Biffle Skips Learning Curve

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Greg Biffle isn’t in to learning curves.

Not that he’s cocky, by any means. But if given the right equipment, Biffle expects to be an instant contender at any racing endeavor he takes on.

He was able to be that a few years ago in the NASCAR Raybestos Northwest Series, and it wasn’t long after he found himself in championship mode in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

In 2001, with Biffle moving up to the highly-competitive world of the NASCAR Busch Series, many believed it would take a while for Biffle to get adjusted from the trucks to the Busch cars.

Think again.

Not only is Biffle’s No. 60 Ford team competitive, but for the past two weeks it’s challenged for a spot in victory lane. At Rockingham, Biffle finished third behind Todd Bodine and Kevin Harvick, and he followed that up with a second-place finish behind Bodine last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

His two runner-up finishes, coupled with a somewhat disappointing 22nd-place run in the season-opener at Daytona, have left Biffle in third place in the Busch Series points standings, a mere 20 points behind leaders Jeff Green and Harvick.

“Outside of Daytona, I’m happy, really happy about the way we’ve run so far this year,” Biffle said. “I’m extremely pleased. The past couple of weeks we’ve had a really good shot at winning, and that’s all you can ask. The Grainger team is off to a good start and we hope we can keep it going.”

Bodine was obviously the dominant car at Rockingham on his way to victory lane, but Biffle led last Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas four times for a total of 37 laps.

Bodine and Biffle raced side-by-side several times during the 200-lap event, and even touched sheet metal in a couple of instances. Bodine got by Biffle on Lap 188 and never gave it up, although Biffle hit him from behind on the backstretch following a restart later in the race.

“I tore up the right-front on that last lap,” Biffle said. “I got underneath Todd pretty good over there and I just couldn’t get it to stick. I was a little bit loose and got after the throttle a little quick. It was unfortunate, but it was a good run for us. We just need to learn what all of these guys are doing with these cars and get as fast as they are. We’ve done that so far, and if we’re able to continue to run like this, we’ll get to victory lane pretty soon.”

“That Biffle’s a tough guy to race with,” Bodine said. “We tangled a few times out there (last Saturday), but it wasn’t anything where he wasn’t trying to race me clean. He’s going to be a handful for just about anybody in the Busch Series this year. I expect a lot of good things out of him.”

Randy Goss, crew chief for the No. 60 Taurus, said Biffle’s aggressiveness on the track is a bit nerve-wracking at times, but he leaves to the driving up to Biffle.

“He’s just a hard racer and he doesn’t like giving anybody anything,” Goss said. “He doesn’t like pulling over and letting anyone go. I don’t know if he’s going to change much. I know it’s great racing for the fans, but it really makes us nervous sometimes. If you push your luck too many times, it can bite you.”

Biffle was Rookie of the Year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1998 and finished eighth in the points. The next year he won nine races and finished second in the points. The following season, he made it to the top of the mountain in the NCTS, winning five races and the championship.

And while winning a championship in his first year in the Busch Series might be a stretch, it certainly isn’t out of the question for Biffle. He’s the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award, ahead of Tim Sauter by 14 points after three events.

Biffle’s Grainger Ford sports the same No. 60 that Mark Martin – who retired from Busch Series competition after the 2000 season – used the past several years on his way to a Busch Series record 45 victories. The cars, however, are not the same. In fact, all of Biffle’s cars are new, with the exception of one of Martin’s superspeedway cars, and that was a backup.

“Yeah, we’re doing it with all new equipment,” Biffle said. “Mark’s cars were older, so we wanted to build new ones for this team. The only thing that’s the same is the number, and hopefully I can carry on the winning tradition that Mark had for so many years at Roush Racing in the Busch Series.”

Biffle and the Grainger Ford team head to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for the Aaron’s 312. Like Rockingham, Biffle has never raced at the 1.5-mile oval, so it will once again be a bit of a learning process.

The same thing will be true for Darlington Raceway, the venue after Atlanta.

“From what I hear, Atlanta’s a fast race track, so I’m excited about going there,” Biffle said. “Hopefully we’ll get a few practice laps around there and see the lines we need to run, watch a few guys in what they do.

“Mark’s won there a few times, so maybe he can tell us a couple of things about the place. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and running well.”

“I’ve been a bit nervous all winter, and sometimes I thought we were getting in over our heads with this deal,” Goss said. “There are some good teams in the Busch Series. We haven’t raced at Atlanta or Darlington, and a few other venues we haven’t been to before.

“If we can get through these next few races with some good finishes, then that will be a measuring stick for us. This first year, I don’t know if we can be a championship contender or not, but we can win a few races and be a contender next year. You can count on that.”

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