Those are just some memorable driver and crew chief combinations and ones that happened to be pretty successful. By the end of the 2012 season there might be a new pair to add to the list: Greg Biffle and Matt Puccia.
They would be the Roush Fenway Racing team who is leading the NSCS points after the first five races. While they haven’t yet won a race, Biffle continues to sing Puccia’s praises for having the team off to a fast start.
They’ve led the point standings since Las Vegas following another third place finish. Sitting on the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500, then winning the pole at Bristol has also helped Biffle and company ride the success wave.
“I’ve had a lot of success and I’ve had a lot of failure in racing over the years,” Biffle said on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re focused and prepared, getting prepared every week, to go do the best we can. I know and probably the team knows, we won’t lead the points the entire season or up to the Chase, however you want to say it.
“I know that we’re probably not going to lead the points the whole way. So I’m happy and proud of our team fighting to stay in the points lead running as good as we can every week. But the reality is I know that we may not. If and when that happens, certainly I’m not going to let that take the wind out of our sails. We’re going to work as hard as we can to keep the points lead, keep in the top five, keep in the top three.”
Should he continue to lead the points, Biffle called it a bonus. The goal right now is to show up each week and try to win the race. Then go on to make the Chase, which will only happen if the team continues to the positive attitude they have, even if they aren’t leading the points.
But should they, the credit will go to Puccia. After joining the team midway through 2011 he’s taken the team from pretenders to serious contenders. Their great relationship and how easily the two have gelled have them in prime position to do what teammate Carl Edwards did last season, challenge for the championship all the way down to Homestead.
Only Biffle believes that Puccia is the man to not only get him that far but lead him back to the promise land. The Washington native is attempting to become the first NASCAR driver to win a championship in all three series.
“That guy, I promise you, if anybody can take me to winning a championship, it’s Matt Puccia,” said Biffle. “He never gives up, never leaves a rock unturned. He’s the hungriest guy I’ve ever seen in my whole life and is the most focused to win a race. I cannot wait. I can’t wait till we win a race because he deserves it.
“In my opinion, I’m a little prejudice, but he’s working harder than anybody in the garage, all 42 other crew chiefs. I feel like he’s working the hardest. When he does win, when we win here hopefully in the near future, it will be well-deserved. I think he’s totally capable of winning a championship. Very good under pressure, is not going to waiver from his plan, and his stuff is going to be the best prepared out of the 43 cars when it shows up.”
The same should apply this weekend when the series rolls into Martinsville, the second short track of the season. At Bristol two weeks ago the team won the pole and led the first 41 laps but faded out of contention and finished 13th.
A week ago he started fourth and finished sixth, yet never led a lap at a track he’s won at before. Acknowleding that he had a top 10 car in both events, Biffle still said the team was unsatisfied with the results. Upset they weren’t as competitive as they thought they’d be.
Attention now turns to Martinsville, where he has yet to win. Last fall Biffle started and finished 15th and carries an average finish of 22.4 at the paperclip. The most important stat that stands out: only two top 10 finishes, that being a 10th place in 2010 and his best finish coming in the fall of 2007 when he finished seventh.
It has Biffle’s hunger for more than a Martinsville hotdog burning badly.
“I want a grandfather clock so bad, I got a spot picked out for it,” he said with a laugh. “You look at the stats, Martinsville hasn’t been out best place as a company, let alone me as a driver. Although I’ve run very well there in the Trucks and Nationwide, qualified third, ran good.
“So if the car’s right – we have a light weight car we’re bringing, we’ve been working on brakes extensively – if all the stars line up, we’ve led some laps there too, we have a chance. Not sure if we have a chance of winning but we have a solid chance of running in the top five.”
A belief Biffle hasn’t had before, this year however, it’s apparent that he’s excited to head to the track every weekend, no matter which track it is. He’s got a team he wholeheartedly believes in and a crew chief who it seems he wouldn’t trade for anything. Martinsville will be a challenge he knows, but so far Biffle and Puccia have met every challenge head on and haven’t slowed down.
“A lot of credit is due there,” said Biffle of Puccia. “A lot of credit is due to the shop, our engine program, fuel injection. This has been a really seamless transition for us. It’s been a good year for our cars mechanically, our cars aero-wise and competition.
“Matt has got a plan and he’s leading this team like a 10-year veteran crew chief or a five-year veteran crew chief that’s won multiple races or championships. It’s just clear he’s got a great group of guys together. I give him a lot of credit for where we’re at today.
“I’m telling you, I’m not doing a lot different behind the wheel. I’m giving it a hundred percent all the time, focused. My head’s in the game, paying attention to the car’s setup, stopping in the pit box. I’m doing all the things that I had been doing. It’s just the results are different.