Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Greg Biffle to make 400th career Sprint Cup start at Texas this weekend

Greg Biffle is a two-time Texas winner, including last spring 
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with three races remaining. He joined the NASCAR teleconference on Tuesday afternoon to talk about his upcoming 400th series start and a variety of other issues going into this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – YOU ARE SET TO MAKE YOUR 400TH SPRINT CUP SERIES START THIS WEEKEND. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? “I’m real excited about Texas and the 400th start seems like a lot, but I remember them talking about Ricky Rudd’s 700th start, so we’re a little over halfway to I think they’ve dubbed him the Iron Man, but I’m looking forward to Texas. That’s a great race track and I’m glad we’re going there this week.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE 3M HIRE OUR HEROES PROGRAM THAT WILL BE ACTIVATED THIS WEEKEND AT TEXAS? “Yeah, it’s a real exciting deal 3M is doing of giving returning veterans an opportunity go into automotive aftermarket and collision repair by providing tools and training and opportunities to all of our men and women. That’s really important and Chip Foose designed the paint scheme for the Hire Our Heroes program and everybody has put a lot of effort into it and the program is widely successful and lots of guys have received tools and training and all kinds of things to get in the business, so that’s exciting to see our precious commodities get an opportunity back home.”

YOUR PET CALENDAR IS ALSO GETTING READY TO COME OUT FOR 2014, RIGHT? “Yep and, in fact, we just released it a few weeks back. It’s so much fun to do this calendar every year. All of the drivers are so generous with their time and it’s exciting. Every year since we started the calendar we’ve sold more copies the following year and that’s just been the fan support and the people passionate about animals like I am, and we’re able to help so many groups across the United States from disaster relief from flooding and wildfires to really helping the shelters and adoption people that go out there and work tirelessly donating their time to help place animals and spade and neuter programs and things like that, so it’s been a great success our foundation has, and that calendar has been one of the biggest fundraising things. Greg Biffle Foundation.com is where it’s available. 3M prints the calendar every year for us. They’ve been so gracious to support the cause. It’s a lot of fun.”

CAN YOU CONTRAST THE FEELINGS WHEN YOU’RE IN THE CHASE AND OUT? “I tell you what, I said a long time ago and I’ve had to eat my words a few times – you’re a nobody if you don’t make the Chase. Those are pretty tall words, but what makes up the face of this sport is the Chase, are the Chase guys. That’s what everybody talks about from the Daytona 500 on is the 12 or 13 cars that are gonna be in the Chase. It’s really important and that’s been our focus. Let’s face it, you can’t win the championship unless you’re in the Chase. I’ve been out of a few of them and it’s no fun, but sometimes you have years like that and you can’t control everything. You just do the best you can and we had a solid run this year. We weren’t as good as we were last year. Our Chase has been OK. We’ve left some opportunities on the table, but it’s not over yet. We’ll keep digging and try and get in the top three or four.”

WHEN YOU DO GET IN EVERYTHING IS SO RELIANT RACE TO RACE. THAT FIRST RACE WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WHAT IS THE FEELING LIKE? “Last year we were all excited. The first race was Chicago and we were all amped up. We were leading the points the whole way. In fact, after the Richmond race checkered flag we were still the point leader. The reset, we go to Chicago and I’m licking my chops and I think we came out of there 18th or something and were terrible. I mean, we were way off and it was so discouraging that we had led the points for so long, we had such high hopes and started off like that. This year, we did a much better job of being prepared, but then we go to Kansas, where we did two tires tests and thinking that this was definitely a spot we were gonna win or get a top-three finish, and we struggled completely that weekend. That’s what is so fun and frustrating about this sport is you never know what to expect from week to week. I think that’s why so many fans enjoy it and like to watch it is you just don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

YOU APOLOGIZED TO JIMMIE ON TWITTER YESTERDAY. WHAT WERE YOU APOLOGIZING FOR? “It was multi-layered. I think the biggest thing was I was getting a lot of hate mail on Twitter from all the 48 fans about the way I reacted, so I was apologizing to the fans, not Jimmie Johnson at that point. My apology to Jimmie Johnson was on the telephone. I don’t text. I do the old-fashioned telephone. I know a lot of people don’t do that anymore, so I was apologizing for probably the way I handled it. And when I was walking over there I was furious because we had a great car. Nobody knows this but we had the fastest car the last 65 laps of that race. We closed in on the leader by five seconds from the start of that run to the end of it. We closed in on the 24 car by that much. I had to start at the back and drove to ninth. The other misconception was that, ‘Oh, you should be mad at the 88. He ripped your bumper off. It was the 88 car.’ Well, we came in and fixed it and started at the back and the 48 car ran square in the back of my car, not inside of me like his claim when I came up and talked to him about it. But I probably should have grabbed him by the arm maybe and voiced my displeasure. I wasn’t gonna do the old patented Jeff Gordon two arms to the chest. He’s kind of got that one, but I was upset that I had to start at the back – a good opportunity to get a top-three finish at Martinsville for the first time – and, quite honestly, after that thing was over probably a chance to maybe battle for the win. That just didn’t transpire and I was a little upset about that, so I should have handled that a little differently with Jimmie. I didn’t realize he was in the middle of his interview. I thought he was talking to some print reporters when I first went over there. I didn’t know he was on camera, so I apologize for that. I should have acted a little different. I should have maybe waited until he was done and then had my conversation with him in private with no cameras or media around.”

CARL THOUGHT THE TRACK WAS TAKING ON MORE RUBBER AND THE GROOVE WAS GETTING WIDER. DID YOU FIND THE SAME THING? “Absolutely. I think it’s gonna be a fantastic race. The reason why is with a limited amount of cars there we were running almost all the way up against the fence, right around the bottom, in the middle had good grip, so we were using the whole race track and there were only about 12 cars there I’m guessing –12 or 14 total – so I think it’s gonna be fantastic racing this week at Texas.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF RAIN SINCE THAT TEST. WILL THE TRACK RUBBER UP QUICKLY WITH PRACTICE? “Yeah. That race track rubbers up in one practice session, really, and will continue to take rubber and widen out. Even a little bit of light rain through the weekend, even if we had some, wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s really the gully washers that change it, but 100 laps in or 75 laps in, that place will be rubbered up from top to bottom.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PRESSURES YOU FACE BALANCING LIFE ON AND OFF THE TRACK? “This last month has been absolutely crazy. We tested Martinsville and then we were testing Texas the following week. We flew down there and then we figured out the weather wasn’t gonna be good enough, so we got rained out and flew back home and went back the next week. We’ve just had so many commitments and so many tests and things going on. I had a charity event in the middle of all that. We’re doing different meetings at the shop. We’re trying to talk about next year with the new rules packages. We’ve got NASCAR meetings. It’s been super, super busy for us this last couple weeks. And then I sit here today looking at it and I’m gonna be home for two days until after Homestead. I’m only here two days, so it’s been a busy year. I enjoy staying busy, but sometimes it’s a little too busy. But we’ve had a good season so far and we’ll keep digging.”

HOW TOUGH IS IT ONCE YOU GET IN THE CHASE AND HOW IT WEARS ON YOU OVER TIME? “It really does. The last 10 weeks coming up to the Chase it’s all you can eat, sleep, think – every moment of every day is whether you’re gonna make it or not and how to get your cars better and faster. And if you do make it, how am I gonna win the championship? And then you have about two days of relief. That Sunday after Richmond is probably the best day of your life because you’ve made the Chase, all the pressure is off, but you know Monday you’ve got to figure out how in the world am I gonna compete in this championship run now. So it’s the best thing in the world to get in the Chase, and then a few days later you’ve got all the pressure of having to perform and everybody starting out at zero points or based by your wins. It is a tough balance and we enjoy it.”

DO YOU FIND YOURSELF HAVING A ROOTING INTEREST FOR YOUR EX-TEAMMATE? “Matt’s a great guy. He was a great teammate. We’re still pretty good friends. We do a lot stuff together, but we compete with each other hard on the race track every week. Out of the guys up there in the title hunt, I think everybody has their own favorite, but I’d like to see Matt win it. He’s been a good guy over time. I think he deserves it. He’s worked hard and made a big decision to make a change. He had been at Roush for a long time like me and I’m happy for him. I’m glad he’s been as competitive as he has been. He’s gonna be tough to beat. He may not need any help or encouragement because you saw last week – all of the Roush drivers had been deemed ‘can’t drive at Martinsville’ and it just goes to show you that that’s not really the case when it comes to racing there. Matt finished second and led a lot of that thing and beat the 48 car by four or five spots, which was unbeatable at Martinsville the way you watched the TV coverage, and that wasn’t really the case when you came down to it.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO NOT TURN YOUR ATTENTION FULLY TO NEXT SEASON AND TREAT EVERYTHING LIKE A TEST WHEN YOU’RE EIGHTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW? “It’s actually, believe it or not, if you analyze it it’s really easy to not do that because each year, if you will, is graded by where you finish in points. So every position is very important when it comes down to the end of this thing. Not only that is finishing third in points or fourth or fifth a big difference in where you end up, it’s a big economic difference. The end of the year point fund money is a tremendous different in the amount between third and fifth and seventh and eighth. That being said, that’s an increase for the team, for technology and all that, so that’s what we work the whole season for, so we certainly would like to work on next year, but our complete focus is to be as high as we can in points at the end of this thing. A perfect example is last weekend in Martinsville running fifth and having to come in and then come from the back all the way to ninth with that kind of race car and just the difference between fifth and ninth last week was two positions in the points. It’s from sixth to eighth in points, so you can clearly see how much is on the line. This is a sport and it’s fun and rubbing is racing and short track is short track, but there is a helluva lot on the line for the 13 drivers in this final bit. Now maybe not the 12th and 13th-place guys there might not be now, but, for me, there still is because I can get to third in points with a couple good runs. I win Texas and have a good run at Phoenix and Homestead I’m looking at standing there third in points.”

AND NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT NEXT YEAR’S AERO PACKAGE IS GOING TO BE LIKE ANYWAY, RIGHT? “It looks like they’ve formed a pretty good outline around next year’s aero package, or at least that was my inclination when I sat in the meeting and they said they had six cars test the aero package at Charlotte. They were pretty confident that this is the outline it’s gonna look like. I think we have a good idea of what the aero package is gonna be like. I don’t think it’s wide-open, I think we have a good idea, but it’s hard. We can’t go test that because we don’t have any tests, so there’s nothing we can really do about it until we get track time.”

WHAT DOES IT SAY THAT BOTH YOU AND CARL ARE ROOTING FOR MATT EVEN THOUGH HE’S NOT YOUR TEAMMATE ANYMORE? “You just have to look at it from a personal standpoint. I’m rooting for myself. I’m rooting for myself – for those three or four guys that are a ways out there to have troubles three weeks in a row. That’s what any driver is rooting for, but besides that, it’s multiple choice. Pick a guy from these three, so I’m pretty good friends with Matt and he was my teammate for a long time and we had a decent relationship. By process of elimination which guy are you gonna pick? I mean, it’s almost like you got to root for somebody else besides yourself and he’s the obvious one for me, anyway.”

- PCGCampbell for Ford Racing

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