NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Pure Michigan 400
Topics: Pure Michigan 400
August 19, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We will now begin our winner's press conference. Joining us on stage, team owner Jack Roush. This is Roush Fenway Racing's 12th win here at Michigan International Speedway, breaking a tie for the most wins at this track with the Wood Brothers.
Here on the left we have Mr. Matt Puccia, crew chief.
Now approaching the stage, our race winner, Greg Biffle, and our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader by 20 points. This is his third victory here at Michigan International Speedway and his second victory and 14th top‑10 finish of 2012.
Greg, that was a wild race out there. Give us your thoughts.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it was a wild race. Our car, we struggled with it throughout the weekend. Friday we weren't real good. Worked hard on it over the evening. Looked at what the 17 was doing, what we did here last race. We were much better on Saturday, fastest in both practices, got it going really fast.
You know, the race today, my car was super good at the beginning of the race when the track was kind of green. We got going there. Once I got on restarts and in traffic, I wasn't that good. I kept working on it, trying different things, dragging the brakes down in the corner to get it to go a little bit better.
We were so good out front. I told Matt, If we get out front, I know we can win with this race, the car is really good. Once I passed the car, I could run the next guy down by half a second a lap. I knew once we got out front, we'd be tough to beat.
Then that pit cycle put us back. That was really bad. But I got a great restart, made up a bunch of those spots and were able to close in on the 48 towards the end. I moved my line around in three and four, moved up getting in the corner, drove it in the corner a lot further. I could go to the gas early. He was beating me down here. I got it turned around, was catching him, then his engine failed.
It was going to be a great race no matter what. I felt like I could catch him, but we'll never know. Passing him might have been a different story. But I certainly think that with seven to go, I probably could have pulled up close to him.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up now for questions from the floor.
Q. Greg, you've been quiet all year long in going for this championship situation. What does this win mean today to you as that countdown gets so close? Jack, is Michigan the most important place for you because you're a native here to win?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I know that a lot of people don't expect us to win the championship, don't expect us to compete for the title. I don't care what they say or who they want to talk about or what they talk about. We will be a factor when it comes down to Homestead, I promise you that.
JACK ROUSH: It's fun to race in front of home crowd. We've got two suites here. We have our biggest hospitality of the year for the two Michigan races of any racetrack venue that we do it for Roush Industries, and our NASCAR sponsors as well. That's important.
But my most important race is my next one. I'll go to bed tonight not thinking about what happened today but worrying about what's going to happen in Bristol when we go into that crash‑fest that we're going to have down there.
Q. Jack, it had been seven races since you had won here, after you won like six out of 11. Does that meet your definition of a drought? Were you starting to get a little bit frustrated?
JACK ROUSH: There's rhythms that go through this thing. There was a year that we won I think nine races with Mark, then another year that we won eight or nine races with Carl. We probably weren't good enough to have deserved all that on those years. But we've had many other years when we haven't won as many times or as often as we should have.
You have to suffer through the rough times to be able to enjoy the good times. We are due to have a good run and hopefully be in the Chase this year with one of the drivers, Roush Fenway drivers.
I never really lost faith in the organization or in myself nor the engines we have nor the hardware we've otherwise built. It's the best we can do and it's good enough.
On a day like today when Greg has trouble or one of the drivers has trouble, they will hoist it up on their shoulders and carry it farther than you might think they could. That happens more times than not. Most of those times are when you win your races, not when you have the dominant car.
Q. Greg, you said you were kind of glad people weren't paying attention to you. Going forward, does that help at all? Jimmie Johnson said a week or two ago being in the points lead created unneeded pressure. Has your team benefited from that and can you stay there if you hope to run as well as you want to come Chase time?
GREG BIFFLE: I mean, I probably approach it differently. In my heart I know what my team is capable of and I know what I'm capable of as a driver on the racetrack. So I focus on that.
I don't really put a lot into what people talk about, the drivers they talk about, what the stories are. I'll go home kicking rocks like I did last week. You know, I was disappointed with myself. I left that racetrack without the points lead. It was totally my fault. I gave up two positions on the last lap at Watkins Glen and handed the points lead to the 48 car.
That went under the radar. Nobody said a word about it. Nobody mentioned it. Nobody even knew about it except for me because I was driving the car and I knew I gave up those two spots and I was one point behind the 48 coming here.
I pay attention to what we need to do as a team, not make mistakes, do what it's going to take to win this championship.
If it's not a story, they don't cover it, then that's fine. But they'll be forced to after Homestead.
Q. Jack, a few moments ago Brad Keselowski raised the issue of the continuing scuttlebutt about the supposed irregularity in the ends of the Hendrick cars. Keselowski said that was sort of a stretching of the rules that his team was reluctant to do. I wondered what your feeling is on that subject?
JACK ROUSH: The 24 car put a left rear tire through a battery at Darlington. That was a wake‑up call. We've been working at it, got assurance from NASCAR that it's okay, it's within the rules.
It's not the reason we were able to win today, but it certainly is hard to win if you don't have a competitive aero package and chassis, mechanical grip package.
GREG BIFFLE: To follow that up, I think more what people are working on today is NASCAR cut an inch and a half off the right side skirt. That threw us all through a loop right in the middle of this thing. So we took our notebook, even what we raced here last time, we threw it away. It completely changed the way we race these cars compared to the way we used to race these cars. It's all rear‑suspension related. There's a lot more to it than this thing that these guys think is going on with the rear‑end.
Getting the car down, sealing the right side off. Every team is doing it. So there's a lot more to it, I think. I've been reading some stuff about it. It's not any one thing that we've figured out as a team to get our cars down out of the air and sealed up on the right side to get it going around the corner better.
Q. Matt, I think Johnson's engine blew up lap 195. What did you radio to Greg just in case the engine of Jimmie Johnson had not blown up? Did you have something tactic‑wise to let him overtake Johnson? What did you tell him?
MATT PUCCIA: I just told him basically when we restarted fifth, We're not out of this. I knew we had a fast car. We were capable, if we could get to him, to get around him.
What that happened to Jimmie there, I think we had a good enough car to catch him and pass him normally. But when that happened, we took advantage of it and got around him.
Q. Greg, continuing on the side skirt issue, did you have to throw everything away because the car handles so much differently or because you're trying to get the body of the car as low as possible and now that it's a different height you have to change things?
GREG BIFFLE: Right, you're exactly right. These cars, you want to seal the air out from underneath them. You want to get the splitter as low as you can on the front. When the car goes around the corner, it goes around the corner a little bit in yaw. We have a little skew in the axle housing, what NASCAR allows us. It allows a lot of air underneath the back of the car and takes downforce away.
We try and get our cars down on the racetrack. Everybody does it. But it takes a whole different package. It takes different sway bars, different springs, different angles on all of the stuff. It took a tremendous amount.
Some guys were kind of racing like that already and we weren't as an organization. We hit it on it a little bit. I ran a car like that at Kansas a few years ago, finished third with it, the second Chase race, softer in the back, down a little bit. But we weren't able to really perfect it. Then when the side skirts came about, we were committed, we had to go figure it out. Some guys just got it figured out faster than us.
Q. Jack, a lot of engine builders were nervous coming into today. Obviously the Hendrick engines had their issues. Were you nervous or do you play this race conservative at all when it comes to engines?
JACK ROUSH: I wasn't more nervous than I'm always nervous about breaking a part. I assume the responsibility if something breaks it's something we should have understood or anticipated.
Wasn't figuring that there was anything that was particularly similar, nothing in particular that was similar with the Hendrick engines. We have our own valve spring package, our own connection rod package, our own crank shaft and bearings. We don't share any parts with them. There was no reason why I was more nervous than I would normally be, but I had my fingers crossed until it was within coasting distance of the start/finish line.
Q. Jack, how swamped are you and the organization with the fact that you're dealing with the rear‑end issue that you're just talking about, you're trying to run for a championship, you have at least two cars that have extreme capability of winning the championship, and you're working with 2013 which is going to be a different car again?
JACK ROUSH: We probably don't have the most people per team, but we do have a hundred people that stand behind every one of our cars. Those people are talented and resourceful and ambitious and able. They do a lot.
I try to be engaged with management by consensus thing. But we have a lot of capacity.
I asked a question the other day. I shouldn't have asked it because the answer didn't make me all that happy. It was about how many trailers we have for R&D. We have four. We don't run them all at the same time. But if we're in a situation where we have a test, we have a need to go with all three of our programs, one of our satellite programs, we can support four R&D teams.
There's a lot of capacity there. Our brightest people are split with the concern over making the hardware as competitive as it could be for 2012 but focusing a certain amount of time on 2013 as well.
We haven't had the sheet metal, haven't been able to build righteous 2013 bodies. We've done a little testing with 2013 but with composite bodies that have got a lower CG than the cars will have.
The rubber really hits the road in September when we start getting all of the sheet metal together so we can build real cars. The real rub is going to occur in the Chase when we need to run the 2013 car and make the most of our Chase opportunities. But we have a lot of capacity.
Q. Jack, can you give some details about your European racing involvement. I heard you have also a company based in England involved in European racing.
JACK ROUSH: We actually have sold it to some Englishmen in the meantime. For 10 years we had an engineering company much like we have in Michigan except smaller in London. We supported the automobile companies.
My biggest European involvement, never been to LeMans or some of the bigger tracks, but I did have a partner by the same of Eric Zakowski (phonetic) for a period of time in the '80s, '90s. We raced GTP cars. I helped him race European sports cars for a period of time. But that's all pretty much behind me now. My focus is on Nationwide and Cup and my son's GRAND‑AM GS car, his Mustang over there. We really don't have any involvement on the European continent today.
Q. Today with the win, Greg, you present Jack with his 14th win here at MIS, passing the Wood Brothers. How proud are you to be able to do that? Jack, what significance is that to you?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, it's exciting for me to be part of the organization and to give Jack the most wins at a racetrack or whatnot, championships. I'm happy for him. He's great to drive for. Hopefully there will be a third championship this year we'll be able to celebrate along with the most wins at Michigan.
JACK ROUSH: The Wood Brothers family is one of my dearest friendly organizations. They did a lot to help us when we got started. We build cars for them today and do things that would let them benefit from the number of cars we build, engineering we've got going on.
It's a close relationship. They were involved for decades before I got involved. This is my 25th year. But I think they've been involved for more than 40 of NASCAR's 60 years. I look up to the Wood Brothers and I certain am respectful of all the sacrifices they made as a family and a business organization to create the platform that we enjoy racing in today and the business that goes with it.
THE MODERATOR: For the record, that is the 12th win for Roush Fenway Racing.
Q. Mark Martin won a race here a few years ago when you ran out of gas on the last lap. Today he had a great car and he goes out of the race because he gets caught up in somebody else's spins. Can you address how you reconcile and deal with those things that happen over the course of time that you don't have any control over?
GREG BIFFLE: It's really tough to do. I tell you what, that's probably the hardest thing in this sport, is to do that. You're faced with so many things each week.
The way I do it now, when I get on the airplane to go home, I quit thinking about this race and I think about the next race. If it lingers with you like last week, making that mistake, sliding in the oil, losing the two positions, if you let it, it will break you down and ruin your self‑esteem and emotion.
You take a positive away from it. He had a fast car. He qualified on the pole, ran good. He knows next time he comes here he'll be competitive. That's the way you have to look at it. You have to look at a positive and then move on. It's hard to do, to forget about it and walk away when something like that happens. But that's the only way to succeed in this sport, is to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on a fine victory and good luck next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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