Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, finished the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 26-race regular season as the championship points leader. But when points were reset to begin the 10-race post-season, or Chase for the Sprint Cup, Biffle was shuffled down into a three-way tie with Clint Bowyer for the fifth spot, six points behind then-leader Denny Hamlin.
Following last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., the first race of this year’s Chase, Biffle fell to eighth in the points standings, 19 points behind new leader, Brad Keselowski.
Earlier this week, Biffle participated in a NASCAR press conference to talk about this year’s Chase and his championship chances.
By the way, if Biffle can recover to win the title, he would be the first driver, ever, to claim championships in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck.
Below is a transcript from the press conference:
Q. In years past, you go through one, and definitely two races, and there certainly is lots of separation on the Chase field where guys definitely fall out of it. I wonder based on how deep this field is, the fact that maybe everybody is going to have the chance to have at least one bad race, you think that more guys are going to be in it longer and that there’s no way to really handicap it at this stage.
GREG BIFFLE: No, I don’t think so. I think you’re right. You know, you look at this particular weekend in. Three Chase guys had big problems, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin running out of gas and Matt with the shock breaking. That’s probably going to carry through the next nine races. You’re probably going to see guys have a little bit of trouble here and there.
Now, if those same guys continue to have trouble, that might, you know, start eliminating a few guys. But I don’t think you can really — this field, people are going to be climbing back in this game because other guys may have trouble or may have a mediocre race and the guy wins. I think that there will probably be more guys in it for a longer period of time on this Chase.
Q. You opened that you didn’t have the start to the Chase that you wanted, I guess based on that whole concept, you don’t panic at this stage and you still feel like you’re in it and you have a lot of improvement to do?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it’s an unfortunate race for us. We were really looking forward to Chicago. We felt like we were going to be on the Monday there, and we just ended up off a little bit all weekend.
And actually, I find a little positive in a 13th place finish, if you can, that that’s about the best we were all day. We ran a little better than that but we missed that caution flag that would have put us in the Top-10, probably Top-5 almost on a finish.
But still, we come out of there 13th. We kind of minimize the damage of having a bad day, and move on to Loudon. I mean, we have put that race behind us. It’s not that bad of a race. You know, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great.
Q. You’ve been through the ebbs and flows of the Chase before, how do you deal with it mentally know it’s a ten-week grind, do you do anything in the week to get your mind off things? How do you approach that as a driver?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly we are paying attention to what we did wrong last week to try and prevent that from re-surfacing in these next nine races.
So we spent a fair amount of time talking to Matt. I was at the shop earlier today looking at where we think we made a mistake; and what racetrack is most similar to that; how can we be ahead of the curve and start looking at that even more.
So we look at Dover being a track that is a little more slick and a lot bumpier than what Chicago would be or whatnot. It’s all concrete. So we feel like that’s the next racetrack that we want to make sure that we’re 100% at.
So we are doing the things we have to do to look ahead in trying to not make any more mistakes when it comes to this Chase. We don’t feel like we did anything wrong this weekend but we almost feel like we are unprepared in a way that caught us off-guard and we were off our game and really didn’t get back on the horse in time before the race started and adjusted on it during the race.
But certainly not what we thought was going to happen. It caught us off-guard and we sat down, regrouped and said, hey, we come out of there 13th, but let’s not let that defeat us. Let’s move on and keep our head up.
Q. Last four races, you have one Top-10, I wonder if there’s anything you feel like you need to work on specifically to maybe get up there and compete with the 2, the 48 and the 11.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, so we know that when it comes to a slick, lower-grip type of racetrack, we have struggled a little bit as of late. And as you said the last four races have been those type of racetracks.
So that’s why we have looked ahead to the Chase saying, what else lines up like those racetracks. We see Dover as the only track really that lines up like these last four. So we actually are spending a great deal of time looking at Dover, figuring out, what we can do to be a little bit better when it comes to that. But we feel this weekend, and you know, Talladega, Charlotte, all those other races, not to be a factor like this weekend was or these last few races.
So we are definitely looking into it and trying to figure out where we are missing it a little bit.
Q. The performance in the other eight races besides Dover for sure should be considerably better than the last four races?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Like we finished third at this loud on race coming up last year. I’ve got a win there.
We finished I think Top-10 there in the spring with a brake — you know, we had a bad brake problem, so we have got great brakes now. We took a brand new car to Richmond earlier this year; that was the other Top-10 you talked about.
We are taking that car to Loudon this weekend. We feel like we are going to be definitely a factor, certainly a top-five car this weekend at Loudon. We are just going to have to wait and see how it plays out.
Q. You know, everyone is talking about the Chase and all the excitement, even though you moved down a few points, a few notches, everything is still very close which is great for NASCAR, great for the Chase, and the excitement and all of the talk. I bet no matter where you go, somebody brings up the Chase to you. So my question is: How do you as a driver handle all of the talk concerning this year’s Chase for the Cup?
GREG BIFFLE: Coming into it, we were a lot more optimistic than after the first race, because we did come in leading the points by 12 points after the Richmond race, and then they got re-set and we got bumped down to fifth.
So we go to the first race thinking, we’re going to be back on top, this is going to be a great track for us. So we come out of there with a 13th place finish and we fall three more spots.
But like you said, very, very tight point battle going on right now. So we know a couple good finishes, we’re going to be right back in the top three in points.
So that’s what we need to do, and yes, you’re right, everywhere we go, it’s about the Chase, this is an exciting time for our sport, and we just need to get back on track right now.
Q. You got accustomed to being in the Top-5, and on top for quite a while there during the regular season; and of course you mentioned the position you’re in right now, but you always kind of like to say you’re under the radar. Do you feel like, is there any big difference between sitting at the top and sitting where you’re still in striking distance?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, yeah, definitely. Certainly there is. Definitely now. Especially since the Chase started. It really matters now, and unfortunately, yeah, we are not where we want to be, eighth in points. I’m actually not looking at the number. I like to look at the amount of points back we are, you know, 19 points. So I’m focusing on that more importantly than where the position we are actually in right now. So that’s — we know 19 points is a little ways to go. That’s a couple races to get back into the lead.
You know, I picked up that many points when I won at Michigan, but those are probably extreme circumstances. The guy I was racing that was one point behind had engine problems. So we went in there one point in the lead and left 19 points in the lead. We need a miracle race like that to get back in the groove. But more importantly, we have a solid run at Loudon, I think we are going to be fine.
Q. Is there any strategy that would kind of work for anybody in the Chase? Is there some experience that tells you that this is the way you’ve got to do it?
GREG BIFFLE: No, not really. We all know that minimizing the bad days, that’s the most important thing, because when you have a good day, you have a good day. You run up front, challenge for the win, you finish third. Those days are almost like normal days, if you will.
The bad day is when your shock breaks or you run out of gas or you miss the setup. Those are the days that you have to persevere on, and we did that at Chicago, finished 13th, and I think that’s going to determine this Chase, versus, you know, how many good days you have. It’s how you minimize the bad days.
Q. Looking at the NASCAR notes, the number of races run at New Hampshire, and of course you’ve had 20 and most of the other guys have all had 20 or more races there, Keselowski has only raced there six times. Would you say he’s just as dangerous this weekend, even though he has not run there nearly as much as the others?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I think so, because once you’ve been to a place — well, he’s been there half a dozen teams. But once you’ve been to a places four or five times, six times, I wouldn’t say you quit learning about the racetrack. But you pretty much know everything there is to know about that place.
So I would say, once you’ve been there three or four times, you pretty much have experienced everything that track has to offer. I would say under his experience level, he’s run as many or more Nationwide races at that racetrack, as well.
So he definitely has the experience it takes, and he will be tough this weekend. They are fast on these type of racetracks.
Q. A couple drivers that have teammates that isn’t in the Chase; are you more apt to go them than maybe a teammates that is in the Chase?
GREG BIFFLE: Not really, I don’t think. And to be perfectly honest with you, today, we really look on the computer at what the other guys are doing versus go and talk to them, because there’s more information on paper than there is that you can get from the driver.
Before, it used to be, hey, I have got a 900-pound spring; well, I have an 850; well, I put a little spring in it.
Today, there’s so many moving parts to this thing, you have to look at the whole setup sheet and understand every bit of it to learn everything. Really, you look at their lap times, their setup and their driver comments to try and digest what you need your car to do and what they did to their car to see if there’s anything that you can apply to your car.
That’s really what it boils down to today, so it doesn’t really matter whether it’s in the Chase or not.
Q. With the tracks in this Chase, that might be tough on the engines. How much harder is it on the driver to not tear up the engine in practice or qualifying?
GREG BIFFLE: Definitely the throttle-on type of racetracks, so Charlotte and Texas, I see are the two engine-type of racetracks coming up throughout the Chase.
And so those racetracks are definitely places that the engine builders are a little bit on edge and so are the drivers, about taking care of the components, parts and pieces, not only during practice and qualifying, but the race, as well.
Q.Your comments on the next three races, Dover, Talladega and Charlotte, take us through your thoughts about the tracks, expectations, all that good stuff.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I talked a little bit about Dover earlier. We have been working very hard at Dover behind the scenes, on the simulations, the seven posts, we are getting ready to go to work on and looking at what we have done the past few races there. We are trying to target Dover as the track we want to run better at and that we feel we’ve slipped a little bit on.
Talladega, everybody knows, roll the dice, see what happens, and you never know what you’re going to be caught up in, how the finish is going to be; the last few finishes have been four-wide, two cars deep.
And Charlotte, you know, back under the lights, that’s really a bread and butter track for us. We feel really confident coming to Charlotte. It’s our standard mile-and-a-half, it’s fun to be at home for a week, and we really look forward to these next three.
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