Bad Day At Las Vegas A Concern For Biffle
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
An extra day of practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday may have resulted in an extra day of discovery for some Sprint Cup drivers, but for Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing, the test produced an extra day of frustration.
The first question directed at him in a post-session press conference produced proof of that frustration.
“I’m willing to talk about anything but today’s test,” Biffle said, “so any questions that you guys have I’d be more than happy to answer, but it was a pretty tough day for us.”
Pretty tough may have been underselling not just Biffle’s day, but that of all of the RFR teams and drivers.
While Biffle was 34th on the times sheets when the session ended, teammates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were almost as low with top laps that ranked 27th and 29th respectively.
Pressed about his day, Biffle said, “Last year I was the fastest on Thursday, probably the third-fastest on Friday, 12th on Saturday and I was 25th on Sunday. This year I’m 34th on Thursday, and hoping that I’m about 20th tomorrow and maybe 12th Saturday and win on Sunday, but that’s about as good of an analogy I can give you on what is wrong.”
Being off pace at 1.5-mile tracks has been a recurring problem for the Roush Fenway cars. A year ago, those cars went winless at 1.5s. And Biffle had just three top-five finishes and four total top-10s in 11 starts at 1.5s.
Because races at 1.5s are the most prevalent on the schedule, struggles at those tracks are a concern for Biffle.
“We talked over the winter or at the end of last season that our intermediate track program really suffered and that was the flagship of Roush Fenway,” Biffle said Thursday. “And actually a pleasant surprise, our short-track program, which was always the toughest for us actually picked up and we made, what I’m going to consider with the 16 team, a fairly significant gain in our short-track program – Richmond, Loudon, Martinsville – a pretty good improvement. Phoenix, finished third in the fall, so that was kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Our focus was, or at least mine was, let’s get back on track at the intermediates and then we’ll be a threat.”
Judging from the LVMS practice, the Roush Fenway Fords are not yet a threat.
“It’s painfully apparent that that’s not – and today, it’s a half-second, so we could find some things with the car that’s not right,” Biffle said. “These cars are really, really finicky. We know that, so that speed could just come up somewhere and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
The Fords of Team Penske, which finished second and third a week ago at Phoenix, also were less than stellar in Vegas Thursday as Joey Logano was 14th and Brad Keselowski 17th fastest.
Biffle thinks the problems with his team’s cars this year – car that are running very different aero packages than a year ago – could be the result of something very, very small.
“These cars are super, super finicky, so it could be a small spring combination,” Biffle said. “I know one thing, two years ago I was at Michigan and I was horrible – like couldn’t make a lap horrible – and we looked at Matt’s setup and he had a little bit different rear spring combination and we said, ‘OK, tomorrow we’re gonna start with that,’ and we were the fastest car both practices on Saturday and won the race with one spring change. So that gives us some insight.
“We’ve got to take that direction because we don’t have a guy that is very fast to take a look at and say, ‘Hey, what do they have.’ Now, we did recognize last week we weren’t very fast in race trim, went to q-trim and went to the top of the board and were sixth in both of the qualifying sessions and had a pretty fast car.”
Trevor Bayne, who was driving a Ford owne by the Wood Brothers but fielded with major assistance from RFR, was third fastest in practice Thursday.
That told Biffle a lot.
“The 21 car is third on the board in q-trim (qualifying trim), so is there some formula between qualifying and race trim that is giving us a little fuss right now. Actually, we learned a little bit in qualifying trim last week and applied that to race trim, so maybe that’s the same thing that’s going to happen here.”
“Obviously,” Biffle said, “we just have to reformulate a new formula on what we have right now.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment