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PHOENIX -- Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has posted a top-10 finish in all six races so far this season and finds himself second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Biffle, who trails leader Jimmie Johnson by only 14 points, discusses the upcoming race at Phoenix International Raceway and the current season.
Q. YOU MUST HAVE A POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND.
A. Yeah, it is. I really enjoy that race track. I love going out west. It’s close to home for me, but, more importantly, I love that race track. I love the way it’s laid out with two different corners one end to the other. We’ve had a lot of success there and have won in the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series a few times, but just never have gotten a Sprint Cup win there. I’ve come close, but haven’t been able to win there and that’s a race track I’d love to be able to win at, and, hopefully, this will be the weekend. Our season has started off really well and, hopefully, we can win there and possibly, depending on what the 48 car does, take over the point lead.
Q. WHAT AREAS HAVE YOU GUYS IMPROVED IN THIS SEASON AND HOW FAR ALONG ARE YOU TO WHERE YOU EVENTUALLY WANT TO BE?
A. We’ve improved in a bunch of small areas. I think we’ve gotten our aero platform a little bit better and we’re understanding that a little bit better. We’ve got our cars a little bit lighter now and have revolutionized – keep changing versions of the cars and how stuff is built and mounted and the products we’re using – so we’ve gotten our cars a little bit lighter and the downforce a little bit better. We’re starting to understand the geometry, the effects of some of the things better. We’ve re-mounted our rear anti-rollbar system to change that some. We’ve done a lot of small changes, nothing big. There hasn’t been any one thing that has been a huge change, so it’s been a lot of small things that have picked us up a little bit. As much as we’ve picked up, we have about that far to go to be competing for wins week in and week out, like where we want to be. So as we’ve gained on it, we still have a little bit more left. The relationship with RPM has definitely helped a little bit on some of these items – making a few of the parts and pieces a little bit lighter and getting an idea of how another team may approach a problem and solve something. So, I think with the combination we’ve been able to help them and they’ve been able to help us. As we continue to develop, we’re gonna get better and better with this car. Now that the spoiler is on it, we’re anxious to get to Texas and Phoenix to see what kind of changes that’s gonna make.
Q. HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED WILL BE APPLICABLE TO THE SPOILER?
A. A lot of the things we’ve done will be the same because we’ve made the car a little lighter. We’ve re-arranged some things as far as where they’re mounted. We’ve worked on the aero platform some. Granted, the spoiler does change the aero of the car a little bit, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a huge difference, so it’s not like everything we’ve learned so far in six races and all winter we throw away and start over. I think that’s where your question was leading as well. A lot of what we’ve done is gonna continue to carry forward with the spoiler.
Q. IS SOMEONE GOING TO HAVE TO BE GREAT, NOT GOOD, TO KNOCK THE 48 OFF ITS PEDESTAL?
A. I think so. We’ve been good so far, and that’s not good enough. We’re 14 points out of the lead, but you’re right. You’re gonna have to be great. You’re gonna have to be flawless at this and we’ve been good so far. We’ve been good everywhere we’ve been, but that’s not good enough. We’re gonna have to be better than that. We know that and we’re prepared to work hard and continue to get better and better. We’re gonna keep putting pressure on them.
Q. DO YOU FEEL YOU’RE GETTING CLOSER TO THEM EACH RACE?
A. Absolutely. I definitely feel like we’re gaining on them. We’ve beaten them a few times this year. Miraculously, I don’t know how, I was side-by-side with him coming to the stripe at Martinsville. He beat me by about a fender. When we’ve gained on them that much – maybe he had an off day or something – but when you go to a place like Martinsville, where we haven’t had that much success, and we’re competing with the 48 at that level, we feel like we’ve certainly gained on them and we’re certainly gonna be able to continue to put pressure on them at these other race tracks where we feel like we’re pretty good. Phoenix and Texas and Darlington are three of our great race tracks, so we’re definitely gonna keep after it.
Q. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PIT CREW – THE 3M PIT BULLS?
A. The 3M Pit Bulls have done such a great job and I can always count on them when the caution flag comes out. I can remember for all the years I’ve raced when the caution flag comes out, a lot of times it’s sort of a disappointment because you’re not sure what’s gonna happen, you were into a rhythm and you don’t know how the pit stop is gonna go. I’m excited when I see the caution flag now. These guys are world-class. They compete every week on pit road with all these other teams and rarely, it’s been a while since I’ve lost spots on pit road if it wasn’t a case where we were making a big change and anticipated losing spots. In fact, we put a spring rubber in a few weeks ago and that’s guaranteed two spots and we gained one. It’s unbelievable what these guys are doing and they’ve picked up this year from where they left off. I just came from the shop and they haven’t gotten the Tissot Pit Crew Award yet and I was joking with them. I said, ‘What’s your deal? What’s wrong with you?’ I was having a little fun with them, but they are a hard-working group of guys and I’m lucky to have them.
Q. WHAT ABOUT THE ADDITION OF THE EXTRA LAPS AT PHOENIX THIS WEEK?
A. That’s definitely gonna make a difference. I don’t know how many times in the race I’ve been to the point where I was like, ‘Man, I wish it was over 10 laps earlier or 50 laps earlier,’ and vice versa where I wished I had 30 more or 50 more laps to get back to the front. A guy has been on both sides of that fence several times. I don’t think you’re gonna race the race a lot differently, it’s just sort of like musical chairs – where you’re at when the music stops. Cars that are good later in a run, later in the night, that’s gonna benefit them, so we’ll just have to wait and see, but it’s certainly gonna play a role in strategy.
Q. DO YOU FOCUS ON THE 48 OR DO YOU JUST TALK ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THOSE OF US IN THE MEDIA KEEP ASKING ABOUT THEM?
A. I’ll be as honest as I can with you, I don’t care a bit about the 48 car. I’d really rather not talk about him. He’s done a spectacular job. He’s a great driver. Chad Knaus is a great crew chief and Mr. Hendrick is a world-class guy that provides his teams with an unbelievable level of support, confidence and equipment that these guys are able to compete all the time. My focus is, ‘What can we do to win at Phoenix?’ And there are a lot of guys I’ve got to beat. We don’t view it as any one particular guy. We view it as, ‘We’ve got to go there and win.’ And the reason why we end up talking about the 48 is because everybody wants to talk about the 48. Just a step further on that, I have a lot of friends and family and people who obviously watch the NASCAR races and they say, ‘Why are they always talking about the 48 car? Why don’t they talk about something else? We know he’s up front and we know he’s leading the points.’ This goes back more to last year when he was going for the four championships, so I asked some of the broadcasters. I asked, ‘Why do you talk about the 48?’ And they said that people want to hear about the 48, so I think there’s maybe a misconception there. There’s a lot more to it than the 48 team. I’m not taking anything away from them because they do a spectacular job, but we end up talking a lot about it because we’re questioned a lot about it. They’re the benchmark and how are we gonna beat them? I think that’s why we end up talking a lot about that team.
Q. HOW DOES YOUR POINTS POSITION AFFECT HOW YOU RACE NOW AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON (2nd) COMPARED TO LAST YEAR WHEN YOU WERE 23rd AT THIS TIME?
A. It gives us a little bit of a cushion. We can be a little more aggressive and go for that position. Certainly, I’m focused on getting finishes. I’m focused on making the chase and getting our cars as good as we can and I want to win. That’s all I care about is winning races. The other thing is that last year we got off to a really good start the first couple of races. We got caught with rain at Daytona and got us a 20th-place finish and blew up at Bristol, which is rare, and then we didn’t have a good run at Martinsville. That’s what got us back there in the points, but we’ve had good runs at those three race tracks (this year). That makes the whole difference for us, but we can be as aggressive as we want because we have a little cushion right now.”
Q. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE NATIONWIDE RACE THIS WEEKEND? WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION FOR RUNNING THAT SERIES?
A. I tell you what, I’m having more fun this year than I’ve ever had in the Nationwide Series. It’s kind of rejuvenated me and got the kid out in me again, I guess. Going to a team that has a limited amount of resources. I go to Nashville and they’ve got four or five cars in the shop. They’ve got six or seven guys and are on a shoestring budget. They’re putting together good cars. They’re working very hard and we kind of put this deal together. We’re out competing and we almost won California our second time out. You don’t know how good that felt for me to be so close to winning that race, and then continuing to run good everywhere we’ve been. I’m having a great time. I love the Nationwide Series. It’s a lot of fun when you’ve run good. It can be frustrating when you don’t run good because you know you should, or you know you can, so I’ve just had a lot of fun. I love the series and I’m enjoying myself. I’m glad Baker-Curb gave me an opportunity to come drive their car and Red Man came back into the sport for a limited amount of time to support that group.
Q. HAS NASCAR PICKED THE RIGHT TIME TO PUT THE SPOILER ON THE CAR?
A. Yeah, NASCAR has really, really thought this thing through. I think they did a spectacular job bringing the spoiler back when they did. Martinsville, Phoenix, Texas, it kind of builds us up from the slowest race track we race at – Martinsville – to the fastest – Texas. They’ve certainly had it planned out, so I applaud them on that. I look forward to it. We have the retro Post-It paint scheme back on. It’s the 30th anniversary of Post-It notes, and that’s who I had on the car in ’05 when we won all those races. It’s kind of ironic, every time we ran that paint scheme on the car we won, so we’re hoping that brings us luck in Texas. I think it’s a great time to put the spoiler back on these cars and we’re really gonna have a good feel after the checkered flag at Texas on how these cars are gonna race from now on.
Q. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAM IS UNDER THE RADAR?
A. I think so because when the race is over the TV cameras rush over to that car or that car, or sometimes overlook how good our team is and how well we perform on the race track week in and week out, so that’s a little bit under the radar. That’s sort of a good thing because this sport is about momentum. This sport is about confidence and when you’ve got that TV camera in your face going, ‘Why did you finish 18th? You had a good run, but you fell off at the end?’ When that camera is in your face asking you those questions, I’d rather roll in the garage sixth and put it in the truck, talk about how we can be better next time we show up and go home, and they’re back there interviewing the guys that finished 17th or 18th because they’re superstars of the sport. That’s a lot of pressure. That’s a lot of pressure when you unload your car at Phoenix to produce a finish on the race track because you know everybody is watching you. I like to stay focused on what I’m doing. I don’t mind, I can deal with the camera and asking the hard questions, but it just makes it easier when they don’t.
Q. WHAT HAS RACING TAUGHT YOU THAT MIGHT NOT HAVE LEARNED ANY OTHER WAY?
A. We don’t have enough time left in the day for me to explain that to you. I’ve learned so much and am so blessed to be part of this sport. I’ve learned so much from the big brass at NASCAR, sitting down and talking with them, doing functions, from Jack Roush, from Robbie Reiser and from all the crew chiefs I’ve had – from the sponsors I’ve learned a tremendous amount – from Grainger, from the National Guard. You don’t know how thankful I am for all the opportunities the National Guard gave me to participate in some of the things they do and to see the things and how they operate. Now, to be with a company like 3M, is pretty remarkable for me to be able to go in and see a corporation this size and see how it operates, see all of their factories and people. It’s been a world-wide experience for me. I look at all the opportunities I’ve had and how much I’ve learned and look forward to many more to come.
Q. WHAT’S YOUR VIEW ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULE?
A. It is controlled chaos. The thing is you’ve got to remember you’ve raced all day to get track position and get to where you’re gonna get and now, all of a sudden, they’re gonna pass out the trophy or the points or the money in two laps. You’re doing anything you can to get that one spot, to get two spots, to get the win even if you’re in that position. Every single car is racing as hard as they can. I agree and disagree with a lot of things that NASCAR does. I disagree with having three attempts at the green-white-checkered. I agree with having more than one, and I know that’s sort of splitting hairs, but I think two attempts at a green-white-checkered is plenty enough to give the fans and to give everybody sort of that, ‘let’s make sure we finish under green.’ But the three attempts, that sort of gets into really affecting the gas mileage, the fuel. If we get into three green-white-checkereds and having to clean the track up if there’s an accident, that can really kind of change the whole format of our race. So I agree with multiple, maybe two is the thing, and maybe they’ll look at that again as we get further on and see that maybe two attempts are gonna be plenty to get a race finished under green.
Q. DO YOU AGREE IT’S CHANGED THE STRATEGY OVERALL AT THE END OF A RACE?
A. It’s more than just the fuel. The other thing is that track position becomes more important if you have multiple green-white-checkereds. The further you are to the front of the pack, the less opportunity you’re gonna have of getting three-wide, four-wide, getting the fenders knocked in or getting squeezed into the fence. No tires – even though the guys behind you are faster, if there are multiple cautions, they’re not gonna get a chance to get up there and race with you, so track position is still gonna be very, very important, but it has thrown a curveball. There’s a lot of strategy when it comes to these multiple green-white-checkereds. I agree that the fans deserve to see that race finish under green, but we’ve got to keep it within reason.
Q. YOUR AVERAGE FINISH IS 7.5 THIS YEAR. DO YOU FEEL LIKE A TITLE CONTENDER NOW OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU STILL HAVE A WAYS TO GO?
A. I feel like we definitely have the look of a championship contender right now. We do have a little bit further to go, but we’ve got a lot of racing left. We’re only six races into the season, and I know we’re gonna have worse than a 10th-place finish at some point, but I feel like we’ve shown that we have the makings of a championship caliber team. I certainly do because we know the magic number is between four and five as far as average finish and, at the end of the season, those are good race tracks for me. So I think that with the performance we’ve got so far, if we continue to improve on that throughout the season, we’re gonna be where we need to be.
Q. WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AVERAGING 7.5 AND THEN 4 OR 5?
A. Well, it will be the difference of getting the right push at Daytona – winning, instead of finishing third – it’ll make the difference of what lane you choose at a couple of these race tracks. We had a great race car at a few of these tracks and a guys spun the tires. At Atlanta, for instance, we were right there. We were sitting sixth with four tires on and the 42 spins his tires, jacks the whole lane up, and we end up not finishing where we ran all day. Those are the things, just the small lane choices, and a little better track position, and a little better race car – those are gonna be the difference between 7.5 and 4 or 5.
Q. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO GET A CAR TO RUN LIKE YOU WANT IT TO AT PHOENIX?
A. That’s what makes that track so fun is it’s very challenging. It’s so different. The only race track I can think of that’s an oval – you’ve got to throw Pocono out because it’s an animal of it’s own – from one end to the other is really, Darlington is a little bit different – but, really, Phoenix stands out as being one of the most different from one end to the other. You almost drive it like a road course. In turn one, you brake real straight late and turn in. Three and four is a long, sweeping corner where you’re on and off the gas a couple times trying to get your car to turn around the corner. There’s a dogleg backstretch, so it’s a unique place and it’s always a balance between turns one and two, and three and four. It’s always a balance and that’s what makes it so much fun is being that different and challenging.