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AUG 13, 2014

Biffle Faces Crucial Weekend At Michigan In Bid For Chase Spot


Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first win of the 2014 season, but Michigan International Speedway could be the perfect place for that to happen.  Biffle has four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at the facility, including last year when he captured Ford’s 1,000th victory during the June event.  Biffle held a teleconference Wednesday to discuss the race weekend and other topics.

GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 3M Ford Fusion -- WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO THE WEEKEND? “I’m really excited about going to Michigan. 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, so our most recent week off we tested at Michigan and felt like we found a lot of speed that we were missing. We didn’t really carry it 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 gonna be one of the competitive cars and challenging for the win.”

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN STAY IN THE CHASE HUNT?  “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. One of these other guys that are behind us in points goes and wins another one of these races it really, really 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 shoe string to make it in on points if it comes down to that.”

WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSING ON NOW?  “Obviously we’re trying to improve on our season and that’s why we tested on our week off, and I’ve been in the shop every week.  We’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work and anyone can see it.  We certainly can admit it, that we’re off this season as an organization and we’ve 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 re-focus for the end of this season and 2015 and we see a lot of things.  When we step back we’ve seen a lot of mistakes we’ve made and 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 three weeks have certainly showed we’ve made some serious improvement and I feel that’s gonna continue to show it’s hand these last races, whether we make the Chase or not.  I think you’re gonna really see our team become more and more and more competitive right up to the end of the season.  It’s a little too late, but certainly that’s part of this sport and you just have to keep digging and keep trying to get those wins and then put yourself in position for 2015.”

WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO GOOD AT MIS OVER THE YEARS AND HOW ARE YOU PREPARING TO DO YOUR JOB AFTER THE TRAGEDY OF LAST WEEKEND?  “It’s certainly been a difficult weekend, last weekend, for all of us with the incident that happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family. It’s certainly been hard on all of us to see what happened there and a lot of questions around it. Michigan, I don’t know why this is one of our greatest race tracks at Roush Fenway, not only myself with the 16 car, but Roush Fenway.  Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, myself, I’m sure I’m forgetting two or three others that have had so much success at that particular race track.  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 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 in the Cup car, so it’s just been one of those race tracks, 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’re missing.”

HAVE YOU REACHED OUT TO TONY AND HIS TEAM? “I thought about that and I’m sure he’s been bombarded with a  number of things, so I elected to not reach out to Tony at this particular time. I’ve thought about shooting him a text or something, 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. This is a tragic situation for everyone involved. Everyone thinks about the Ward family when we think about this, but at the same time Tony is going through a lot as well and we just hope that everybody finds peace in the whole thing.”

WERE YOU AWARE OF THE 3M SITUATION BEFORE THE ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY THAT THEY WERE LEAVING?  “First of all, I have to say that 3M has been a great partner and I’ve created so many friendships over there. I’ve said for a long time that they’re like family, they’re not like a sponsor. It’s been a great 10 years we’ve had together.  Management changes. Things change. This sport is a business and we all know that in business there are decisions to make, so I’ve known for awhile that they were not coming back to the 16 car. 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. It’s a bittersweet ending, but new and greener pastures I think are on the other side, so we’ve got a great partnership that we’re gonna 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’ve got a few partners moving forward that it’s gonna be a great thing for the 16 car, and on top of that I appreciate the support from all the fans of the 16 team and all of the 3M employees.  They’ve been behind this program forever and, like I said, I’ve made a lot of friendships and those will remain without a doubt moving forward.”

DO YOU FEEL MICHIGAN MAY BE YOUR ACE IN THE HOLE?  “Yeah, absolutely.  I think what was probably more frustrating than anything is last year, so if I set it up, 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 and we finished ninth. That 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 gonna 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 maybe working in 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 in possibly going a little bit of the wrong direction. That will happen in business. That will happen in racing. That will happen in everything.  We were all committed in 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 gonna have the fastest car?  We’re gonna be, I’m hoping we’re close, but I definitely feel like we’re gonna 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 keeping finding these bit and pieces of speed and, yeah, do we wish that happened in April or May?  Certainly, but we can’t change that.  We can only focus on the future.”

SO YOU TESTED AT A TRACK YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN GOOD AT.  “Absolutely. When you come away from your best track, a Roush Fenway track, 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.  We said there are a lot of things we need to do. We have priorities, but we’re hoping that Michigan, the other reason we tested there, was gonna 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. We were not a top 10 car yet, but really close and now we feel like we’ve found more speed.  It takes time. These things take time. It’s easy to get behind and 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, ‘OK, we ran 19th at our best track, we’re gonna give up.’  That’s not in our DNA and we haven’t done that.  I promise you it’s gonna pay off.”

HOW DOES THE NEW POINTS FORMAT CHANGE THE OUTLOOK FOR BRISTOL?  “Let’s face it, 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’re doing fuel mileage plays and strategies 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 we looked at each other and said, ‘What do we have to lose?’  I mean, 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 to put ourselves in position and we did that.  We got up and started besides Carl.  Guys were faster than us with tires behind us and 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 fives technically in my eyes in a row taking gambles.  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.”


NASCAR BRIEFED US ON POTENTIAL 2015 RULES AND ONE OF THE THINGS THEY TALKED ABOUT WAS A DRIVER ADJUSTABLE TRACK BAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?  “I think that anything 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 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 people fudging the rules and getting it to do other things, so that’s one thing that we need to protect from, but I like it.  To spice it up a little bit these are things that don’t cost the teams a tremendous amount of money.  It’s gonna cost some.  It puts a little ingenuity into it.  If it’s easy to police, I like it.”

IS THERE ANY WAY TO COMPREHEND WHAT TONY WILL TRY TO GO THROUGH IF HE COMPETES THIS WEEKEND?   “It would be hard for me to comment on Tony’s situation and what he’d 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 we absolutely support that 100 percent.  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 move on.  It’s a tragedy for the Ward family and everyone involved.”

CAN YOU LOOK TOWARD TALLADEGA AND THE ROLE IT PLAYS IN THE CHASE?  “Talladega is definitely one of those wildcards.  I remember when I was leading and my teammate got into me and turned us right in front of the whole field.  It was 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 and wild races and everybody that’s in the Chase is now with the elimination rounds it’s gonna be important not only just getting through that race, not falling back a little bit in the points, but making that next round.  It’s gonna be just as important as ever and probably be just as exciting.”

WHEN YOU WERE RE-NEGOTIATING YOUR DEAL IT SEEMED LIKE YOU AND 3M WERE A PACKAGE DEAL.  IS THAT A FAIR ASSESSMENT AND, IF SO, WHERE ALONG THE WAY DID THEY DECIDE TO LEAVE?  “I don’t know all those details.  I’m a Roush Fenway guy and I’m blessed to have a lot of other opportunities and other teams offering to have me come and drive their race cars, so I had to make a decision.  My decision was to stay loyal to a brand and stay loyal to Jack that had provided me opportunities along the way.  It’s 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 are business decisions to be made.  Let’s face it, this is a sport.  It’s competitive and they made a business decision.  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. In fact, one of my best friendships I have with a guy we do a lot of fishing together and spend time together is from and is still today an employee of Grainger, my very first sponsor in the Truck Series.  They sponsored me all the way through Truck and all the way through Nationwide – one single sponsor.  For a new guy coming into a sport, 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 and we wish them well.”