Biffle Says Fast Cars Are About To Boot Bad Luck
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Kansas City, Kan. – Greg Biffle’s eyes get really big as he talks about the start to his 2011 Sprint Cup season. He fidgets a bit and repositions himself in his chair as he talks – perhaps because the chairs in the Kansas Speedway media center are of back-straining hardness, but also because of the emotional nature of the start to his season.
But even though that start is shaky – he is 20th in points six races into a season in which some considered him to be a genuine candidate to win the series championship – the emotion Biffle is showing is not that negative. Not even close.
Biffle, experienced and even buffeted, in the ways of NASCAR, knows things are not as bad as they look. On the contrary, things are looking darn good for him and his Roush Fenway team because they have the one thing that no successful driver can do without – speed.
“The thing we got right now,” Biffle said, intensity inching upward, “is our cars are fast. We are competitive and we’re capable of winning, OK? That, you can’t buy.”
So then, why the dreary numbers? Numbers like one top-10 finish in six starts. Like the average finish of 20th through six races. Like just two lead-lap finishes and just 11 laps led.
And in a season which some had put Biffle’s name on the short list of drivers who had the potential to
bump Jimmie Johnson from the top of the standings.
Tangible excuses were available for Biffle if he chose to use them during his visit to Kansas Speedway this week. Excuses like new the new noses mandated for Cup cars this season. Like that troublesome new fueling system. Or, even, like less available data because of the folding of two of Richard Petty Motorsports four Ford teams.
Biffle, who made his 300th career start in Cup last week in Martinsville, waved all those off.
The new noses actually benefitted the Ford teams, Biffle said. Brought them closer to the other makes of cars which, he said, had an aero advantage with the old bolt-on splitters.
And of losing two Petty teams, Biffle said, “I don’t think it’s hurt us. I really don’t. You’ve got to think about that when you have struggling cars, more of them does not help a lot, you know? And it’s not because of the drivers, not because of the cars, its just the area that there in. If the cars are running 20th all the time, there’s no information to be gathered from that. I mean, you certainly don’t want to copy what they’re doing.”
So, the problem? Easy, Biffle said. Easy, that is, to identify, not so easy avoid: Grim luck.
As in wrecks in which he was an innocent bystander. As in, untimely strategy-destroying cautions. As in problems with that new, NASCAR-mandated fueling system.
As in things which can make circumstance an equal but opposing force to skill in the sport of auto
But while lousy luck on a race track can be as devastating to goals as the more tangible circumstances, it can – and, Biffle insists, will – eventually be trumped by teams who have speed and skill.
And that, Biffle hammered away upon, is what Roush Fenway Racing, his crew chief Greg Erwin and he himself have in exciting abundance this year.
“You cant’ get that, that is harder to get,” Biffle said of speed. “Being lucky? Right place, right time? Well, things are going to go your way. Eventually the caution is going to come out, it’s going to be a no-brainer, everybody has to stop for four. Eventually, the stars will line up. Everybody will have to do the same thing and you’ll have the fastest car and you’re going to win races.
“I feel like that’s the position we’re in. We’ve got fast cars, we’re capable of winning and that’s what I’m happy about. Yeah, would I like six top-10s in a row? Sure. But I wouldn’t trade it” the for season-long speed he thinks RFR Fords have.
Biffle has the boss’s backing for his contention.
“Greg Biffle has shown speed,” Jack Roush said recently, “even though he got crashed at Daytona and we had our fueling pit stop problem and the things that followed that at Las Vegas. I think he was as good as Carl (Edwards, his teammate) there and Carl won the race, so all four of our cars are running real well.
“The Ford Fusions, I think, are as strong if not stronger (than the competition). This is my 24th year of being in NASCAR competition, and I don’t recall a year when we were stronger than this. I think if it’s not our best year, it’s certainly our best year to this point.”
Biffle’s season looks like it could get better and soon. Like this weekend.
Up today is Texas and the Samsung Mobile 500 at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. It’s a place
where Biffle has a victory and seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
It’s a place where Biffle has led more laps than any other driver – active or retired – 612.
It’s a place where he will start with major confidence at his elbow and that is mega.
“It’s different when you’re going to a race track where you think about a race track and you go, ‘Oh, I got a top-five there easy.’ You know, where you have that mindset and mentality and your team does that your cars run good. That is a huge deal going to a race track for a weekend, rather than wondering, ‘Gosh, how’s it going to unfold?’ “
Erwin certainly has that mindset.
“We generally run well in Texas and I believe this weekend will be no exception,” the crew chief said. “The track suits Greg’s driving style and that always helps. Texas allows for fast and exciting racing so it should be a good show for the fans down there. Greg led 224 laps there during the fall race last year and we had a problem with the shifter. He was able to drive back for a top-five finish though. If we can avoid any little problems like that, I don’t see why we can’t get this 3M Ford into victory lane.”
Even better news is that Texas is just the first track of the kind which Biffle and Roush Fenway
consider to be just their style.
“A lot of these mile-and-a-halves are right down our alley,” Biffle said. “It’s kind of our bread and butter.
“Texas, Talladega’s been decent for us, Darlington.”
And, this year, Kansas – where Biffle has won twice and is defending champion – in June.
Biffle and team got off to a fairly quick start at Texas as he was fifth fastest in the Thursday qualifying session. He was fast in qualifying and will start tonight’s race ninth.
And he will have plenty of help up front as teammates David Ragan, Edwards and Matt Kenseth all qualified in the top 10 – first, second and fourth respectively.
Edwards was asked about the power burst from Roush teams after Friday’s qualifying at TMS.
“We are fast in practice and have three of the top four in qualifying that are Fords,” he said. “We are as good now on the 1.5 mile, almost as good as we were in 2005 when we were lights out and won 15 total races or something like that. We are close to that form again and that is good.”
Good enough to keep Biffle wide-eyed excited about 2011 despite his less-than-wonderful start.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment