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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 6, 2010
DENISE MALOOF: Welcome to this week's NASCAR Cam Video Teleconference in advance of this weekend's event at Phoenix International Raceway.
Joining us is Greg Biffle, Driver of the No. 16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Greg's currently 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings; 14 points behind the leader and four-time defending leader Jimmie Johnson.
Entering Saturday Night's Subway's Fresh Fit 600 he's the only driver with top 10 finishes in all six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events to date.
Greg also will compete for Baker Curb Racing in Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Bashas' Supermarket 200 where he is the defending race champion. Greg, no doubt a positive outlook heading to Phoenix for you.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it is. I really enjoy that racetrack. I love going out west. It's close to home for me. But, more importantly, I love that racetrack. I love the way it's laid out. Two different corners, one end to the other.
We've had a lot of success there. Won in the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series a few times. But just never have gotten a Sprint Cup win there. Came close, but haven't been able to win there.
And that's a racetrack I'd love to be able to win at. And hopefully this weekend, with everything -- you know, our season started off really well. Hopefully we can win there and possibly, depending on what the 48 car does, take over the point lead.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll go to questions.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell us where you feel like Roush Fenway has improved the most this year, and how far along are you guys to eventually where you want to be?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, Bob, we've improved, I think, in a bunch of small areas. I think we've gotten our aero platform a little bit better. We're understanding that a little bit better. We've got our cars a little bit lighter now. We've revolutionized and keep changing versions of the cars and how stuff's built and mounted and the products we're using.
So we've gotten our cars a little bit lighter. We've gotten the downforce a little bit better. We're starting to understand the geometry, you know, the effects of some of the things better.
We've remounted our rear anti-roll bar system to change that some. We've done a lot of small changes. Nothing big. Not any one thing has been a huge change. So it's been a lot of small things has picked us up a little bit. With as much as we picked, we have about that far to go, we feel like, again, to be competing for wins week in and week out, like where we want to be.
So as we've gained on it, we still have a little bit more left. Definitely the relationship with RPM has helped a little bit on some of these items, making a few of the parts and pieces a little bit lighter, getting an idea how another team may approach a problem, solve something.
So I think with the combination, we've been able to help them. They've been able to help us. And as we continue to develop, we're going to get better and better here with this car. And now that the spoiler's on it, we're anxious to get to Texas and Phoenix to see what kind of changes that's going to make.
Q. That was the next part of my question. How much of what you've kind of learned since the end of last season is going to be applicable to the spoiler as well as the wing?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, a lot of the things we've done, I think, will be the same. I'm not going to try to use the word you did, because I'm going to screw it up.
It will be a lot of the same, you know, because we've made the car a little lighter. We've rearranged some things, where they're mounted. We've worked on the aero platform some. Granted, the spoiler does change the aero of the car a little bit, but I don't think it's going to be a huge difference.
It's not like everything we've learned so far in five races and all winter we throw away and start over. I think that's where your question was leading as well. But a lot of what we've done is going to continue to carry forward with the spoiler.
Q. Greg, as good as you've done so far this year as opposed to last year, it's become apparent that 48's not going to give this thing away. Are you going to have to be -- is someone going to have to be even better than good, they're going to have to be great, to knock them off their pedestal?
GREG BIFFLE: I think so. I mean, we've been good so far. And that's not good enough. We're 13th in points, or we're 13 points or 14 points or whatever out of the lead.
But you're right: A person's going to have to be great. You'll have to be flawless at this. And we've been good so far. We've been good everywhere we've been. That's not good enough. We're going to have to be better than that. We know that. And we're prepared to work hard and continue to get better and better. And we're going to keep putting pressure on 'em.
Q. You sort of answered my question. I was going to ask you about the 48 team. So do you feel you're getting closer each week, each race, to them?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely feel like we're gaining on them. We've beat them a few times this year. Miraculously, I don't know how. I was side by side with him coming to the stripe at Martinsville. He beat me by about a fender.
When we've gained on them that much, maybe on an off day or something, but when you go to a place like Martinsville, which we haven't had that much success at, and we're competing with the 48 at that level, we feel like we've certainly gained on them. And we're certainly going to be able to continue to put pressure on them at these other racetracks where we feel like we're pretty dang good.
So Phoenix and Texas and Darlington are three of our great racetracks. So we're definitely going to keep after it.
Q. Greg, I was just over at the pit crew's conference room and talking with the pit bulls, and I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your pit crew and where they stack up this season.
GREG BIFFLE: The guys, the 3M pit bulls, they've done such a great job. And I can always count on them when the caution flag comes out.
I can remember -- I mean, all the years I've raced, when the caution flag comes out, it's sort of a -- a lot of times it's sort of a disappointment because you're not sure what's going to happen. You're into a rhythm; you don't know how the pit stops are going to go.
I'm excited when I see the caution flag now. These guys, I'm telling you, are world-class. They compete every week on pit road with all these other teams. Rarely, rarely -- and it's been a while since I've lost spots on pit road -- if it wasn't a case where we're making a big change and anticipated losing.
In fact, we put a spring rubber in a few weeks ago, it's guaranteed two spots, and we gained one. You know, it's unbelievable what these guys are doing. And they've picked up this year from where they've left off.
I just came from the shop, and they haven't got the Tissot Pit Crew Award yet. And I was joking with them: Man, what's your deal; what's wrong with you? Just having a little fun with them. But they're a hardworking group of guys, and I'm lucky to have them.
Q. What about the addition of the extra laps at Phoenix next week? How do you see that playing out?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, definitely it's going to make a difference. I don't know how many times in a race I've been to the point where it's like, man, I wish it was over 10 laps earlier or 50 laps earlier and vice versa. I wish I had 30 more or 50 more laps to get back to the front or whatever.
So a guy has been on both sides of that fence several times. I don't think you're going to race the race a lot differently, it's just sort of like musical chairs, where you're at when the music stops. And, you know, cars that are good later in the run, later in the night, are going to be -- that's going to benefit them. And we'll just have to wait and see. But it's certainly going to play a role in strategy.
Q. One question related to Jimmie Johnson, the 48 team. You've obviously been asked some questions about that team, a lot of drivers have been asked. In your position in the points, do you focus on that team, or is it that you talk about them just because we're asking you so often about it and you're focused on other things? Can you just clarify how you guys approach things especially at this point being second in the points with whether you're looking at the 48 or not?
GREG BIFFLE: I'll be as honest as I can with you. I don't care a bit about the 48 car. I would really rather not talk about him. He's done a spectacular job. He's a great driver. Chad Knaus is a great crew chief. And Mr. Hendrick is a world-class guy that provides his team with an unbelievable level of support, confidence and equipment that these guys are able to compete all the time.
My focus is what can we do to win at Phoenix. And there's a lot of guys I gotta beat. And we don't view it as any one particular guy. We view it as we gotta go there and win.
And the reason why we end up talking about the 48 is everyone wants to talk about the 48. And just a step further on that, I have a lot of friends and family and people that watch all -- obviously watch the NASCAR races. And they say: Why are they always talking about the 48 car? Why don't they talk about something else? We know he's leading. We know he's up front, leading the points. This goes more back to last year or whatever going for the four championships.
And I asked some of the broadcasters, I said: Why do you talk about this? Well, people want to know or people want to hear about the 48. So I think there's maybe a misconception there that there's a lot more to it than the 48 team. They do -- not taking anything away from them -- they do a spectacular job. But we end up talking a lot about it because we're questioned a lot about, they're the benchmark, how are we going to catch them. And I think, or how are we going to beat them. And I think that's why we end up talking a lot about that team.
Q. Also want to ask you, last year you were 23rd in the points at this part of the season after six races. Now second. With your change in points, how does that allow you to race? What more are you doing differently? Is it a case of can you experiment more? Can you do some -- as a team, can you do different things on the track, maybe be more aggressive, or were you even more aggressive last year when you were 23rd in the points because you had to step it up? Can you give a sense of what the differences in the points position and how that changes things for you, the driver, and even for you, the team?
GREG BIFFLE: Absolutely. You know, it gives us a little bit of a cushion. It gives us a little -- we can a little more aggressive, go for that position. Certainly where I'm focused on getting finishes. Because we're trying to -- I'm focused on making The Chase and getting our cars as good as we can. And I want to win. That's all I care about is winning races.
The other thing is last year we sort of got off to a really good start the first couple of races. We got caught with rain at Daytona, got us a 20th place finish. We blew up at Bristol, which is rare. We lost an engine. And we didn't have a good run at Martinsville. That's what got us back there in the points, and we've had good runs those three racetracks.
So that really makes the whole difference for us. But we can be as aggressive as we want because we have a little cushion right now.
Q. I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about your Nationwide Series race ride this weekend. What's your motivation for running in that series? Obviously the cars at this point are completely different. So is that just mainly fun for you?
GREG BIFFLE: I'll tell you what, I'm having more fun this year than really I've ever had in the Nationwide Series. It's been kind of a rejuvenated -- it brought the kid out in me again, I guess. And going to a team that there's a limited of resources, I go to Nashville, four or five cars in the shop. They've got six or seven guys.
They're on a shoestring budget. They're putting together good cars; they're working very hard. And we kind of put this deal together. And we're out competing. We almost won in California, our second time out. And you don't know how good that felt for me to be so close to winning that race.
And then continuing to run good everywhere we've been. I'm having a great time. I love the Nationwide Series. It's a lot of fun when you run good. It can be frustrating when you don't run good, because you know you should, if that makes any sense. Or you know you can.
So I've just had a lot of fun. I love the series. And I'm enjoying myself. And I'm glad that Baker Curb gave me an opportunity to come drive their car. And Red Man came back into the sport for a limited amount of time to support that group.
Q. In the Cup Series, do you think NASCAR chose the right appropriate time to put the spoiler on? Seems like a natural progression with Martinsville, Phoenix and then Texas in terms of the size of tracks, and what do you expect out of it this weekend?
GREG BIFFLE: I mean, NASCAR has really thought this thing through. I think they did a spectacular job bringing the spoiler back when they did. Martinsville, certainly. Phoenix. Texas. Kind of builds up to the fastest -- the slowest racetrack we race at Martinsville to the fastest, Texas. They certainly had it planned out. I applaud them on that.
I look forward to it. We have the retro Post-It paint scheme back on, 35th anniversary of Post-It Notes. That's who I had on the car in '05 when we won all those races. It's kind of ironic, every time we ran that paint scheme on the car we won. We hope that brings us luck in Texas. I think it's a great time to put the spoilers back on these cars and we're going to have a real good feel after Texas, the checkered flag there, how these cars are going to race from now on.
Q. With all the media focus, you mentioned, on the 48 and some others, too, your team might be said they moved up quietly or under the radar. Do you feel like you're producing under the radar?
GREG BIFFLE: I think so, because you know, when the race is over, the TV cameras rush over to that car or that car, they want to interview -- or sometimes they overlook how good our team is and how well we perform on the racetrack weekend and week out. So that's a little bit under the radar. That's sort of a good thing, because this sport is about momentum.
This sport's about confidence. And when you got that TV camera in your face going: You know, why did you finish 18th? You had a good run, but you fell off at the end. When that camera's in your face asking you those questions, I'd rather roll in the garage 6th and put it in the truck, talk about how we can be better the next time we show up here and go home. And they're back there interviewing the guys that finished 17th or 18th because they're superstars of the sport. That's a lot of pressure. That's a lot of pressure when you unload your car at Phoenix to produce a finish on the racetrack, because you know everybody's watching you.
And I like to stay focused on what I'm doing. I don't mind -- I can deal with the camera and the asking the hard questions. But it just makes it easier when they don't.
Q. If I may, you mentioned learning earlier. What has racing taught you that you might not have learned any other way?
GREG BIFFLE: We don't have enough time left in the day for me to explain that to you. I've learned so much. And I'm so blessed to be part of this sport. I've learned so much from the big brass at NASCAR.
Sitting down, talking with them, during functions from Jack Roush and with Robbie Reiser, from all the crew chiefs I've had, from the sponsors. I've learned a tremendous amount from Granger, the National Guard. You don't know how thankful I am for all the opportunities the National Guard gave me to participate in some of the things they do and see the things and how they operate.
Now to be with a company like 3M, it's pretty remarkable for me to go in and see a corporation this size, see how it operates, see all the factories and all their things and people. It's been a real live experience for me. And, man, I just look at all the opportunities I've had, how much I've learned and look forward to many more to come.
Q. So far we've had a few exciting finishes with the green-white-checker. Tony Stewart described it as controlled chaos. What's your overall impression of the green-white-checker?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, it is controlled chaos. The thing is, you have to remember is you've raced all day to get track position, to get where you're going to get. And now all of a sudden they're going to pass out the trophy or the points or the money in two laps.
So you're doing anything you can to get that 1 spot, to get that 2 spot, to get the win, even, if you're in that position. So every single car is racing as hard as they can. Now, I agree and disagree with a lot of things that NASCAR does. I disagree with having three attempts at the green-white-checker. I agree with having more than one. And I know that's sort of splitting hairs.
But I think two attempts at a green-white-checker is plenty enough to give the fans and to give everybody sort of that: Let's make sure we finish under green. But the three attempts might be, you know, start -- you know, that starts getting into another realm, starts getting affecting the gas mileage and fuel. If you get into three green-white-checkers and having to clean the track up if there's an accident, that can really, really kind of change the whole format of our race.
So I agree with multiple. Maybe two is the thing. And maybe they'll look at that again as we get further on and see that maybe two attempts it's going to be plenty to get a race finished under green.
Q. You agree that it definitely has changed the strategy overall towards the end of a race when you're trying to decide how many tires you're going to take it on, as in the past you may have taken on four tires or just getting away with two tires now you may say we've got a lot of hard racing today we may go green-white-checker, we may have to rethink this?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, you're right. More of it is the fuel. And the other thing is the track position becomes more important. If you have multiple green-white-checkers. The further you are to the front of the pack, the less opportunity you're going to have of getting three wide, four wide, get the fenders knocked in, get squeezed into the fence. So the no tires, even though the guys behind you are faster, if there's multiple cautions, then they're not going to get a chance to get up there and race with you.
So track position is still going to be very, very important. But it has thrown a curve ball. It's a lot of strategy when it comes to these multiple green-white-checkers. I agree that the fan deserves to see that race finish under green. But we've got to keep it within reason.
Q. Looking at your stats, you've got top 10 finishes in each of the first six races and your average finish is 7.5. Does that -- do you feel like a championship contender right now, or do you feel like you guys still have a little way to go?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I feel like we definitely have the look of a championship contender right now. We do have a little bit further to go. But we've got a lot of racing left. We're only six races into this season.
And I know we're going to have a worse than 10th place finish at some point. But I feel like we've shown we have the makings of a championship caliber team. Certainly do. Because we know that magic number is between 4 and 5 average finish and at the end of the season those are good racetracks for me. So I think with the performance we've got so far, we continue to improve on that throughout the season, I think that we're going to be where we need to be.
Q. What makes the difference between average finish 7.5 and average finish of 4 or 5?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it will be the difference of getting the right push at Daytona. Finishing -- winning instead of finishing 3rd. It will make the difference of what lane you choose at a couple of these racetracks.
We had a great race car at a few of these racetracks, and guys spun their tires at Atlanta, for instance. We were right there sitting 6th with four tires on the 42 spins his tires, jacks a whole lane up, and we end up not finishing where we ran all day.
So those are the things. Just a small -- lane choices and a little better track position, a little better race car, those are going to be the difference between 7.3 and four point whatever it might be.
Q. As you know, they took that kink out of Turn 2 a few years ago at Phoenix, but those turns are still quite different. How difficult is it to get a car to run as well as you want it there?
GREG BIFFLE: That track is one -- that's what makes that track so fun, is it is very challenging. It's so different. The only racetrack I can think of that's an oval -- you've got to throw Pocono out because it's an animal of its own -- from one end to another, Darlington is a little bit different, but really Phoenix stands out as being one of the most different from one end to the other. You almost drive it like a road course. On Turn 1 you brake real straight late and turn in.
3 and 4 is a long, sweeping corner where you're on and off the gas a couple times trying to get the car to turn around the corner. Dogleg back stretch. So it's a unique place. It's always a balance between Turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. And it's always a balance. That's what makes it so much fun is it being that different and challenging.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, Greg.
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