NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sylvania 300
Topics: Sylvania 300
September 14, 2008
LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
KERRY THARP: We have our championship team in the first race of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, and that's Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 DISH Network Turbo HD, team owner Jack Roush, and crew chief Greg Erwin. This is Greg's first victory in 2008. Couldn't come at a better time. This is his 13th victory during his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. I believe he moves up to third in our points race right now.
Greg, you have to feel really good about how you did out there today. Tell us about it.
GREG BIFFLE: Man, I do. I love this racetrack. With the old car, we ran extremely well here, almost won a couple, top fives every time we came. When we came with the new car, we hadn't run very good. It was really troublesome to get going. Finally, you know, we've got on to something that worked here.
The racecar just drove phenomenal right off the truck. It was really fast. Greg and I worked through some things. I think our practice, we executed really good. When the race started off today, my car was just perfect. I hardly adjusted anything. I think I took a half a round of a wedge out of it all day and that was it. Really just took care of my car through the middle part of the race. Ran pretty hard when I was trying to catch Junior to get the lead.
Then the 48 caught us. Just decided to ride for a while, wait toward the end. My car just kept getting better and better as the day went. That's not normally the case. That's why I didn't adjust much on it.
I knew I had a little bit left at the end. I backed way off, trying to save some brakes and fuel for the end. I'm sure that Jimmie did, as well. Greg told me we were catching him about a 10th a lap. So either he slowed down or his car was starting to slow down. At that point I felt like we'd have an opportunity to pass him if the caution came out. That's what we were hoping for.
KERRY THARP: Crew chief, Greg Erwin, you called a great race out there today. What were your thoughts about how the team performed on pit road?
GREG ERWIN: Spectacular. We've made some changes. The progress of the 16 pit crew has been pretty well-documented. We had one hang-up on one stop. You know, cost us a couple spots. But the difference is nobody got down because everybody knew the potential was there. We've seen that the last couple of weeks, as strong as we've been.
I couldn't be happier for everyone.
KERRY THARP: Team owner, Jack Roush. Jack, your thoughts about Greg getting this victory and then also about having the opportunity to win up in this New England corridor like this?
JACK ROUSH: Well, let me say first of all, all the Red Sox fans, we're glad to be here with John Henry. They won last night. We were able to win today. They probably felt as bad about their chances halfway through the game last night as I watched it as I did from the lap times we had on Friday and Saturday. Although the bright spot was how the 16 was running, which wasn't at the top of the board, but pretty good.
We really enjoyed the support of Ford Motor Company to get us here with all the technical things all the other manufacturers are providing to their teams. Today, though, it was a blend of the things, the algorithms and the analysis things that the engineers would suggest. And, of course, the real-life experience that Greg's had, that Greg Erwin has had, as well. So it was a blend of those things.
I don't look forward to the day when we'll be able to have somebody put on a piece of paper all the things you need to do. But it certainly wasn't the case that we were able to define precisely what needed to be in the car. It was a blend of the things that worked for Greg in the past and the things that worked for Greg Erwin in the past, what they believed to be true.
The teams tested real hard. The pit crew, can't say too much about the pit crew. I don't know which stop Greg Erwin was talking about, but he called to have some tape taken off a brake duct. That was an impossible task from where I was. Greg Biffle had the good common sense not to run over the guy that was trying to get the tape off. That's the only bad stop I saw. Except for that, I had a 12-second and a 13-second flat stop. They were on their game all day. They did a great job.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now.
Q. Greg, you said you were holding back a little bit, hoping for late cautions. What would you have done had you not gotten late cautions?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, Greg was giving me all the information that I needed. And I could see the 48. We were catching him and being even with him. So he wasn't getting away from us at that point when I was saving. So I knew that about 15 to go I was gonna have to start pressing to try and catch him. You know, I knew I could run about a 10th or two faster at that point, so that would give me enough time to run him down.
I wasn't letting him get too far away, you know. I was just really arcing the car in the corner, trying not to use too much brake. I had some pedal fade, so I didn't want to get the brakes too hot. If I didn't get a caution, I knew I was going to have to race the 48 pretty tight quarters, so I was going to need a lot of brake.
If the caution wouldn't have came out, then I was hoping that the 48 was slowing down because, you know, his car was starting to get tight in the middle of the corner, not because he was just kind of backing off to save fuel, I don't know. But I was being as fast as he was, a little faster, by saving. So I knew at that point I might be able to run him down if that caution didn't come out. But I felt pretty confident that there would be some kind of caution in 40 or 50 laps pretty easily.
I did almost run over that guy that was in front of the car taking the tape off because I couldn't see him. I saw him go across the hood and down. They dropped the jack. I was like, I didn't see that guy run out of there. I jumped the clutch, was on the gas. Then he popped his head up. So I had to push the clutch back in, give him a chance to get out of there. It was kind of funny actually. I was like, I think there's somebody down there, but I got to go. It was kind of funny.
Q. Both Gregs, a year ago Clint Bowyer came in here, hadn't won a race, nobody was counting on him, nobody thought he was a Chase contender, he came in and won the race and put himself thick in the championship hunt. Did either of you come in thinking you'd have to do something similar? What were your expectations for today? What did you think you'd need to do to jump into this thing?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I felt like we were a definite threat for the Chase if we made it, you know, because of the momentum we've had and because of how good racetracks are in the Chase for me. I can't name them all. Dover, Homestead we've won at, Texas, Kansas. Those are all just -- there's a bunch of great racetracks for us in the Chase.
You know, there are some that I was a little nervous about. One was Loudon, and the other two are Martinsville and Talladega. We've gotten through the one a little better than I expected, which is here. So I feel like we're definitely the dark horse, like a couple people said we are.
GREG ERWIN: Yeah, our history here hasn't been real strong. Quite honestly we thought, man, if we could come out of here with a top-10 finish and roll into Dover, where we're second and third and fifth or sixth in our last three trips there, that we'd be able to put a solid string together and get up there in the points.
You combine that with the fact that, you know, maybe we've been playing a little conservative the last four races, not wanting to take ourselves out of Chase contention. Last week we talked. He said, Heck with that, man, we're going hammer down, wide open, as fast as we can go from here on out.
So this is what you get. I guess he wasn't kidding (smiling).
Q. Greg, along those same lines, can you speak to how today's outcome really shook up the points? I think Busch is eighth now. It's given a lot of people who weren't in the picture at all two or three weeks ago a shot at the championship.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, that's a credit to NASCAR and all those guys that came up with that Chase format. It gives 10 guys, used to be 12 guys, an opportunity to win a championship. That's exactly why they designed it that way, is so that you reset the points basically.
Yeah, I'm surprised that the points leader coming in, especially I think he had an 80-point lead, I'm surprised to see him that far back. I knew he was going to finish bad when he was two laps down. But that can happen with the Chase. We all know that. That's what hurts so bad when we were trying to get in the Chase. We're leading at Darlington, had a problem, finished 43rd. You know, you take such a hit in the points when you finish dead last. It's unbelievable how fast you can fall.
Q. Erwin, you seemed completely in shock. The drivers told you the car got better throughout the race. When have you heard that the car gets better at a place like this? Greg, you lost a championship. Does that help you learn how to win one? Jack, if you come down to the same thing with he and the 99 going for the championship like you did several years ago at Homestead, how are you going to handle it?
GREG ERWIN: Car got better throughout the race. We've had it happen sometimes, not often here and not often on a flat track. But, yeah, very few adjustments today.
But I think we knew I guess at the end of the day yesterday when we kind of laid out everyone's lap times there, we had a pretty good idea we had plenty of speed in the car. It came down to, you know, don't tune yourself out and don't screw it up. That really kind of seemed to be the ticket for today. He had a good thing; let it ride.
GREG BIFFLE: It was unfortunate to come that close. Somebody told me one time that you have to lose one before you can win one. I didn't understand that theory. Unfortunately I was hoping that wouldn't be the case in 2005 when we came so close and finished second.
I guess I got that part out of the way. I lost one in 1998 by eight points. Or in '99 I lost one by eight points in the Truck Series. I lost one in the Nationwide Series. Won it the next year. Came second in the Cup Series. So hopefully history will repeat itself and maybe we'll be there.
JACK ROUSH: The 99, 16, 17, I'm good with all those numbers (smiling).
But I was as surprised as Greg Erwin was that the car got better because throughout the race we really didn't get an inkling of that, except for watching the lap times. Greg, he didn't relieve anybody. Didn't give anybody any relief saying it was going to be okay.
But, you know, I'm in the company of real fast people, the fast drivers, dedicated crew chiefs. Of course, the thing that's happened here is that Greg Erwin and Greg Biffle have become good friends in the last year and a half. They've figured out how to help one another. That takes a while, it really does.
But I think that we're ready to peak on this thing and to really say what they're both capable of in the racing remaining here.
Q. Jack, a few weeks ago you said like you felt Carl was ready to win a championship and you wouldn't have said that in the past. Do you feel like Greg Biffle is ready to win a championship? Also, since you're No. 1 by a tiebreaker, then No. 3 in the standings right now, is Roush Fenway in the driver's seat for the Chase, in your opinion?
JACK ROUSH: I wouldn't say we're in the driver's seat, but certainly we're competitive. I will not sleep tonight based on what happened to Matt Kenseth. I will not take sufficient joy and glee from what happened to the 16 and the 99 that I'll get past what happened to the 17.
Greg is obviously ready to win a championship. He would have won. For just a handful of points, he would have won a championship in the truck earlier. Had two of those. He would have had an earlier Nationwide race - Busch race as it were at the time. Of course, the Cup race, we're really enjoying the fact we've got great pit stops now.
But I think that Greg would say we had a pit situation that really let him down, and that was the difference on the Cup race that we missed in 2005. So we're determined not to do that. Robbie Reiser is doing a great job getting all the things lined up, the people in the right spots. We think we're peaked. We're certainly going to be able to make a run at it with two, if not three, of our cars.
Q. Greg, so many times this year when your car has been fast, and you've sort of been reduced to the whole 'would have, could have, should have'. Did you ever feel as if you were jinxed?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I think sometimes you often wonder why things happen or go wrong when they do. I think that a lot of times you create your own luck. I mean, when you're saying you get jinxed, that's just the luck of the draw. A lot of times you create your own luck. You get caught up in an accident, whatever might happen.
But, you know, it's not luck when you have a bad pit stop or you have something else. That's not bad luck; it's just you didn't do it right. When I spun out and got up in the fence at Richmond last week, it wasn't bad luck, that was an error on my part.
You know, you can say you've been jinxed sometimes. But I feel better than I ever have about running these next 10 races, next 9 races. I'm physically, mentally prepared for what we got coming up.
Q. Greg, it's great to win a race, but were you and Greg yesterday thinking, Let's just not screw up on this deal, get away from here without ending up like Kyle Busch or someone else ended up way in the back?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, for most of the time that's our mindset. But yesterday we had the fastest lap average of every car here in the final practice. We got a computer that takes every lap time and then gives the fastest to the slowest. We had the fastest lap average of all the cars. Greg and I were both surprised to see that. On one set of tires, we never changed tires, and we saw a lot of cars put tires on. So we knew at that point we had a pretty good horse for today.
We were in the mindset of, Let's get out of here with a good top-10 finish. We felt like yesterday we could be a threat for a win or a top five for sure.
Q. Can you describe the one hiccup on the pit stop where you almost took out your own guy. Who was that guy?
GREG ERWIN: That guy's name is Colin Pozzi (ph). He's a big, strong kid. He's an engineer that works in the engineering department at Roush Fenway. Come over here this year to carry tires for us. I've known him for a long time. Known him since he's been a little kid. So I feel good that we didn't run him over (smiling).
But, you know, we're just trying -- you know, we're trying to save on the brakes a little bit, get a little bit of tape off the right side brake duct, probably generating a little too much brake heat, wanted to be a little safer for the end of the race. But it's good. He knows when the jack drops, it's time to go.
Q. Greg, you said that you felt like the dark horse coming in. Is that why you drove a dark car today?
GREG BIFFLE: I didn't feel like the dark horse. They named me that. They named me the Biff, then they said I was the dark horse. I don't know what else they're going to call me.
GREG ERWIN: Winner (laughter).
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it was cool to have that Turbo HD car. I always win with special paint schemes. We're going to have to change it up for the rest of the year.
Q. Anybody who saw the California race knew about the improvement of your team on pit road. As good as Jimmie Johnson's car was on the track, you were as good on pit road. Can both Gregs talk a little bit about what went into the decision to make the changes on that team. Was it entering Chase related? Are you surprised with how much improvement there's been?
GREG ERWIN: It was all Chase related. It had been something that had been discussed between the crew chiefs and, quite honestly, Robbie Reiser, not just with the 16 team specifically, but with the three and potentially four teams we were going to have in the Chase. There were some members on the 26 car that were proven veterans. Both our team, as well as the 99, has had some issues with one guy in particular on each squad. Reiser stepped up to the plate and decided, Look, this is our best foot forward. These are what we think are our most experienced under-the-gun type players and made the decision and allowed each of our teams to get some guys from the 26 car.
It's helped. You know, without a doubt, it's helped.
JACK ROUSH: I want to add something there, so it's clear. For the 6, the 26, we are building towards next year. We've got new talent in. We're looking at everything that we can to make those programs as strong as they can possibly be. So at the same time we said, How can we close the deal for the Chase, it was, How can we make those programs stronger, too? We're a promote-from-within company. We have people from both those programs that will take more responsible jobs throughout the company as we make their lives more interesting and develop their careers. At the same time the vacancies made here as we move some people out gave us a chance to bring in some real talented people and demonstrate what they can do in the next races.
Q. Greg, you got asked about Kyle earlier. He's like eighth in points, 74 back. How big a deficit is that, given what's left?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think it's a big deficit, because he was 80 ahead coming in. You know, that can be made up fairly quickly. When you reset the points, a points shift can come so easily. Just today, all the Chase guys were running in the top 10. I knew if I just finished second or third it was going to catapult me past a lot of those guys, because a lot of them we were even with, but they were staged in front of me just because of the way NASCAR did the seeding. Then if I was in front of somebody that had one win, that was going to bump me up.
You'll see those swings, like we do at the beginning of the season. He's certainly not out of it, as long as he doesn't self-destruct.
Q. Back in January at your shop you kind of mocked complaint that at a test you'd do one or two laps and then have to turn it over to the guys in the white coats. What does it do for your confidence today to come back and make a car better?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, the white coats did a good job getting the car ready for today. That was a question outside by TV guys was, Where are you planning on testing, what is your test schedule coming up? I thought about it. We're testing Charlotte. We talked about going to Kentucky or someplace else.
We might be better fit to rummage through all the test data we have, all the information and paperwork, just science out, scientifically look at what everything's been done, try and analyze what the best scenario is going to be for going to Dover and going to Kansas for the first time, all these other places, and back to Phoenix, look over the test data, look at what we did at Milwaukee and here, make a good decision on it.
GREG ERWIN: For the people that haven't been on the white coat side of it, as a previous white coater, myself, you need to understand that when we go to just a two-day test, the amount of information that we can collect nowadays with the systems that we run on the cars is more than myself and the engineer and the engineer next to me and the engineer next to him can look at in three days or four days or a week. I mean, there's that much information there. Sometimes you don't realize it until two weeks after the test. It's not like you can test 10 hours, go to the hotel room that night and page through that stuff. The answer may not be right there. It may not be until two weeks later that you actually find it.
The benefits of things like that don't immediately come out. You don't show up the next day of the test and run 3/10ths faster because you stayed up all night. It's like trying to read a book that's this thick. It just doesn't happen that quick.
Q. Greg, you did come in overlooked. I don't know if you were a dark horse or not. Does that inspire or motivate you? Do you like being the stealth candidate? And Erwin, does that motivate your guys?
GREG BIFFLE: I think it inspires me a little bit to want to make a statement, I guess. I've been thinking about it for quite some time. I just thought about what I need to do for the next 10 weeks. I've thought over and over about it. Just got to get my car right on Saturday, Friday and Saturday, and drive the best race I can on Sunday. The best man's going to win at the end of the 10 weeks.
I just can't wait to go to Dover.
GREG ERWIN: The overlooked, dark horse, not the favorite really makes no difference to me. I look at it, it's common sense, you've got a guy out there that's won eight races, you've got a guy that's won six, you've got a guy that's won two or three of the last four. Of course they're going to be the favorites. That's just human nature. It's like that in any sport. I certainly wouldn't take that personal.
Q. The 18 team, I was talking to the guys, if they have any solace, it's they said maybe that Kyle would be better as the hunter instead of the hunted, which means he's hunting after you. Talk about that, Kyle as the hunter and you having to defend in a different way?
GREG BIFFLE: I think it's great. I want to be the hunted, but I want to be the No. 1 hunted. I just want to leave Phoenix, I want to be on the way to Homestead about 150, 160-point lead.
GREG ERWIN: 195.
GREG BIFFLE: It will make me feel a lot better than I do right now.
Q. Greg, in winning this race in a straight fight you beat the two-time defending champion who appeared to be sailing to his third straight win, I think everybody in this room was thinking with 15 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson is off to a perfect start. You just didn't end a winless streak today, but you threw down the gauntlet in beating the best guy in the series.
GREG BIFFLE: I wasn't thinking he was going to win three straight on that last restart (smiling). Just to get that out there.
Yeah, I mean, I don't want to brag, but it was a textbook pass. I mean, I got in the corner good. I got after the throttle early. I got close enough to him that I got a little bit of air off the back of his car, or he got to the gas a little fast because he saw me there.
As soon as I got the opportunity to have a little run, I got my nose inside of him, got a little loose. This nose pushes a lot of air out the side. So I got some side force on his bumper. You know, then he was loose up in that gray coming off the corner, couldn't get the gas down. That gave me the run down the straightaway to clear him. I was completely clear of him getting into three, which I was surprised on. Normally I figured I was going to have to race him hard down there.
He had been watching me all day drive my butt off and over-drive the car, been loose, made some mistakes. So he was probably planning on me making a mistake in the last 14 laps.
Q. Does it mean more he's the guy to beat?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, you know, he's won three in a row, or he's won a lot of races. He won the last two years, been the champion. We have to beat those guys in order to get that Sprint Cup trophy that I saw in New York. We have to beat those guys. That's what we're here to do. That's what we're thankful, fortunate enough to do today. Just hopefully nine more times we can at least compete with him or finish in front of him.
Q. Try to divorce yourself not being in the Chase. Five guys came into it without a win. Were they more dangerous in the scheme of things than the three guys that had 18 of the first 26 wins?
GREG BIFFLE: I think so because the 12 guys that are in there, all of them are capable. I was asked that question in New York this week. Who is the dark horse? I said, I wouldn't handicap any of 'em. Jeff Gordon can do it. Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer. I mean, Denny Hamlin. You name all those guys, any one of them can win this title, and any one of them are capable of winning every single week that we show up at the track.
We were so close to winning this year. I think of California. I think I got caught speeding at Pocono. Then we caught the air hose at Michigan. We were running right there, just so close for a win. I mean, I was frustrated we didn't have a win, but I wasn't going to let that affect my mindset. I had the mindset that I had to put down 10 of the best races of my life, and that's what I have to do to win the championship. That's what I walked out this morning and headed for the car to do, is just do the best I can do for 10 weeks.
Q. Erwin said you said you were just going to go balls to the wall. He said no conservative, no points racing. Talk about that conversation that you had with him.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I told him when we left California, Congratulations on making the Chase for your first time, and that we're going to go balls out for the next 10 weeks, 11 weeks. We're going to give it all we have. We're going to make a big impact. We'll make a good run at it. I can promise you that. I knew that we would.
I was frustrated we went to Richmond, got the car too loose going into the corner, made a mistake. That was weighing heavy on me coming here. But we were able to get back to a 14th-place finish. Actually, if you look at Richmond, that was kind of a championship effort. We were in the fence, knocked the front end out, pulled the sheet metal out, we were at the back of the pack, stayed on the lead lap, set the tow on pit road, started dead last with 30 to go and finished 14th. To recover from what Kyle Busch's problem was today, you know, that's a huge deal. What we did there I knew was going to be a threat when we got in here and got going.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, gentlemen. Good luck this week at Dover.
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