necessarily been where you have been in the past? Can you talk about what you're doing mentally to keep yourself prepared for these races, going into Kansas where you won last year?
GREG BIFFLE: I just think about it a lot. I think about how -- I replay the race in my mind. I think about how I want my racecar to drive. Greg and I talk about what we got coming up. I think about the races I've won in the past, the races I've lost, the championships I have lost in the past, what I need to do to be better as a driver in order to beat, you know, the 18, the 99, and the 48, 24, 17, everybody in the Chase. I got to figure out a way to beat those guys. That's really what I've been thinking about.
I feel like I can physically, mentally drive the car as good as those guys can. I just need to get it that good. And it's up to me. You know, it's up to me to do that. I've kind of refocused myself on making sure that I've got it right and not making mistakes on the racetrack or pit road or anything.
Q. Greg, Jack was talking about the technical aspects, the difference. It struck me this was a very, very different race from the first race at this track. When you finished third, afterwards you said, When everybody has the same car, you can't pass. Kyle Busch, who won it, pretty much said that the only reason he won, he said he didn't have the best car, but it was because he was ahead. Sitting in the driver's compartment, why was the racing so much better here today?
GREG BIFFLE: I think the racing was so much better because the guys figured out how to use the racetrack better. You know, we were able to use the top and the bottom. We got our cars loose enough where if you drive up behind the guy, it gets that guy loose, and he ultimately has to move up the racetrack. That makes better racing.
Then you get cars that are faster than others, it's easier to pass. My car, when it fired off when the green dropped, I wasn't that good. Matt was hauling butt. I couldn't run with him. But then 20 laps later, 25 laps later, my car come around, then I could race with him. That's what I did, you know, when it came time.
So it's just a matter of waiting for the right time. You know, these cars, obviously, at the end, I was faster than the 17. You know, when I got by him, I was kind of able to drive off, kind of stretch it out. It just goes to show you, at that particular point, when I was racing him for position, how much faster my car was, you know. But at the start of the race, or that run, he was much faster because he drove away from me.
These cars are sensitive to track temperature, tire wear. I think that's why we saw a better race. It's just, you know, guys had different setups and their cars were running up and down the racetrack.
Q. Jack, can you tell us where you were sitting with 25 laps to go? Did you move from one pit box to the other? When did you decide to stay at Biffle's for good?
JACK ROUSH: I got off the 16 box one time when I made a mid-race trip to the bathroom. Except for that, I was right there. I picked it between stops where I was pretty sure nothing was going to happen for that moment.
I've got so many different places I can go. I need to go set up shop so I can have my own little command center, you know, for me. Of course, since I had the 6 car for so long, and that was Mark Martin's pit, I always stayed there. Then, of course, when Mark retired, we put the mantle of being the elder senior guy on Greg. I moved in with him.
So I will move off the 16 pit box when it's clear that one of the other cars is going to win just because I can show the right amount of support for what they're doing. Except for that, my home is the 16's pit box, and I was there all day.
Q. Jack, I talked to Greg and Carl about this in recent weeks. I want your opinion. Not so much data, algorithms, but strictly emotion. How much does 2005 still gnaw at you? If things continue to go the way they're going right now, could this be vindication, if you will?
JACK ROUSH: Well, it might be all that. The thing I remember most about 2005 is how much trouble I got in for stinking up there show by putting all five cars in the 10-car Chase, and the fact we weren't able to close the deal just added embarrassment to the problem we created.
NASCAR wants the racing close. We want to race close. I took great joy out of what happened in 2003. Wasn't sure that we'd ever win a championship. Then we won again in 2004. Five cars in the Chase in 2005. We missed it. We couldn't be expected to win three championships in a row - at least I couldn't have expected that.
I don't have any sense of great frustration about 2005. I'm just anxious to take care of business and not miss an opportunity here in 2008.
Q. Greg, do you feel as strong as you did in the year you won six races, 2005?
GREG BIFFLE: Actually, I feel stronger now. I feel like we're in a better position now. I don't know if it has anything to do with it, but simply for the fact that we won five of the first 15 races of the season in 2005, and then we were pretty good. Actually, we were just kind of so-so through the middle part of the year, leading up to the start of the Chase. Then we were pretty decent in the Chase.
Now we've worked hard this season to get our cars and team where they need to be. I guess if you want to use the term "peak at the right time," I feel like we have worked very hard all season, and now our hard work is starting to show up. What we worked so hard for is to get a great pit crew, great racecar, great engines. We've been able to wheel the car into Victory Lane.
But I feel better right now. I feel a lot better now about this championship than I did in 2005.
Q. You had said last week you're going to have to drive the perfect race. That's what you're focusing on every single race. How close to perfect do you think this race was? Then look at the points that just came out. What do you think when you look at it?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I did drive a perfect race today. But what I didn't do is I didn't get my car perfect yesterday. Could have made it a little easier on myself today. But I missed it a little bit yesterday. But I was still able to win today. That sounds kind of weird. But, I mean, it's not by much.
I just got the car started out too loose. I was just kind of behind all day. I never really got a chance to get it where I wanted it. I was hanging on.
The points are frustrating. The points are so frustrating because, you know, you would think winning a couple races that you could gain on it. But the reality is that Carl Edwards and the 48 have been right there, you know. We all know that it's a matter of not making mistakes, not how good you're going to run in these next eight races.
Q. Greg, you got out of these two races as good as you could have hoped. Certainly you talked about Loudon was not one of your better tracks. As you look ahead, five of the next eight on mile-and-a-half's. How significant is that for you? How much does that play into your hand? Or just the idea that Martinsville is still looming out there, is that a big concern as you look ahead?
GREG BIFFLE: Man, I cannot wait to go to Martinsville. I cannot wait. After the way we ran at Loudon, I've got a spot sweeped out in that corner for that grandfather clock in my office. I got a spot for it.
These next mile-and-a-half racetracks, I feel confident that there isn't one of them that we can't win at. We're capable of winning at all of them. We're just going to have to execute like we have been. We have to get the car right on Saturday. I'm going to have to not make mistakes to get our car in Victory Lane.
There's gonna be faster cars than ours in those mile-and-a-half races. But we're going to do our damnedest to be there and not make mistakes and try and win a couple of 'em.
But I'm not worried whether we can win at any of those tracks. We just, you know, need to get the best finish we can and not make a mistake.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Congratulations.
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