Interview with Greg Biffle


April 23, 2005

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Greg Biffle on his way to victory in last night's Busch race at Phoenix

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus, has won two races so far this season, and is in second place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings heading into tomorrow evening's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Biffle, who won last week at Texas, has reached Victory Lane at PIR in the past in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. He was the Nextel Wake-Up Call guest this morning in the infield media center at the track.

GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus - WITH TWO VICTORIES, THREE TOP-FIVES AND FIVE TOP-10S, YOU'VE HAD A VERY GOOD SEASON SO FAR. WHAT'S THE REASON? IS IT YOU, YOUR CREW CHIEF, DOUG RICHERT, TEAM CHEMISTRY? "I really think it's a little bit of everything. Doug has learned a lot. Really, our turn was the middle of last year. You saw that we started doing a lot better. We won at Michigan, we almost at Kansas, had a really good run there, and we've been kind of marching forward since then. We had a few hiccups along the way, the end of last year. And then coming back this year we've pretty much knew we picked up from Miami and have been right ever since. We're not quite as good as we want to be here, we're kind of baffled by that because this is really the best race car we've had all season. But if we could get rid of the Martinsville race, that I didn't do very good at, but other than that we've had a phenomenal year. Our bodies on the Taurus are really good. Our balance is getting better and better. It's a balance I like to drive. It's a little bit different, not much different than what my teammates have, but we're real close, all of us are. It's just been a team effort, really, is what's got us where we're at."

Greg Biffle

YOU WON A TRUCK RACE HERE IN 2001 AND A BUSCH RACE IN 2002. WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO WIN THE CUP RACE in 2005? "Probably a miracle? No. I think we're going to be all right. We looked at the lap tracker and our last run of Happy Hour, when we put tires on right at the end of the evening when it got cooled down, we feel we were about where Jimmie Johnson was. It looked like the 01, Joe Nemechek, was a little bit better, so I'd have to say we're probably in the top six or seven. We didn't do any qualifying, which makes me a little bit nervous today going into qualifying, because we were just behind on our race trim. We weren't where we needed to be on speed, so we kept working on it and I'm glad we did. We figured a few things out right at the end of practice that are probably going help us in the race tomorrow night. But, we stand a chance, certainly, we stand a chance of winning here. Not probably as good as we did at Texas or some of those other places, but we can win here. I just don't know. We didn't run around cars a lot, and it's tough. All you can do is look at the laps from other cars and kind of guess at it."

YOU SAID YOU WERE AS FAST AS JIMMIE JOHNSON. IS THAT A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS, AS LONG AS JIMMIE IS IN THE POINTS LEAD, OBVIOUSLY THAT'S WHO YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE AS GOOD AS OR BETTER. IS THAT YOU'RE MEASURE? "Yes, it's one of them. Plus, he seemed to be the most consistent, not the fastest, but the most consistent. So, we look down the sheet and pick him as probably one of the better cars in practice, and a couple of our other teammates did, they said the 48 looks about the best, meaning best consistency. Joe Nemecheck put down 10 laps that were pretty fast, but sometimes that's easy to do. We use him for two reasons: yeah, one is we're racing against him in points and we're always going to take measure where he's at, even though there's somebody better than, we're always going to probably see where we stack up to him at the same time. So, yeah, that's some factor."

YOU'RE NOT ONLY THE HOTTEST DRIVER ON THE TRACK, YOU'RE THE HOTTEST ONE WITHOUT A CONTRACT. WHAT KIND OF POSITION DOES THAT PUT YOU IN? "It's obvious a year and a half ago I wasn't happy at all with the equipment that we had or performance. No driver would be. You go ask somebody that's run 25th or 30th all season and ask them how happy they are with their race cars they've had to drive on Sunday and they're going to tell they're not very happy. Nobody would be. So, I was looking for other opportunities, you know, I'm not going to be able to stay here forever because I'm not going to have a career or sponsor or whatever if we keep running like this. That was a factor then. Now, obviously it isn't a factor. I've got really good cars, I've got really good equipment. I like working for Roush and I like our organization. There's no reason for me to want to go somewhere else. And I'd actually be taking a step backwards if I did because, logically, if I decide that I was going to drive something else, number one this season is out the door because we're not going to be able to compete the rest of the year, whether I was even going to drive the car, who knows? That would be stupid on my part. Number two, it's going to take a year or two with another team, obviously, to get back probably to where we are now. So, regardless of all the other factors, just performance-wise wouldn't be worth me to go do something else. We're just negotiating. I'm trying to get the most out of the contract I can, and I'm trying to get paid what all the other Nextel Cup drivers are getting paid. I'm happy where I'm at, and just negotiating appearances and things like that. In fact, we have a meeting today, just so it doesn't become an issue. You got to probably get it out of the way. I'm not worried about because I don't feel like the ball's in my court, but I don't believe I have anything to worry about, so it's not a really a huge concern of mine."

HOW DID THE TRACK REACT WHEN THE SUN WENT DOWN LAST NIGHT, AND IS THAT A PROBLEM WITH YOUR VISITION? "It is. It's always going to be a factor pretty much at any race track for that 20-minute period of time or 15-minute period of time when the sun is at it's lowest possible - you know, we've all driven down the freeway when the sun is about to go below the horizon. You've got the sun visor down and you're trying to dodge the sun from being just directly in your eyesight and there's nothing we can do. We can't look to a different part of the road, we can't block it with our hand, you can't do anything. So there's always going to be that little bit of time. Here it wasn't as bad because obviously the higher the angle of the sun when it goes behind something the better chance you have. So, meaning it's going behind those condos down there and the grandstands when it's up here, so it really doesn't have that right-at-you angle of the sun. For about 20 minutes it's harder to see the wall coming off turn four. I think the worst, I don't want to talk about a different race track, but the worst problem we've ever had is Darlington because the sun sets over three and four turn, where there's no grandstands, there's no anything. So, it's the top of the wall and then the sun is right there. It is as low as it can possible get. There's nothing to block it all. That's probably the worst, where a lot of other places there's grandstands or something to block that once it gets so low."

SO THE SOLUTION IS BUILD MORE GRANDSTANDS? "Yeah, build more grandstands. Put a big banner over there." HOW DID THE TRACK REACT TO THE SETTING SUN? "The track reacted when the sun went down, what it felt like to me is it gained grip, meaning the tires just adhered to the race track better. It gets hot and greasy we like to say, the track does, when the sun's beating down on it and it starts to get rubber put down. But when it falls into the nighttime you see the lap times just start inching down, and the balance really stayed about the same for me. My car's balance was pretty close to the same."

DID YOU EVER ENVISION YOURSELF AS ANYTHING BUT A STOCK-CAR DRIVER? DID YOU THINK OF OTHER FORMS OF RACING? "I really didn't. I really wasn't that involved, believe it or not, with oval-track racing. I did watch all of it when I was growing up, but where I grew up I didn't really say I wanted to be a race-car driver, per se, but I loved to drive anything that had four wheels and tires and a gas pedal. When I was 10 years old, I'm driving up and down the road, back and forth. We had some property and my grandmother lived at the end of the road, so was taking the car and driving back and forth, and riding my motorcycle every day, I loved to ride my motorcycle, and just loved to do with driving. I begged my dad for a go-kart about once a week. He probably got tired of hearing that, but I didn't have any place to ride it. They owned their own business, steel construction, were busy a lot, so it probably would've been difficult to take me to any kind of sanctioned place to go riding. I had that interest and I watched the racing, but didn't really connect the two, like, 'that's what I want to do,' until I was in high school and I started racing oval track, hobby stock, Friday and Saturday night, street stocks. Then I kind of got the bug for oval-track racing at that point. That's right about when Jeff Gordon was coming on to the scene. It was a little bit later than that, I guess when I was Late Model racing is what I meant, when I was having a lot of success, he was also."

UNLIKE THE PAST, NOW YOUNG DRIVERS ARE DRIVING STOCK CARS INSTEAD OF OPEN-WHEEL CARS... "I ultimately paid the price for that for being how late I was in age when I came into Nextel Cup racing, compared to Kyle Busch, who is 19, that's Nextel Cup racing. That's when I was Late Model racing, or just thinking about Late Model racing."

LIKE THE GENERATION BEFORE YOU. "Yeah, pretty much." YOU MAKE THE CALL ON CHANGES TO THE CAR. HOW DO YOU PREPARE TO DO THAT? DO YOU HAVE NOTES? "Yeah, that's what we've been doing all morning, is going over where we want to start with the race car, because I know that what I start with right now and what I decide what we're going to put in the race car is what I have to work with all night. Wherever I decide to put the left-side trackbar, we can't move it. We can move the right up and down because we can adjust that. I kind of place myself in a position where I have rubbers in each spring and rubbers that can come out of the spring and things like that. It's just stuff that we agree on and that we talk about. I honestly don't know how a driver can let the crew chief make the decisions on what to do with the car when the crew chief doesn't have any idea what the car is doing or can feel what the car is doing. They'll have, I guess, suggestions. I've tried it some, just like in testing or something, they're like, 'Let's try and put more left-rear spring it,' or 'Let's take some out,' and the car is a little hit loose in, goes tight in the center, they're like, 'Let's take left-rear spring out.' I'm thinking, 'What happens when I spin out going in the corner now?' you know, if you're going to do that, and I'll say, 'Okay,' and I won't say a word and I'll try it, and it makes it worse. I know what the car's doing on every part of it, corner entries, center exit. If they've got ideas I like to listen to it, but I think it's a community solution. You just can't tell 'em the car's loose, do whatever you feel like whatever you feel like doing, because spring rubber or air pressure or trackbar, there's so many things that can be done, how can they decide all things? I think it's definitely community, I don't think the driver can do it all, but I definitely think he has to have some input on which solution it needs to be?"

FROM A DRIVER'S PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP "It's going to take me not making any mistakes in the last 10 races. I have got to go test Martinsville for two days and I've got to get better there as a driver. And there's a few other race tracks that I'm not as good at that Kurt's a little better than I am and maybe Jimmie Johnson might fall into that category, but we'll see. It's just going to take me to be focused 100 percent and be the best I can for those last 10, not make any mistakes."

DOES THE TEXAS RACE MARK YOU NOW AS A DIFFERENT DRIVER, MOVING UP A NOTCH SO THAT PEOPLE TAKE A DIFFERENT LOOK AT YOU? "Yeah, I guess that I would think so. It might let people know that we're capable of that. Like I said, I had to drive the race car. NASCAR has changed these rules and I went into John Darby's office, stomped up in there after we won Miami and did so well and said, 'What is your purpose? Why are going to cut an inch of spoiler off? You're not going to be able to race side by side. They're going to be harder to drive. We've got good side-by-side racing now.' I thought the racing was good, and he says, 'That's what we want.' They want the different series to be difficult. They're creating some race strategy into that with their decisions. So, yeah, I'm kind of taking a circle around that question, but I guess are. I think it was difficult cars to drive there and that maybe we did the best at getting our car the way it needed to be for that track."

YOU USED TO OWN A RESTAURANT. "I like to not forget about that, but I was involved a little bit in the restaurant business through a friend of mine and they did really well. It was a Ma and Pa deal, it was a breakfast/lunch type of restaurant, and they made a fair amount of money, and they sponsored my race car as well. So, this guy I was friends with that entrepreneured different couple businesses and got them going and sold them and did other stuff. He owned a sign shop and he came to me one day and said, 'Hey, this pub is for sale,' this brew pub or pub and grill or whatever, and laid all the stuff and said we should buy it or let's go in together and buy this thing, a partnership. I looked at it and thought it would be fun to do, the business. I was that age that thought it would kind of be fun to own something like that. The price was reasonable because the person wasn't making it and they needed out. It wasn't really a huge investment for us. I was looking for a form of income where I didn't have to be there every single day. My race shop that I ran with four or five employees did not function if I wasn't there. I was the guy that ran the place. When we left, it was lock the door, we're going racing. There was nobody there to answer the phone, nobody's home until we come back. I wanted to go Winston West racing and that entailed a lot more travel, gone from the race shop a tremendous amount more and I knew that my business wouldn't do as well if I left. And being in the northwest is difficult to find people like myself or the guys that work for me to run the business while we weren't there. It wasn't like something we could put an ad in the paper and hire a guy. North Carolina, you can. It's amazing the amount of talent that people can build race cars. So, long story short, I was looking for an avenue that, one, interests me, and, two, I thought that I could be an absentee owner to a degree and earn money while I was gone to be able to keep racing and make my house payment and put gas in my truck. That's why I did it."

HOW'D IT WORK? "It worked great for about the first six months when I was there. I got my call from Roush six months later or five months later after I bought the thing to go truck racing. So, the five months we were there we turned the thing around and I think I had about all the money that I invested in it back in five months that we ran it. It did really well. And then it was downhill from there, because I wasn't there. It's a big cash business, exactly, so it was benefiting his pocket and not mine, and I was making my own money so I didn't need that money, so - but anyway, I hung in there for about three years and did it. I guess it was longer than that because when I went Busch racing is when I bailed out because I just wasn't there. Truck racing, the schedule, you know how it is. Race, three weeks off. Race, three weeks off. Race, two weeks off. Race three in a row, have a week off, so I was home a lot, I could travel back there a lot. But not Busch racing."

DO YOU PREFER THE TREND TO MORE NIGHT RACING? "As long as I start doing well at night racing, I like it."

DID YOU GROWUP RACING AT NIGHT? "Yeah. Friday night and then Saturday night, too. I like night reason for two reasons. One is a little bit cooler inside the cars, which comfort is a actor sometimes when it's really hot outside. And, two, normally it gets us a day off. I'm a big proponent of having a day off, more for the teams than myself. A lot of these guys that are busting their butt in the garage have families, have wives and children that when you give them Monday off their kids are at school and their wife's at work, and when they have Sunday off it's a day they can spend home with their family and I think that's important for our sport is to give these guys a day home with their families. So, Saturday night racing I like. Sunday night racing I'm not as big of a proponent of. I wouldn't mind it. But I think Saturday night racing - and I understand TV and primetime and all that plays a huge factor and there might be more rating on Sunday nights - but I think Saturday night's great."

DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF THE IMPACT YOU'VE HAD IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, BEING HERE AND SEEING THOSE LICENSE PLATES? "Yeah, I think so. It's kind of funny that my parents fly to the Vegas race and here, and I've got friends that do, and it's like flying out of Charlotte to a race - the entire plane. It doesn't matter what flight they take, the whole plane is full of race fans coming to the races, and it's pretty unusual that you just pick a flight, book it and you go to the airport and get on it and like 75 or 80 percent of the plane is full of race people. Besides that, yeah, I do feel like I have a lot of support out here and there a lot of fans and maybe I pioneered some of that, pioneered some of the drivers coming from the West Coast. We hired Kurt Busch. Right after I came from Washington, Kurt Busch came from Las Vegas and I picked him out of the Gong Show. I actually was participating in that one and I felt like he had the most qualification out of the drivers that we did. And then Kasey came from the northwest. When I had a lot of success in the Truck series a lot of team owners came to me and said, 'Hey, is there any other guys out there like you, that want to drive?' So I think that some of that may open the doors for some of those people in the future."

DO YOU KNOW THE STATUS OF NASCAR IN THE NORTHWEST. HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING TRIPS TO DRUM UP BUSINESS? "I've met with a few people. I've met with some people from the Marysville area that owned the airport, some people from the commissioner's deal to get that going up there. I just wish that I had enough money, I'd go find a piece of property and buy it and be a track owner or something. I'd like to see a race track out there. I think that it will be bigger for NASCAR, when it happens, it'll be bigger than what they expect. I think it'll be a bigger event than anywhere else they can put a new race track right now - Long Island, New York or anywhere else they put a race track, that will be a bigger impact on our sport than any place they could choose. Just because I know the northwest, I know the amount of fans that are there and the amount of people that'll come and see the race. I think it'll be huge. I think they need to build a place like Richmond or one-mile race track. I think it'll be great facility for up there."

WITH THE SECURE SPOTS IN THE STANDINGS THAT YOU AND JIMMIE JOHNSON HAVE, IS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU MIGHT START TOYING WITH DIFFERENT SETUPS? "I haven't really thought about that yet because I think we're still a little bit vulnerable. Maybe in the future we might. Right now I'm so focused on trying to get the point lead from Jimmie Johnson that that's all I think about day-in and day-out. I wake up thinking about it, I go to sleep thinking about it. And I walked in this building thinking about it. Not that it means anything, but it means something to me. Because of the Chase format, it really means nothing until we get to there. But I'd like to lead the points."

WHAT ABOUT THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR CREW CHIEF DOUG RICHERT? "We talk a lot and we think about the race car a lot and that's chemistry. He was over at my motorhome at 8 o'clock this morning, or 8:30, and I was drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper and we were talking about the car for 45 minutes. I didn't see any other drivers or any other crew chiefs doing that. I don't know that we're going the extra mile, but I feel like we're doing everything it takes to be competitive and to try and win this deal. If you would've listed in on the radio yesterday you would've wondered where the chemistry was. I made two laps and told him it was the worst car I had ever driven in my life, I don't know what was wrong with it and what you're going to have to do to it, but it was absolutely horrible. We've gotten it a lot better, but we're both scratching our heads this morning."


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