Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, was subject of the weekly NASCAR Sprint Cup teleconference in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway. Biffle won at Pocono in 2010 and currently sits just five points outside the Top 10 in the latest Chase standings.
WINS ARE KEEPING YOU RIGHT NOW AS YOU SIT JUST 5 POINTS OUTSIDE THE TOP 10. A VICTORY THIS WEEKEND WOULD PUT YOU IN A PRIME SPOT FOR A WILDCARD SPOT FOR THE CHOICE. CAN YOU TELL US HOW IMPORTANT A WILD CARD SPOT IS TO YOU AND WHAT IT DOES TO ADD TO THE EXCITEMENT OF GETTING INTO THE CHASE? “Certainly, it is very important. As you know and mentioned that we are only five points out of the Top 10, there are a lot of tough guys right there and right behind me. Even if I get into 10th or ninth, I will be locked in the Chase temporarily. There are a lot of guys fighting for that spot, but a win, and being up near that Top 10 or 12 in points, would secure you a fairly comfortable spot as a wildcard. Although, with two guys both having wins now, it may in fact take two wins. Two wins would probably guarantee you a spot if you can stay in that Top 15 in points."
WHAT UPCOMING RACE ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT? “I think I am most excited about Michigan. Michigan is so much fun and I love that race track. It is always a fuel mileage race and there is always strategy. We can race four-wide in a down force configuration and no other race track on the circuit can we do that except at Michigan. I really like that place."
YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WITH YOUR CHARITY FOR THE TORNADO VICTIMS. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT? “All of us are doing what we can to help the victims of the tornado. There have been so many weather events and tornados all over the place, not just in Joplin. So quickly we forget about the flooding that had taken place. We’ve got a lot of requests in from groups needing help to either relocate or rebuild or use temporary facilities. We are an animal based foundation where we help household pets and we’ve done a lot. We have helped several groups all over the place. We were getting bombarded by the first round of the tornados and then the flooding and now Joplin. We are certainly doing what we can and I know everyone is doing their part to help. The Red Cross is doing a tremendous amount for those people. We applaud everybody that is helping and want everybody to think about going out and looking at the American Red Cross as a way to help."
ON THE RACING SIDE, IT SEEMS LIKE MORE AND MORE THIS YEAR WE ARE SEEING FUEL MILEAGE RACES. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT TO? “You know, it's funny because any race track, any race can become a fuel mileage race if the conditions are right just like a storm. If the conditions exist, it can become a fuel mileage race. So, for instance, at Charlotte and Kansas, we have a caution flag with just three or five to just outside of that window where everybody can make it on fuel. If that caution flag comes out at that particular moment and then no other cautions persist or come after that caution, it becomes a fuel mileage race automatically. Now, any time that caution comes out, if it comes out five laps later, doesn't matter what race track it is, it's no longer a fuel mileage race. So to answer your question, it's really just a chance of luck when that caution's going to come out. It could be this weekend at Pocono, it could be Michigan. We’ve even seen fuel mileage races at Richmond. It all depends on what lap the caution comes on. And ironically enough, two weeks in a row, it came three or four laps before the whole field can make the rest of the race on gas."
LAST YEAR YOU HAD SOME PRETTY STRONG CRITICISMS OF POCONO. THEY HAVE MADE SOME SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS TO THE TRACK SINCE THEN. DO YOU FEEL SAFER HEADING THERE THIS YEAR? “Absolutely. It is probably ten years overdue. The race track, I applaud them for taking action. But there are other tracks that need to. There are a few other places that we don't have Safer Barriers all the way around yet or on the interior part of the race track. We have a split in the wall where the safety vehicles come out that could be better aligned. Look at all the wrecks over the years, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Steve Park and all the other wrecks. You look at the wreck that I had with Kasey Kahne and, I think, Mark Martin. Then you look at Elliott Sadler's wreck. At some point it's screaming out that we've got to do something. Certainly to have taken action, we're extremely happy about that change before something bad happens."
THERE ARE SO MANY POTENTIAL THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN WITH THOSE WILD CARD SPOTS, DOES IT MAKE IT MORE INTERESTING TO YOU AS A DRIVER? DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THE NUMBERS MORE NOW? “I think that we do. Basically what they have done is make it easy for us to calculate. You have to be Top 10 in points at the start of when the Chase came around. You have to be in the Top 10 to be locked in. That is plain and simple. We know that 11th and 12th are going to go off of wins. So, we knew that at the beginning and we are still aware of that. Top 10 you are locked in and 11th and 12th will come to whoever has the most wins. That can change, obviously, up to Richmond. Let’s say I have one win, Jeff Gordon has one, Keselowski has one and I am ahead of all of them in points. We go to Richmond and Keselowski wins at Richmond or Jeff Gordon does, it automatically changes that night who gets in. The reality is that whoever has the most wins, and we have talked about emphasizing winning forever, people think if we pay more money to win, give more points to win, whatever, that people will try harder. We try as hard as we can every single week to win. That does not matter. That is what 43 guys show up for every weekend. A lot of people don’t believe that, but that is what we show up at the race track for. Fans wanted to see guys like McMurray, who had three spectacular wins; they felt like he should be in the Chase. Or other guys that had two wins and didn’t quite make it. They knew that Jeff Burton and all these other guys didn’t have any wins, but were consistent and were a solid team and ran good every race. That is what it takes to win a championship. You must perform every week, not every once in awhile. So we have changed it to where wins will get you in now. Once you are in the Chase, you have got to perform on a consistent level; otherwise you will never win the title."
IF YOU ARE A COUPLE WEEKS OUT OF RICHMOND, WOULD YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE BEING SAY EIGHTH IN POINTS OR 15TH BUT WITH A COUPLE OF WINS? “I think that all depends on who you are battling against. Let’s say we are two weeks away and you are the only guy with two wins, it is all circumstantial, but I would take the two wins because I am locked in. Maybe I am in front of that other guy or maybe there is a guy 13th in points and he wins and bumps me out. If you are the only guy with two wins, then you are pretty much safe because two guys aren’t going to win at Richmond. It would be pretty ironic for both guys ahead of you to win the last couple of races. To answer your question, two wins would probably be a safer bet than eighth because if you had an engine failure or wheel come loose then you are guaranteed with the two wins versus eighth in points. If you have a bad night, someone else has a top five run and they leap frog you in the points. It is all about the math and the numbers and how you want to set the board up. If you are going to give me two wins and everybody else has one, then you are probably pretty safe because two guys would have to win and be higher than you in points."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON NASCAR ALLOWING YOU GUYS TO SHIFT AGAIN AT POCONO AND WHAT THAT DOES FOR RACE STRATEGY? “I think it is long overdue. I really applaud NASCAR for giving us the shifting back. You know, it sort of got caught under what I will call an ‘oxymoron type of rule’. We tried to get a gear limit in order to limit the engine guys from getting way out of whack, which we totally needed to do, but Pocono sort of fell through the cracks because it is a little more like a road course than a true oval. To be aggressive and for a car to perform properly at that track and in order to make passing more capable, we really needed to shift at that race track. They made a run that said your third gear ration has to be this, except for road racing where you can have whatever you want within a range. Pocono probably should have fell under that in the beginning with at least one or two options for third gear. I am certainly grateful that they gave it back to us because you will see a better race at Pocono and more passing. That is what the cars needed. We needed that gear to be able to shift at Pocono."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE AND THE IMPORTANCE IT PLACES ON THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION FRIDAY? “I was a proponent of that and kind of pushed NASCAR for doing that a little bit. What happened was it was hard to get a practice schedule or plan in place for lots of teams because we weren’t sure what the weather was going to do in the sessions. You are forced to try and get a fast lap, yet it is not the optimum time to do qualifying runs. You want to go out on the coldest temperature and greenest race track to get a fast lap and then switch to race trim and then switch back to qualifying in a temperature and environment that you are going to qualify in. It was difficult for us to align all the starts, if you will, when it came to that procedure. Now it is more cut and dry. We are going to take the first practice session of the day and we are going to make that the one, preceding qualifying, that you have to run a fast lap in. It is much clearer for us. We are looking at the weather, will it be cooler or will it rain? All of that is out the window now and it is business as normal for us. I like this new procedure of just having one practice session. Everybody knows what it is and when it is over, that is the lineup. We don’t have to wait for the second session to see where we are at."
SOME GUYS AREN’T GETTING THEIR TANKS FULL OF GAS AND YOU HAD ISSUES WITH THAT EARLIER THIS YEAR. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE GOTTEN YOUR ISSUES ALL TAKEN CARE OF AND ARE YOU SURPRISED IT IS AN ISSUE FOR PEOPLE STILL? “No, I am not surprised because we still are. None of our teams, on a consistent basis, are getting their cars what we call ‘full of gas’. Just because the system we are using, I am not going to call it flawed, but it is not the optimum for trying to put 18 gallons of fuel in a car in 11 seconds. It is challenging. They have a lot of challenges for plugging the system in and not getting air trapped in it. If you move the can two degrees it will allow fuel to get into the returning air side and it spills a lot of gas on the ground. It is a difficult system to get down. With anything new we will hopefully get it better over time. I think being green is very important and recapturing the vapor is important. But this system is challenging for teams to get the cars full of gas. That is what it boils down to. The pit crews have gotten so good. They can put four tires on the car faster than we can put the fuel in. It is tough to sit on pit road and wait for fuel versus going and getting that track position. That is why some guys are coming up a hair short on getting the cars full."
IS IT JUST CIRCUMSTANCE IF YOU GET IT FULL OR NOT? IS THERE A WAY TO DO IT? “It is mostly circumstance. If the fuel guy got off the wall perfect, you stop exactly right in front of him, he hits the connection perfectly the very first time and when the guy jacks the car up he didn’t get a little gap in the o-ring from the returning air side to the fuel side and then he turns around and gets the second can just in time then you can get it full right about when the four tires are getting done, maybe one second longer. That is what it boils down to. It is just a chance of getting it perfect every time. You know how circumstances are. There are going to be things like guys will be slow on one side or maybe there is traffic getting in and out. There are all kinds of things that can change you by one second and then you are not full of gas. Or if that thing gets sideways a little bit and lets fuel into the air side, it traps it and stops it from fueling the car completely and you won’t get any gas in the car. You have to grab a second can in order to restart the flow. That is the worst case, when something like that happens."