NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 13, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
AMANDA ELLIS: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We are joined by Greg Biffle, driver of the No.16 Roush Performance Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He looks for his first win of the season and a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Sunday's pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. In 23 starts at Michigan, Biffle has four wins, 10 top?5 and 14 top?10 finishes. His four wins are the most among active drivers.
Greg, your team is still searching for their first win of the season and the opportunity to secure a spot in the Chase, but you're returning to one of your best tracks. What's your mindset heading into this weekend?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'm really excited about going to Michigan. You know, we've been doing a tremendous amount of testing and working very hard at Roush Fenway to catch up with some of the other teams, and so our week off, our most recent week off, we tested at Michigan and felt like we found a lot of speed that we were missing.
It didn't really carry through to Indy like we thought, but some of it carried through to Pocono, and as we look at that and improve on that, we're pretty optimistic going to Michigan that we're going to be one of the competitive cars in challenging for the win.
Q. You've had strong finishes in the last two races. How confident are you that you'll stay in the hunt for a Chase spot in the remaining races before the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it certainly depends on what other drivers do. It's kind of funny, when it comes down to this, you're not only looking at yourself but you're looking at all these other teams. For instance, if AJ Allmendinger didn't win this weekend and Carl Edwards or Kurt Busch would have, we would be looking pretty good in the Chase seeding right now with points.
So anything can happen. You know, one of these other guys that are behind us in points goes and wins another one of these races, it really, really takes our?? shoots us in the foot as far as the points go.
We feel like we can win one of these last four races, so that's what we're focusing on is winning one of these last four and getting our way into the Chase that way. But certainly we're hanging on by a shoestring to make it in on points if it comes down to that.
Q. Are you trying to improve on your season? I know you haven't really had the best season for you, but what are you focusing on now?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, obviously we're trying to improve on our season. That's why we tested on our week off and have been doing?? I've been in the shop every week, and we've been doing a tremendous amount of work. Anyone can see it. We certainly can admit it, that we're off this season as an organization, and we made some choices at the beginning of the season which we went down a road engineering?wise and car?wise what we thought to be the best, and everybody put 100 percent effort, full focus on that direction, and it obviously turned out to be a little bit of the wrong direction.
So now we're trying to backtrack that and see where we made mistakes and trying to back that up and refocus for the end of this season and 2015.
We see a lot of things when we step back. We see a lot of mistakes we made, and it's simply not?? it wasn't blaring out. You have to pick a direction, and it's not from a lack of effort. Everybody has been working hard and these things happen to the best of race teams. This sport is up and down, and one thing I will say is this Roush Fenway team, we've never been down two years in a row, and we missed it a little bit at the beginning of the season, our last two weeks, three weeks have showed we've made some serious improvement, and I feel that's going to continue to show its hand these last races, whether we make the Chase or not. I think you're going to really see our team become more and more and more competitive right up until the end of the season.
A little too late, but certainly that's part of the sport, and you've just got to keep digging and keep trying to get those wins and then put yourself in position for 2015.
Q. Take us through the keys to success at MIS and why you have been so good over the years. There's got to be some secrets here and there. And it's been a difficult week for everyone, I'm sure for you. Can you just give us?? explain your feelings and how you prepare to go racing and put your mind on the job and maybe get that victory on Sunday?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, you know, it's certainly been a difficult week, and last weekend for all of us with the incident that happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family. That's certainly been hard on all of us, to see what happened there, and a lot of questions around it.
But Michigan is?? I don't know why this is one of our greatest racetracks at Roush Fenway, not only myself and the 16 car but Roush Fenway: Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, myself, I'm sure I'm forgetting two or three others, have had so much success at that particular racetrack, and I went there?? the first time I saw the place I was racing the Camping World Truck Series, back?to?back wins. The only two races I raced there in the Truck Series, I won them both.
Then moving into Nationwide, you know, the stats don't show the results of how well we ran because we had a ton of stuff happen to us, but was very, very competitive in the Nationwide car at Michigan, and four wins, like you said, in the Cup car.
It's just been one of those racetracks like Homestead or Darlington for us that I really like. I like the layout. I love the way it races, and we've just been super successful there.
It was really disappointing this season, at the beginning of the season, when we were not competitive in the spring there. That was really frustrating for us, and so we focused on what we need to do to get back competitive on those type of tracks, and that's why we elected to test there, and we feel much better going back the second time that we've closed in on some of the things we were missing.
Q. Have you been able to speak or reach out to Tony and the team, or is it just best to let things take their course?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I thought about that, and I'm sure he's been bombarded with a number of things, and so I elected to not reach out to Tony at this particular time. I mean, I'd shoot him a text or something, I thought about it, but I'm sure he's overwhelmed with the amount of people that are contacting him.
I just thought that it would be best to let him have some space right now. I know he's going through a lot. It's got to be difficult for anyone to be in that position.
So I have not, and you know, there's?? this is a tragic situation for everyone involved, and everybody thinks about the Ward family when we think about this, but at the same time, Tony is going through a lot, as well. We just hope that everybody finds peace in the whole thing.
Q. Not to continue on kind of a non?positive theme, but obviously with the 3M sponsorship this week, were you aware of how that was going to go, and can you give us any update from your end what you guys might be looking at?
GREG BIFFLE: First of all, I have to say, 3M has been a great partner, and I've created so many friendships over there besides?? I've said for a long time, they're like family. They're not like a sponsor. You know, it's been a great 10 years we've had together.
Management changes, things change. This sport is a business. We all know that in business there's decisions to make, and so I've known for a while that they were not coming back to the 16 car, and so that's obviously a business thing on their end, and we will miss them.
Since then we've obviously been working on sponsorship, and I'm really excited that?? it's a bittersweet ending but new, greener pastures, I think, on the other side. We've got a great partnership that we're going to announce in the next three or four weeks. Like I tweeted, I'd like to announce it today right now on this call because I'm really excited about it, but in due time. The silly things like contracts need to be finalized first, which is important. But we're excited about the future. We really are. We've got a few partners moving forward that is going to be a great thing for the 16 car.
On top of that, I appreciate the support from all the fans of the 16 team and all the 3M employees. They've been behind this program forever, and like I said, I made a lot of friendships, and those will remain, without a doubt, moving forward.
Q. Do you kind of look at just the way that the season sets up, and Michigan really all along may be your ace in the hole here? This has got to be the one place if you've got to get it done, you feel the best about that?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, absolutely, and I think what was probably more frustrating than anything is last year?? so if I set it up, last year we won the first race and had a faster car in the second race and were on our way to win that race, and Brad Keselowski and I had a little contact on pit road, knocked the fender in, we finished ninth. It was hugely disappointing for us.
We went back in the spring this year, and we literally had a 29th place, 28th place car on speed, and talk about taking wind out of your sails, we were looking forward to that, here's our spot, we're going to be fast, and clearly we were not. We were off, and we recognized that.
So we've worked very hard?? not like we weren't working hard then, we were just maybe working the wrong direction, so we've circled back and kind of gone a different direction and have found speed. We went and tested Michigan. Not very often can you walk away from a test and say, we gained three or four tenths of true speed, which is a tremendous amount, and it just goes to show how far off we could have been and possibly going a little bit of the wrong direction, and that'll happen in business, that'll happen in racing, that'll happen in everything.
We were all committed and possibly a little bit the wrong way, so we've shifted, and it seems like it's really, really going well as of late.
I cannot wait to get there. Do I think we're going to have the fastest car? I'm hoping we're close, but we're definitely?? I feel like we're going to be running in the top 10. That's what we need to do. We've got to run in the top 10, top 5. That puts us in position to win races like Pocono, like Watkins Glen. We just need to be a little bit faster each week. We keep finding these bits and pieces of speed.
Yeah, do we wish that happened in April or May, certainly, but we can't change that, we can only focus on the future.
Q. And it sounds like you chose to test at one of your best tracks, which sounds counterintuitive, but that's just what things played out to be, that you needed to be really good at your best track?
GREG BIFFLE: Absolutely. When you come away from your best track with Roush Fenway running 19th and finishing 19th and that's how fast your car was, that was alarming for all of us, and we just didn't understand that. Certainly we said there are a lot of things we need to do. We have priorities, but?? the other reason we tested there was it was going to help us at Indy and Pocono, which it did help us probably more at Pocono than Indy because we were backed up?? we had two days before we went to Indy, so we didn't really have a lot of time to implement some of the things we found.
But it definitely showed at Pocono that we were better than we were. Not a top 10 car yet, but really close, and now we've found, we feel like, some more speed.
It takes time. These things take time. It's easy to get behind. It's really hard to catch up. We've stayed the course. We're a competitive team. We're about winning races, and we're not giving up. It would be easy to throw the towel in and say, okay, we ran 19th at our best track, we're going to give up, and that's not in our DNA, and we haven't done that, and I promise you, it's going to pay off.
Q. A couple questions about Bristol leaping over Michigan here. A lot of folks have speculated that maybe some of the tenacity had come out of that race because it was leading into the Chase and teams went in in sort of protect?the?ground mode. Does this new points deal change that dynamic a little bit in the sense that for guys that have already won, they can go for broke and try to win, and for those that haven't, they can do the same?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I think so. I mean, let's face it, we've seen?? look at how competitive the end of that Watkins Glen race was and Pocono. We're trying our hardest inside these race cars to win these races. We are doing?? you know, we're doing fuel mileage plays and strategy and track position, us personally as a race team. We are really taking risks like we talked about under the red flag at Watkins Glen, Matt and I sat down and looked at each other and said, what do we have to lose.
You know, we can bank on trying to make it in on points, which we're doing, or we can truly take a gamble, take a risk and try and put ourselves in position, and we did that. We got up, started beside Carl, guys were faster than us with tires behind us, and you know, honestly, I should have ended up fourth there, but I let Carl go. He got up on the curb and I was thinking about driving inside of him, and that probably cost me some positions.
But two top 5s technically in my eyes in a row, taking gambles, and let's?? what would have happened if the 47 car wouldn't have wrecked at Pocono and brought that caution out? It would have been between the 4 car and myself for the win, I think, who had the most fuel.
So we've put ourselves in position, like you're saying, taking those risks, and we have to continue to do that.
Q. We may see another wild one again, which I think a lot of people would like. You've done a lot of stuff with veterans and returning veterans. You're carrying their paint again?
GREG BIFFLE: 100 percent, yes.
Q. The briefing that NASCAR gave us yesterday on potential 2015 rules, one of the things they talked about was a driver adjustable track bar, and I was curious if you've kind of looked at what maybe you guys are thinking about for that, and what is your general opinion about the driver having that ability?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I think that anything that we're able to adjust inside the car, I've heard of air pressure sensor type of stuff, as well, I think that's important. That can improve the safety. But at the same time competition?wise, you know, being able to adjust the track bar can clearly make it more competitive. I mean, you can adjust over the tire run, over the fuel run. What we've got to be careful of is not fudging the rules and getting it to do other things. That's one thing that we need to protect from. But I like it. I mean, spice it up a little bit. These are things that don't cost the teams a tremendous amount of money. It's going to cost some. It puts a little ingenuity into it. If it's easy to police, I like it.
Q. In light of the tragedy, we always hear drivers talk about being?? they often go out and race the day after a tragedy happens on the track or a week later and they talk about put the helmet on and you focus and you are able to race as strong as you can. Is there any way to even comprehend what Tony will have to do if he does race this weekend?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, you know, it would be hard for me to put my comment on Tony's situation and what he would be facing. But let's face it, it's a tough situation altogether. Nobody wants to deal with something like that, and we support Tony in whatever decision he makes. He has to personally make a decision on what he wants to do, and absolutely we support that 100 percent.
You know, let's face it, the obvious thing is it's an accident, and unfortunately accidents happen. No matter what, accidents happen, and we have to?? at some point we have to move on, and it's a tragedy for the Ward family and everyone involved.
Q. I need you to look a little farther down the road even past Bristol and to Talladega, and the role that Talladega plays every year in the Chase.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, Talladega is definitely?? Talladega is definitely one of those wild cards. I remember there when I was leading, and my teammate got into me and turned us right in front of the whole field, and obviously not on purpose. Those things happen. Everybody is pushing and shoving and trying to make everything they can happen. We've seen wild finishes, we've seen wild races, and everybody that's in the Chase is?? now with the elimination rounds, it's going to be important, not only just getting through that race, not falling back a little bit in the points, but making that next round.
You know, it's going to be just as important as ever and probably be just as exciting.
Q. Earlier in the year when you were talking about renegotiating your contract with Roush, it seemed like 3M was kind of in lockstep with you and you were almost a package deal. Is that a fair assessment, and if so, where along the way did it become that 3M had decided to leave Roush and go elsewhere?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I don't know all those details. I was?? I'm a Roush Fenway guy, and I'm blessed to have got lots of opportunities, other teams offering to have me come drive their race cars, so I had to make a decision, and my decision was to stay loyal to a brand and stay loyal to Jack that had provided me opportunities along the way. It had been a great relationship, and we were hopeful and were under the impression that 3M would return, but we understand that management changes, and there's business decisions to be made. Let's face it, this is a sport. It's competitive. They had to make?? they made a business decision.
You know, it's unfortunate. We hate to lose them as a partner, but at the same time, we have another partnership that's blossoming right now, and I can't be more excited about that.
The other thing I will say is I've had very few sponsors over my career, and I've had great relationships with every single one of them, and in fact, one of my best friendships I have with a guy that we do a lot of fishing together and spend time together is from?? is still today an employee of Grainger, W.W. Grainger, my very first sponsor in the truck. They sponsored me all the way through the truck, all the way through Nationwide, one single sponsor. And for a new guy coming into a sport, that's probably?? I would almost venture to say I don't know if that's been done. I've had very good luck with sponsors over the years. We wish them well.
AMANDA ELLIS: That's all the time we have today, and thank you for joining us. We wish you the best of luck this weekend in Michigan.
GREG BIFFLE: Thank you. I appreciate it. We're excited about it.