Sunday in Phoenix Biffle followed up his impressive Daytona 500 run with another solid performance in his No. 16 3M Ford Fusion. He never led a lap but with his team continuing to improve on the car during the course of the race was able to mount a late race charge to fall in behind winner Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.
“I certainly would have thought we would have run better today than we did,” said Biffle.
“We fought the car really bad beginning of this race. I guess the track is just a lot different than it was on Friday. I don’t care so much for this format of doing all of our practice on Friday when we get here. I like to practice and qualify and then Saturday we have happy hour. We have two practices to get ready for the race.”
This weekend’s schedule put Biffle behind he felt and he missed on what he needed. Luckily crew chief Matt Puccia kept working on it every time the car stopped on pit road. For all his hard work Biffle just didn’t think the car was that good and was ready to write the day off with a 15th or 20th place finish.
“But boy, it started coming around, coming around and really took off,” he said. “Certainly excited about how they got the car going. But I got off a little bit for today’s race. I probably was being a little aggressive. Great third-place finish.”
Heading into the season’s third race at Las Vegas next weekend, Biffle sits second in points behind Hamlin. After a 2011 season where he went winless and finished 16th in points, Biffle’s plenty pleased with how his new team is working together.
The team’s back to being competitive and Puccia seems to work well with Biffle. They were fast during Speedweeks in Daytona, sitting outside pole for the 500 and nearly winning their Duel race. Another top 10 starting position at Phoenix continued the team’s momentum and it was enough to keep them focused when the day could have gone south.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Biffle.
“I’ve got all new guys, I’ve got guys working really hard on the car, crew chief and team, and a guy that’s really, really smart paying attention to all the fine details and that’s Matt Puccia. And that’s the reason why we got two third-place finishes, because of his leadership and decision making on pit road on what to do to the car. It’s executed, he’s thinking about it. He makes the decisions he wants and that’s why we’re sitting here now.”
Yet there was still a bit of disappointment for Biffle. Even though he was ready to take whatever finish he could get during the race, beforehand he was sure that he could have won the thing. It didn’t work out that way and in being disappointed with a top five finish shows how the team is back to being where they should be.
Biffle acknowledges the team is clicking on all cylinders right now and even with cars that aren’t to his liking they’re bringing home solid finishes. Confidence is at a high going forward he says and their success during the year will come down to him learning from mistakes that he makes behind the wheel.
“Well, certainly don’t want to be greedy, but I thought myself or the 5 [Kasey Kahne] would have won the race today, honestly,” Biffle said.
“My was just so good and qualifying – I got high in 3 and 4 and was in that fuzz and came back and I wasn’t very fast crossing the white and the second lap I come back and qualified seventh. I knew my car was just super fast.
“But I went a little more aggressive on the front end. I was a little nervous about it with the heat today and how warm it was, if what I was going to do was going ot work out. I was trying to keep the front end right on the track real good, and it slid the nose and shattered the front tire. I fought that all day.
“It would be loose in and then shatter the tire when I’d try to go to the gas, so I made a little big of a mistake probably, but I guess we could have only been two spots better. But Vegas I won’t make that same mistake.”