Iteleconference:/I Greg Biffle
November 8, 2005 | 2:38 P.M. EST
Q. I'm just wondering, when you make the case for me on why you don't consider yourself out of it, these next two races, and I know Homestead is a good track for you, tell me why you're still feeling as optimistic?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'm not feeling as optimistic obviously, but Tony and Jimmie got in a little tangle earlier this season at Phoenix and Tony got wrecked. The other thing is, is they have had really flawless runs, and Phoenix is a little bit more of a hazard than Homestead, so to speak. But anything can happen. Jimmie has not run that well at Phoenix; if he ends up 18th, I win the race, Tony gets crashed, or something happens to Tony Stewart's car, that puts us right in the position with having to beat them by only about five spots and Homestead to win the title. You know, that is what it's going to take. So I'm saying we're not out of it, but, you know, our hopes are not like they were.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Carl briefly, just this is his first full season, to do what he's done and how maybe you've seen him progress as the season has gone on?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, Carl has been very fortunate that he's got an organization like Roush around him. We're able to provide him with all of our information that we have won all of our races with, us, Mark and Kurt and Matt. So once you give somebody all of that equipment, all of that information and all of that knowledge, you know, really all they have to do is apply it. You can take any number of drivers that have a good ability about driving, and put them in a situation, and they should succeed. Carl has learned a tremendous amount from the beginning of the season until now. We saw him win Atlanta and then go to Bristol and wreck, qualify and then start in the back and knock the radiator out of it in 20 laps. Those are rookie mistakes.
So he's made the mistakes, and he's recovered from the mistakes. He's self taught so to speak, so he's really learned a great deal this season. You know, lately he's kind of learned a little bit on his own how he likes his car to drive; speaking of which, Atlanta and Texas, his setup was a little bit different than the group. Not a lot, but just slightly different. So he's kind of, you know, got the feel of what he wants his race car to feel like, and is starting to hone in on that. But he's done a great job.
When I came on board, we were in a tailspin, so to speak, and it was a brand new team and new cars and we couldn't build cars to even qualify for the races. It was very, very tough for us. There's situations and things that have a lot to do with a person's success in this business, and Carl's was the best scenario possible. When he came in, we were winning races as an organization, we had great race cars, we were able to put a great foundation around him. Been there, done that, made all of those mistakes myself and Kurt has and all that. So you're able to help somebody else not make all of those mistakes, because we've made all of those mistakes as a company and as drivers. So that makes it a lot easier for us to create a solid foundation for somebody to succeed. That says a lot about our suspect.
Q. How important is a good qualifying run as a track like Phoenix?
GREG BIFFLE: I think it's pretty important. It is more difficult to pass at that racetrack. It's a little tighter corners than the two racetracks we've been at. We feel pretty good about qualifying there. We tested out there a couple of weeks ago and felt extremely good about our race car. We were really quick and drove really well. I feel we'll have a Top 10 qualifying effort, I believe, and that will be important for the race, for sure.
Q. When you were just talking about Carl's situation and how he's gotten all of the equipment and everything, all of the resources, do you think that your own situation with a start up team and really just basically starting from scratch, kind of served as a blueprint, like if you give everybody the same thing, everybody can be competitive and as a result. All five of you are in the Chase, and Carl seems to be benefitting from that.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, absolutely. And it was the same for Kurt when he joined it wasn't the same, because Kurt had joined a team that had been established for four or five years with Chad little driving. So he even had quite a head start than we did. I mean, keep in mind, we didn't even have a building to work out of when we went to Daytona to try to qualify for the 500, and we were a full second off with both race cars. We wouldn't even have come close. But the 17 gave us one of their cars so we could make the 500, and then we went to Vegas and failed to qualify, the second race of the season. So I mean, going from there to where we're at today, you can't even compare that. That's going from the 32 car hardly making races to you can't beat them now. You're scratching your head going, what are they doing, we can't even keep up with them. So that's the turnaround we've had.
And, yes, I mean, so many drivers come up to me and ask me, how do I get an opportunity and this and that. It's so hard for me to explain to them that they are going to ruin their career by not getting in the very best equipment possible; but yet, how do you get a guy into that equipment without having anybody knowing who he is? So that's the big thing, that's the most difficult thing out there is to get that person the right opportunity. And I like to use, for instances, Kevin Harvick driving the 3 car. I mean that, first season, when he got in the 3 car, or the 29, he won the first race he drove and he did very well. That has was his best season, ever. And it reflects on the team and how well prepared and how good of race cars they had and how good the driver was to tell them, you know, what they needed in the race car.
So for drivers that have opportunities like that, to replace drivers, like Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett, for drivers that have those opportunities presented to them, are priceless. You know, those are the kinds of situations, Kasey Kahne, takes over Bill Elliott's ride. Those are the opportunities that you have to have to succeed in our sport, I believe. It's going to be a long time when a driver comes in and gets in a no name car and runs up front and really dominates and makes it on his own. That's almost going to be extinct today.
Q. In your case, it was a matter of speaking up and saying, "I want to be as equal as my teammates," is that the kind of thing that a young driver has to do to really get what he wants, really just push his case, even at the risk of sounding like a squeaky wheel?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes and no. The way that our organization runs, each team runs as its own team. So you're only going to be as strong as your team is; meaning, all of the same guys mount my bodies, all of the same guys do the trim work on my cars, my team puts all the suspension on it, sets it up on the chassis plate, gets it ready to go to the racetrack and it's all under the watchful eye of the crew chief. So if any part of that puzzle is not got the experience and know how and the brains to do it, you're doomed. You're done. I mean, it will not happen. And now, our company has changed a little bit to where the bodies are we've got more and build everybody's stuff kind of more the same. And a lot of companies are like that, like Ganassi and other teams, a lot of them assembly line the cars. We don't necessarily do that, but we've applied more general knowledge in there.
So, yes, it is, if we go get a 17 car, and we don't set it up right and we don't have the right frame heights, we don't have the right attitude and the right stuff in there, we're not going to run well. So it's more than just the particular car, and not that the owner says, oh, I'm not going to give the rookie the best stuff. It's like Wal Mart or Home Depot or Lowe's, if you will. You go in there and get all of the product and build your own house, you know, and if it's a piece of junk when you're done, it's not our fault because we gave you the same materials as that other guy over there that has the beautiful house. That's how our company really works, and it's gotten more we've gotten better at communicating so everybody's stuff is more similar. But that's really how a lot of race teams run. There's all of the parts; go build your own car.
Q. Sorry to ask you another Carl question, but he has won four races, and I was going back in the record book and Tony Stewart is the only one closest with three victories in his rookie year. I had gotten back to 1972 that no guy in his first full year had won that many races, and I grant you, the equipment, but how much is it him beyond the equipment and given the learning curve, what's the expectation for this guy once he knows what he's doing?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it's kind of funny that you say that, because what we see a lot of times is that once they figure out and know what they are doing and know what they want to do and want to have, they don't do as good, you know what I mean? It sounds crazy but that's what happens. Right now he doesn't know any better. So he I looked at his setup before the race for Texas, and I said, he's doomed. This isn't going to work. And you could have probably asked my teammates the same thing and we would have been, you know, that's not the way I would do it, but, he's probably going to be okay.
But he's out of the box a little bit and trying stuff, let's say, in Happy Hour, and he liked the way it drove. And then he came I had an appearance with him that night after qualifying, and he's all upset, he's scratching his head. He's like, "Man, I don't understand." He goes, "My car was perfect. I thought I was going to sit on the pole and win the race." He goes, "I qualified 30th." You know, he's all discouraged about his car. And this was I think it was after the Busch race, as well. Maybe it wasn't after the Busch race, this was Friday night. And so he was bummed out, you know, because he didn't understand what had happened. And so that's you know, he's got ability, as a race car driver, don't get me wrong, all of us do. And when we don't technically know any better, we'll try different stuff and then if we get in a car and we go down on the corner and turn the wheel and the things cuts really good and we can put the throttle down and it sticks, hey, that's all we care about. We don't care what the paper says or what spring it is or shock or anything else, because we don't in any preconceived notions of hey, that's probably not going to work on lap 50 or 100 or 200, it's going to get too tight and I'm not going to be able to drive it with those front shocks on it. He doesn't know that.
So he's going to try that stuff. It just comes with the experience, and that's why a lot of times when we get more experience, we get hard headed and say, hey, that's probably not going to work. In fact, it does, so it's kind of like falling off the horse. How many times are you going to get back up on there and ride over the same ditch that you fell off three other times? It takes a lot of confidence to get back on there and do it again and say, hey, I'm going to try this again and see if it hurts me. But Carl has got a wonderful amount of talent, he does. And so does Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and my teammate, Mark, they all do. I would have to say, I hate to brag, I don't want to make it sound like I've got a big head, but I think that we have the best group of drivers in the NEXTEL Cup Series. I think we have the best five drivers in the NEXTEL Cup Series, I honestly do, and Carl has obviously shown that and so has everybody else.
Q. One more quick question about the longevity of Ricky Rudd, I guess he's going to sort of retire or just not race full time. Could you fathom race 786 plus starts in a row in your career?
GREG BIFFLE: No. I mean, not even. And I'm kind of the halfway in between the new generation and old school because I started much later than a lot of those guys did, than a lot of the guys now, because I've raced late models and raced the Truck Series for so long and the Busch Series, which a lot of those guys didn't no necessarily. But that's an incredible deal, totally incredible to have that many starts. And he's got a lot of respect around the garage with all of the fans, and he's a great driver. And I can promise you that I'm not going to have near that many starts consecutive when I retire. Hopefully by choice, but that's an amazing deal.
Q. After the race you said you had made a spring change, right front, before the race?
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, sir.
Q. I wonder when you look back at that now, what was the process that prompted that and is that's the decision that blew up your season?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, well, left front spring change, clarify that a little bit. I may have said right front. Here is what happened. I mean, we're all running the softest springs as we can, and what happens is that spring will travel down and it will stop; and meaning, it's flat. It's coil bound is what we call it. It will not travel any further. Usually when that happens and it gets down in the coil binds or it runs out of travel, it usually makes the car push. You turn the wheel, and then the left front tire has got all of the weight on it and the right front doesn't have enough, and it will slide the front of the car, it will not turn.
The race that I won there, in the spring, we had a spring in the left front that was hitting a little bit and I didn't really like it. Just in the middle over the bumps, and we found a spring that the 17 had, that had a little bit better travel. I mean, I'm talking, you know, thousandths of travel at the spring, whatever 20 or 100 or 50, I couldn't tell you. And we put it in and it traveled more and it didn't hit over the bumps and we won the race. We murdered them with it and it worked very well.
So, with that knowledge, we carried that knowledge on and we've used it a few other times. And we find out when we put a new spring in that a new spring that has not been coil bound and beat up usually survives better, has more of a lifespan; or works better when it's new than when it's old, like a new car compared to an old car. So we changed that spring for the race. The thing was awesome at Happy Hour. And I kind of had a wrench in my gut in the morning when Doug told me that he changed the left front spring and said that he had one that had a little bit better travel and it was brand new. Because the one that was in it was great and was perfect; and the car was so fast in Happy Hour, a lot of people said, "Well, it looks like the 16 car is the car to beat."
Long story short, I went into turn one with that spring in the car, and it was miserable. And our problem was is we made a fatal mistake. We did not run any laps with that spring in the car. We didn't make one lap with that spring in the car. And for some reason, that spring was just a funky spring. It came out of the bolt wrong or whatever it did. It looked proper on the spring raider (ph) and all that but when it was put into the car, and we've done that in testing, we did in Phoenix. We changed the left front spring and the thing drove like crap. It was horrible. We took that one out, put this other one in that has about the same amount of travel, the car is two tenths of a lap faster and doesn't bottom out.
So, you know, it's just we've done it and won races doing what we've done, and we've kind of made a practice of it when we know it's critical. We'll put a brand new one in for the race. But we feel that we need to have at least five laps on it to make sure that it's going to function properly. So Doug and I talked about that today.
Q. I was interested when you characterize yourself as being between the old generation and the new and referred to the kind of long apprenticeship you had in the Trucks and late models. My question is: What advantage do you think that, what I presume to be a much better understanding of how the car works, that that gives you, what advantage does that give you when you make the transition to Cup; contrasted maybe to some young drivers who might have skipped some of that apprenticeship?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, certainly anybody can make mistakes but let's use Carl as an example since everybody is asking questions about Carl. You know, he doesn't understand a lot of these things and didn't know any better and tested a lot. For instance, at Bristol, qualifying, and coming to take the green, hit the inside fence, ruined the car and then busted the radiator out 20 laps in the race. Those are things I've that done in the Truck Series and in the Busch Series and have learned from them.
Some people's learning curve are much better than others and people learn from other people's mistakes and Carl's done that. He's learned very fast and has been able to avoid a lot of those situations. But part of it is when you race the type of talent in the NEXTEL Cup series, sometimes you don't get into more of those situations that you do in the Truck and Busch Series. I've been in some situations and been in some wrecks and been through some stuff in the Trucks and Busch that, you know, just doesn't happen in the Cup Series because of the drivers' abilities. But I've learned a great deal racing the Trucks and the Busch Series. I've learned so much. I've learned so much car control, I've learned about pit stops. And practice makes perfect almost, and I just had a lot of that time behind the wheel before, and I wouldn't really change it for anything. I do have a Busch Series title and a Truck Series title, and if I moved out of those divisions a year earlier, both of them, I wouldn't have either title. And looking back on it, I can't say I would change a thing.
Q. While you and Tony have clearly had differences in some recent weeks, when you have been in situations with him away from the racetrack, do you notice a discernable difference in his personality?
GREG BIFFLE: Not a whole lot. Tony seems like I see Tony kind of like how I was maybe four or five years ago where it doesn't take much to get you excited. And not meaning in a bad way, but just kind of to perk you up a little bit. And it's kind of like it's kind of like the old guy that just doesn't not as much affects him now, you know what I'm saying? So a lot of that little stuff doesn't really get me hot under the collar, that's about the only thing I see with Tony.
I've been with him when somebody was being annoying and came up and was trying to bug us when we were just trying to chat for an autograph or something and he was a little snippy, you know, and that kind of stuff doesn't bother me as much. The guy was kind of being rude. But I think that all drivers or all athletes have to have that kind of I don't know what word I'm looking for, but have got to have that drive and be fiery. Otherwise, you're not going to be a good race car driver. If the guy gets out of the car and he finished third and he's the happiest guy in the world, he's got a grin ear to ear, you know, he's never going to win a race. The guy that gets out of the car that's third that's kind of kicking the rock on the ground saying, dang it, you know, I didn't win, that's the kind of guy that and people don't a lot of people don't understand that. A lot of people think, gosh, he should be thankful for getting third place of be excited about it. And then fire inside that makes us do this every week and want to do it and would love to do it, and would live to do it, is to win. That's all that matters in the world is to win that race or whatever we're doing.
And I think that's I've noticed in a lot of drivers and heat a lot of drivers, it's funny that there are certain things that are exactly the same about us.
Q. Is it possible to flip that off when you get away from the racetrack and flip it back on when you get to the racetrack, or is it on all the time?
GREG BIFFLE: It's a little difficult to flip it off completely. It's a little difficult. Because I have a little bit of a competitiveness about me all the time, whether you're bowling or you're doing whatever, and I think all of us do have a slight bit of competitiveness about us.
Q. Talking about Kurt Busch and getting people who are getting used to, maybe are not quite used to him or whatever, how much popularity enters into this, how hard is that? And I know there have been times when you've said something or people have called in or whatever and maybe it was misunderstood. How much does it figure in how popular you are when there are so many people watching and e mailing and calling about the sport?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, it means a lot. That's one thing that a lot of fans probably don't realize, and like the last conversation I just had about turning it on and off away from the track is I take it very personal. Unfortunately, too personal, what a lot of the fans think and say. I kind of get upset when they say stuff about me or things like that when I feel like they I feel like a lot of times I come out of the wrong end of the stick on it. Because, for instance, at Martinsville, a lot of people don't know exactly what happened between Tony and I. They hear the commentators, don't really see exactly what happened. They are going, gosh, Greg is racing Tony awful hard. Boy, he just bumped into the back of him and pushed him up the track; and why is he doing that, he's a lap down.
Well, from the outside, sure he looked like an idiot for doing something like that. But, when the things is, you give the guy the room, and then he squeezes you in the fence, on purpose; and driver to driver, we know that guy did that on purpose. He blatantly did it on purpose. Inside the car, all the adrenaline, the heat, the concentration, that will fire you up like nothing else. So popularity, yes, it means a great deal to me, and a lot of the drivers, you know, you try and be level headed. I try and be truthful about what happens, and I feel like anything I do is justified. I don't go off and do stuff or say stuff that I don't mean or I try and be straight, honest about it. And then I saw Tony and Mark, you know, Tony kind of gave Mark the, "you're on the outside of me and I need the whole racetrack" there at Texas and they had some words after the race. So I'm glad it was just not me that has had a little run in. But he's a great race car driver and he's probably going to win another title which I'm happy for.
Q. How much is it influenced by what they say in the booth, because when people are watching it, sometimes you don't get a chance to jump up there and say until the end, but sometimes people's minds are made up.
GREG BIFFLE: Yes, it is, and a lot of times I've been in the booth. So they are watching it, I don't want to give away a bunch of the TV stuff, but they are watching it on monitors, as well so. Really what you see on TV is what they see. They do look out the window some, as well, at the race. But they are basically calling the race off of what they see on the monitors, and what they can see from looking out of the skybox. But they really have to pay attention to the monitors because they can't be talking about the race between Kurt and Rusty, and it's not even on the TV. So they have to be talking about what's on the TV. So sometimes they don't see exactly what happens until they do the replay, and they are not going to do a replay unless there's a wreck.
So that whole scuffle between us, there was no replay, well, they didn't see the actual they saw kind of what happened afterwards. They didn't see what led up to that. So, you know, everybody can kind of deduct their own opinion of what has taken place on the TV. And for instance, last weekend, not to get long winded there was a big article, big blow up about me accusing Hendricks of phoney foul play with their testing thing. And I got so angry about that because I simply said that Jimmie was driving the 25 car in Phoenix, which I don't think is right. Kind of a loophole in the system, if the driver, the crew chief and car chief are not present at the test, then they won't be charged for the test. Well, it's kind of a gray area, and everybody does it. The 19, Mayfield tested the 91 car in Texas. Everybody does it.
And I simply said that, you know, they should not allow the driver they gave us 14 days to test each team. That's what we should be allowed to do. And then it was this big thing about, I've got this big thing against Hendricks or something. It's like, gosh all mighty, you say one you've got to be so particular on what you say, because they can take it out of context so easy.
Q. In that interview, there were other teams thrown out there that were doing it, but somehow all of that didn't make all of the story.
GREG BIFFLE: Right. I thought Denny Hamlin was driving the 80 car, which were Tony Stewart's cars at Phoenix, and I was simply comparing our lap times to theirs. And somebody else had brought up that Jeremy had tested the 91 and he was like, oh, I didn't mean to say that. Kind of like, because it's technically against the rules and Jim Hunter had the perfect quote, and I'm glad that he said that: "It's not in the spirit of the rules." And NASCAR always that's their blanket statement when somebody has gotten around the rules and they don't care for it. They will say, "It's not in the spirit of the rules." Meaning, they put that in place in case a driver was hurt, or a driver couldn't make it. Like Jimmie Johnson's shocks at Dover, what was the quote? "Not in the spirit of the rules," which is what his shocks were and they made a rule change so that that couldn't they could not be built like that any more, but didn't penalize him. And that's you know, when they say that, that's a firm statement that's saying, you know, this is not a standard practice, but, you know, they can do it legally.
Q. All the contenders seem to be looking forward to Homestead, but in your case, since you adapted better and quicker than anybody else, might you be the guy at Homestead, maybe even more than you were last year?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I believe I tend to believe so a little bit. I think all the competitors are looking forward to Homestead because it's the last race of the season, we're finally going to get a week off.
But yeah, I'm really looking forward to there. Although, a lot of things, a lot of things that we're doing right now, aren't really what we did in the spring and whatnot aren't really working. So we have a little bit of concern whether what we're going to attempt to do at Homestead is going to be similar to what we did last year is going to be fast. We tested Phoenix and we know that will be great. So Homestead is a little, you know, gray area, but we feel really confident about it. And it's going to be tough for us to win from here obviously but we're trying to get, you know, we'll finish second, third, whatever, the best we can.
Q. Two quick questions. First of all, have you been able to put your finger on what's different on your car now, as opposed to the first third of the season when you got your victories? And secondly, could you talk quickly about what Jamie is going to bring to the team next year?
GREG BIFFLE: The cars that we were winning with in the beginning of the season really are similar to what we have now. People learn throughout out the season and catch up. We worked hard over the wintertime, and I think we were a little ahead of the competition and I really like the way the cars drive and feel, so we really haven't changed them any. We've made them a little better. Our teammates have got their cars a little better numbers than ours, but we have kind of stuck to our guns because it's been so successful. That's some of it.
And just to generalize, the competition has caught up. It's clear that Tony Stewart and Joe Nemechek and all of these teams, the 48 have which keep in mind, they were all right there, second, third, fourth, when I was winning those races. So they have just they are the ones kind of getting a couple of the wins and we are right behind them. So we are not that far off. We're just not dominating like we were. Jamie, I look forward to him bringing once he gets in our cars and drivers them, and can try and make us better. I'm looking forward to what he can bring to the table, certainly. Maybe some of the things that they have done over there that have been successful, obviously it's a different manufacturer, and a lot of things that they did may not work over here, and he doesn't know everything that they have done. But he'll know his basic setups, what he's driven and raced and we'll see if those play out anywhere like Martinsville where we need some help company wide. We'll see if his knowledge of how he drives the track and his setup will help work for us.
Q. Can you describe the feeling of going into high speed turns that fans might not understand?
GREG BIFFLE: Boy, it's hard to explain. The cars are going to fast, and when you turn the wheel down into the corner, you pretty much I mean, you feel a lot of side load, a lot of G forces on the car. A lot of stuff is happening so quickly and you're on the edge of traction with the front and the rear tires, constantly. I mean, because if you weren't on the edge of traction, you'd be going faster, that's the object is to go as fast as you can. So that's probably the scariest probably the scariest thing there is for us.
And then you start adding other elements of cars being in front of you, behind you, beside you, so many things that play a factor. It's very fast. I mean, when you're going down the freeway going 65, 70 miles an hour and you see that concrete barrier go whizzing by, I mean, think about that, times at least two, is how fast we're going close to the corners of those pieces of concrete.
DANIEL PASSE: Thank you very much everybody for calling in. Thank you so much, Greg, for taking the time out to join us, and good luck with week in Phoenix and speak to you all next week for the last one of the season.