Biffle Appears To Be On Verge Of The Big One
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Some around NASCAR say that Greg Biffle has never quite been able to cross that line which separates good driver from great driver. Biffle would likely retort that he has never been able to cross that line which separates hard-luck driver from to good-luck driver.
Today, it matters not which of those statements is correct. What matters is that Biffle appears to be on the verge of rendering both those statements irrelevant because today it appears that Biffle is headed for the type of season which will erase all lines.
Biffle is headed for a statement season.
It’s not that the 42-year-old driver from Washington state has been a disappointment as a Sprint Cup driver. Not really, not hardly.
He won the Camping World Truck Series championship 2000 and then followed that up by winning the Nationwide Series championship in 2002. He was rookie of the year in both those series and won a combined 36 races in those series.
It’s just that there were those who were thinking that Biffle had the potential, at least, to win a championship(s) in Sprint Cup.
Once in the bigs, however, The Biff has been caught in traffic; stop and start, you know?
There have been seasons which have ended with him just smidge shy of owning his very own big ugly
silver trophy. Like 2005, when he won a series-best six races finished second in points to Jimmie Johnson.
And then there were the heavy traffic seasons. One of those was 2011.
A year ago, Biffle sat at table in the infield at Kansas and got quite animated as he talked about his situation. The themes he kept hitting on were luck and circumstances and what-ifs and if-onlys. He wasn’t making excuses about a season spent searching for the right gear, just adeptly pointing out turning points where stuff happened. Stuff beyond the driver’s control.
Biffle was dead certain that things were about to turn for him and his team that April day at Kansas.
All you could do was nod along in agreement.
Things didn’t change, of course. Not much. Matt Puccia was brought in during a rare mid-season crew chief change but Biffle missed the Chase and wound up 16th in points.
The 2012 season started with Biffle occupying a familiar position in the minds of racing wags; stop or go season for The Biff?
All signs point to go. Perhaps, go all the way.
The numbers say it (he tops the points list and has ended a 49-race victory drought), the anecdotal evidence says it (Roush Fenway Fords are first, second and 11th in points) and on Friday morning at Kansas Speedway, Biffle seemed to say it.
He talked about how he, Puccia and his team come together and have run really well at about every one of the first seven stops on the schedule. And, he talked about the future benefits of that.
“Now we’ve run competitively at every venue – superspeedway, intermediate tracks, which have always been our strongsuit, and the short tracks we’ve been pretty respectable on, so,” Biffle said, “at this point, I feel good about just improving on all those fronts – just getting a little bit better than we are now.”
Biffle, a late starter by today’s standard who is in his 10th full season in Cup, also talked Friday about the now-or-never aspect of the 2012 season.
“I feel an urgency because I’m ready to win it,” he said, “but that’s really, to me, about it. I feel great. I feel better than I ever have in these past five seasons with the way our team is and how competitive we are, and how I’m driving the car and how I feel personally. Yeah, I think anybody feels the urgency to want to win it and, obviously, some day I’m not gonna be doing this anymore.”
Carl Edwards, Biffle’s teammate at Roush Fenway, was asked Friday if he sensed that there was something special about the No. 16 team. He pointed to how well Biffle and Puccia are working together, saying, “That could be a genius pairing by Jack Roush.”
Will all of the above translate into the championship season that some expected for Biffle when he came up to Cup after a smashing career in the minors? Will he cross that line which separates good from great in terms of mass perception?
We’ll all know in November but right now, in mid-April, consider this one vote for yes.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment