Home » NASCAR - Sprint Cup Series

Biffle And Roush In Need Of The Big Turnaround

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 17 2016
Greg Biffle and team owner Jack Roush could really, really use some on-track improvement in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Greg Biffle and team owner Jack Roush could really, really use some on-track improvement in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Speedweeks is a lot like spring training in baseball in that everybody at Daytona in early February is high on optimism. But, as with baseball, optimism in NASCAR comes a bit easier for some than it does for others.

sprint-logo-08If one were to go looking for a driver whom, above most others could be running lean in the optimism department, your search might reasonably start with Greg Biffle – who has not won a race since 2013 and whose Roush Fenway Racing team has only won twice since that time and those victories came courtesy of the moved-on driver Carl Edwards.

Asked this week about his thoughts of the coming 2016 season, Biffle fell a few crumbs short of sounding optimistic about a team turnaround.

“There is a lot of unknown,” he said.

Pressed on his concerns, Biffle said, “If our cars have speed now. We will find out soon enough.”

Biffle will be starting his 14th year as a full-time driver in the Sprint Cup Series. All 474 of his Cup starts have come in Jack Roush-own Fords. Nineteen of those starts have ended in Victory Lanes. Twice – in 2005 and 2008 when he finished second and third respectively – he’s finished in the top
three in points.

But the good times, the times when Biffle and RFR were always a threat to leave tracks with maximum points, have faded to if not black, then dark gray.

Asked how he has been coping, Biffle said, “It is tough. It is very tough.

“Last year, unfortunately, we knew that next month we weren’t going to show up to the race track and

Greg Biffle has not won a Sprint Cup race since 2013 but says things are looking up because of off season changes to his team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Greg Biffle has not won a Sprint Cup race since 2013 but says things are looking up because of off season changes to his team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

win. We didn’t have the cars to do it. We didn’t have the speed.”

Roush has taken much of the blame for the slow cars. He has said that the organization he heads failed to adjust to recent rule and specification changes. Roush, one of NASCAR’s earliest tech and science guys, vowed that the team will begin to incorporate more of those things in the future – a future that started over the off season.

The changes are highlighted by the importing of new humans into the quest for speed.

Biffle and teammate Trevor Bayne start the 2016 season with new crew chiefs. Baffle’s pit box will hold Brian Pattie, a veteran brought in from Michael Waltrip’s folded team.

The Biff was asked if he feels he needed a new crew chief.

“I wouldn’t say I needed a new crew chief,” he said, “but it is a matter of personalities and chemistry and all of that. We needed a change. We have a whole bunch of changes and a new crew chief. I think Brian (Pattie) will bring speed to our organization, not just the 16 car. He will bring stuff that will help the 6 and 17 from being over at Waltrip. We needed outside information. Setup information and knowledge. We needed that also along with new people.”

Also the target of newly imported people is the RFR competition department. Kurt Romberg, formerly of Hendrick Motorsports, is the new technical director of aerodynamics. Kent Day, who owns a Ph.D. in engineering, will run the sims program. And Vojin Jaksic returns to RFR as research and development/special projects manager. He had been with Waltrip and Joe Gibbs Racing after leaving Roush in 2011.

“We have a bunch of new people, a new crew chief, new car design, new aero package – this is probably the most changes I have had in one season in my entire career,” Biffle said. “This is like all new. Every aspect of it.”

And?

Well, there’s some optimism.

“Now I feel good,” Biffle said. “Now I feel really good. Our 500 car has speed and we are really excited about that. How do I feel about Atlanta and Vegas? I don’t know yet. I don’t know til we get there and

Trevor Bayne, left, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hope to get Roush Fenway Racing back on the winning track. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Trevor Bayne, left, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hope to get Roush Fenway Racing back on the winning track. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

get through practice. If the car has speed and long multi-lap speed, six, eight, 10 lap speed and we are close to the competition then I am happy.”

Biffle was 20th fastest in qualifying on Sunday. Not great. But there was good news in that teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fifth fastest. Good news for the team and good news for Stenhouse, who also is coming off a dismal 2015.

“Big gains is what we need,” Stenhouse said. “We definitely brought a faster Fastenal Ford down here than we had last year and I think that showed in qualifying. That being said it is still a speedway race and it doesn’t mean a ton but it does give you confidence that the work that they put into it this offseason has made a difference at least for Daytona. I do think going to Atlanta and going to Las Vegas and Phoenix and California will still be probably a truer test to the gains we have made but I do feel confident in the direction that we went last year towards the end of the year and the offseason.

“The guys all feel really confident about the choices that we have made with hiring and the management department in different areas and the changes we have made to the race cars and the things they are seeing. Us coming down here and having a good strong qualifying run sends a message back to the shop guys that are the ones doing the work and continuing to put the hours in that they are able to see the hard work on our speedway cars pay off.”

Bayne was 32nd in qualifying. Even though he has a 500 victory – it came driving for the Wood Brothers in 2011 – he knows he and his team are still in need-of-improvement mode.

“Last year we wanted to see more progress than what we saw but I think we can see that progress this season,” Bayne said. “For me, what would be great for the first half of this season would be consistently in the top-15 every single week.”

Bayne is 24. Stenhouse is 28.

Biffle is 46. He spent much of his career as part of a talented driving ensemble at Roush. He teamed with people like Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.

Now, he is a mentor. In addition to giving guidance to Bayne and Stenhouse, he is there for FRF XFINITY driver Bubba Wallace, who joked this week that Biffle has been “here since the sport started”.

Of the mentor roll, Biffle said, “It is a lot of fun. You have that opportunity to do that and one day they will be sitting in my shoes if they are lucky. They may not being doing this for that long of a period of time. It is fun. I enjoy spending time with those guys and kind of guiding them a little bit. Let’s face it, we all know when we were young or teenagers or whatever that we always knew more than what people were trying to tell us. It is probably still that way. An old-timer comes up and tells you something, it is probably true because he has been there and done that. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your life, advice is always good advice.”

In referring to himself as an old-timer, Biffle showed that he knows that he is getting toward the traditional upper end of driving careers.

During his pre-500 Media Day interview, he talked long and seriously about his future at RFR. There are a lot of questions surrounding it. Questions about getting a new deal done and how the new charter agreement between NASCAR and team owners will affect his future.

“We are still working on that,” he said of a new contract. “I haven’t had a chance to sit down with our people yet. Our contracts were based around the old system so obviously the new system won’t work around the old system so we have to figure out how that translates.”

Whatever the long-term future brings, Biffle hopes that the short term brings fast cars and success. And, perhaps, a victory in Sunday’s 500.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Next Race: Daytona 500

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, Feb. 21

The Time: 1 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, Noon ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90

Distance: 500 miles (200 laps)

 

Can-Am Duels

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Thursday, Feb. 18

The Time: 7 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90

Distance: Two qualifying races of 150 miles (60 laps)

 

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Next Race: PowerShares QQQ 300

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Feb. 20

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90

Distance: 300 miles (120 laps)

 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: NextEra Energy Resources 250

The Place: Daytona International Speedway

The Date: Friday, Feb. 19

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90

Distance: 250 miles (100 laps)

 

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 17 2016
No Comment

Comments are closed.