· Greg Biffle comes into this weekend’s STP 400 fresh off his first victory of the year at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Biffle leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings by 19 points over fellow Ford Racing driver and Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth.
· Biffle has two of the three all-time Ford NSCS wins at Kansas Speedway (2007 and 2010).
· Mark Martin has the other Kansas NCSC victory for Ford (2005).
· Carl Edwards has seven top-10 finishes in nine Kansas NSCS starts, including four top-fives.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has been leading the point standings since finishing third at Las Vegas, and increased his lead to 19 points after winning last weekend at Texas. Biffle, a two-time winner at Kansas Speedway, held a Q&A session before the first of two practice sessions on Friday.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – WHAT ABOUT WINNING LAST WEEK? “It certainly was kind of a relief to finally get the 3M Ford Fusion in victory lane. It was an exciting race for us. I know it might have been a little bit caution-free, but we had a good car, good pit stops and I really look forward to coming to this race track. This is one of my favorite tracks. It’s pretty high on my list because I’ve got a couple wins here. It’s always fun racing at this race track.”
WHAT MAKES A RACE EXCITING FOR YOU BEHIND THE WHEEL? “As a race car driver, when you’re driving around under caution it’s no fun. Restarts are fun and challenging in a way. We had a few of those. The 56 and I start side-by-side twice. Once he picked the inside and once he picked the outside. Pit stops and pit cycles and where you’re running on the track, trying to make your car better – every single lap something happens or you’re grading yourself. I’m getting my lap time and the leader’s lap time, or if I’m running third I’m getting second-place and fourth-place lap times. Every single lap of the race something is happening. When I enter the corner, maybe I’m trying a little bit different line like running the bottom – a lap car is coming up so I’m gonna try and run the middle. The tires are falling off and I’m changing lanes and trying to figure out where I’m running faster. My spotter, Joel, tells me the 29 is running all the way up against the fence and he’s the fastest car on the track, so I look and see, do I have room behind me to take the chance of going up there and running that high line? Because I know it’s gonna take me a couple of laps to get going. So Mark Martin is 20 car lengths in front of me. I’ve been trying to catch him and I’m driving my tail off, so I go up and run the top groove and I lose about eight car lengths to him, but the track felt like it had a lot of grip, so I’m gonna enter a little faster and try it. So I drive in the corner a little faster in three and four, and I almost get the fence because the thing is sliding up there and I go to the gas and I have good momentum off, but I lost another eight car lengths to him. Now I’m not 15-20 car lengths behind him I’m 30-35. That didn’t work, so I’m back to running the bottom and I reel him back in some and have gotten back to where I was, so, for us, there is constantly racing going on and adrenaline. I’ve got to be thinking, ‘OK, you’re gonna pit in 19 more laps. What do you want us to do to the car?’ So you’re thinking about what you’ve got to do to be better. Is more wedge gonna help me? Lower the track bar? So for us and the race teams, there’s constantly stuff going on.
GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – “It may not look like it from the outside, maybe just standing up there watching, but when you’re 20 car lengths apart you can’t really visually tell whether you’re getting close or not per lap, but if you’re watching the lap times on a FanView or you’re listening on the radio to the teams, you’re understanding all the strategy and competitiveness that’s going on during that green run.”
DO YOU FEEL ANY URGENCY TO WIN THIS TITLE BEING 42 YEARS OLD? “I feel an urgency because I’m ready to win it, but that’s really, to me, about it. I feel great. I feel better than I ever have in these past five seasons with the way our team is and how competitive we are, and how I’m driving the car and how I feel personally. Yeah, I think anybody feels the urgency to want to win it and, obviously, some day I’m not gonna be doing this anymore.”
IF YOU COULD TAKE PRESIDENT OBAMA AROUND AT SPEED. WHAT TRACKS WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO THAT AT? “A couple tracks come to mind. One would be Bristol because it’s badass fast and people probably don’t understand what it’s like being inside that car, or at a place like Texas, Charlotte, Atlanta – one of our 205 mile an hour getting into the corner race tracks that has a lot of grip on a new set of tires. That will wake you up on what it’s like to sit inside there for 500 miles.”
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT POINTS NOW OR IS IT TOO EARLY IN THE SEASON? “I start thinking about points when we go to Daytona for the Daytona 500 and thinking about the Chase and how I’m gonna win the championship this year, next year or last year. It’s never too early and what I think about going into each race is exactly that, one, how am I gonna perform in this race, but, more importantly, when it comes down to the last 10 of the season how does this compare to one of those 10 race tracks and how are we gonna compete with one of those last 10, and how are we gonna be better now looking forward to the last 10? Obviously, you’ve got to make the Chase and we’re off to a good start on that, but I’m always thinking about that because the last 10 races are really what counts. All these races in between now and then there are two things – one is to win because that gets you bonus points, and, truthfully, other than that, it doesn’t really matter unless you’re learning something, learning about your cars and learning about your setups for those last 10.”
THIS IS ONE OF THE LAST 10 BUT THEY’RE REPAVING THE TRACK. CAN YOU DO ANY SCOUTING REPORT FOR THE LAST 10 AT THIS TRACK? “No. This is just for fun. This is just for the trophy.”
DO YOU FEEL WHAT YOU’VE DONE SO FAR THIS YEAR, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE THE NO. 1 DRIVER/TEAM AT ROUSH FENWAY? “No, I still think the 99 is the number one team at Roush. I’m the underdog.”
DOES YOUR GUT TELL YOU WITH HOW THE YEAR HAS STARTING THAT THIS COULD BE THE SEASON? “Yeah, I wasn’t doubtful let’s say two or three races into the season when we got the point lead. But, I was like, ‘OK, now we’ve got to keep it and we’ve got to perform at this level everywhere we go at all race tracks.’ So we ran good at Phoenix. We ran good at Las Vegas. We actually ran very well by my standards at Bristol and Martinsville, but we got 13th-place finishes at both of those tracks with a little bit of an excuse. At Bristol we broke a bump stop on the right-front shock with 17 laps to go. We were going to be well in the top five at that race track for sure. I don’t know if we were gonna compete for the win, we were the first car on tires, so our result doesn’t really reflect. Even though 13th is not a bad finish, our result doesn’t reflect how good we were at Bristol, and the same at Martinsville. We were in position to be the lucky dog twice to get back on the lead lap and would have finished inside the top 10, which, finishing inside the top 10 at Martinsville is really a win for me and our team. So Martinsville, I look for a top 10 finish. Coming down to the last 10 races of the season, that is gonna be the one race track we look to and say, ‘We just need to finish in the top 10.’
GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – “And everytime I’ve run there I’ve gotten better, but now we’ve run competitively at every venue – superspeedway, intermediate tracks, which have always been our strongsuit, and the short tracks we’ve been pretty respectable on, so, at this point, I feel good about just improving on all those fronts – just getting a little bit better than we are now.”
HOW WILL THE WEATHER HAVE AN EFFECT ON THINGS THIS WEEKEND? “That’s really difficult to do because the race track has a tremendous amount of grip. You’ve kind of got the worst scenario. When we first show up on Friday the race track is what we call ‘green’ because it doesn’t have a lot of rubber down. So it tends to be the fastest then. Well, you compound that with cool temperatures and this being the coldest day of the weekend, that really compounds the grip. So the track will be very fast today, lots of grip, and then Sunday it will be the complete opposite. It’ll be slick and hot and not a lot of grip, so it is difficult to get your car set up for those conditions – doing a lot of our practice today. The one thing is tomorrow will help us some because the track will be a little closer to what it’s going to be.”
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTING THEY’RE TEARING THE TRACK UP AFTER THIS RACE? “Yeah, I am but the race track, I heard it’s coming up in some spots and we have to keep the race track in good condition where it’s not coming apart during a race. But, other than that, I think the race track has a lot of character. It gets slick, it gets slow, a lot of strategy it takes. The racing could be improved by the left side tire that we used at California. Goodyear knows that. I did all I could do. I was the president and gave the speech several times to get a different left side tire here because it was so much better at California and it was a lot better across the seams and it was easier to drive because it gave the car more grip and speed, but they didn’t want to change it because there’s only one race left. I understand that part, so, long story short, I’m a little disappointed they’re repaving it, but I understand we’ve got to keep the race track together as well and not have something happen like what happened at Daytona.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion, moved into second-place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and trails teammate Greg Biffle by 19 points. Kenseth spoke to the media before practice on Friday.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion – WHAT ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? “It’s been a good start to the season for us, so this is a great race track and one we always look forward to coming to. I guess it’s the last race before they pave it, so I’m looking forward to getting on the track today and see how our stuff is to hopefully make it a little bit better than what we had last week and go from there.”
ARE THERE ANY OTHER TRACKS THAT NEED TO BE REPAVED AND ARE THERE TRACKS THAT SHOULD BE OFF LIMITS AS FAR AS THAT GOES? “There are a few things there. I don’t think they’re paving these race tracks because they think the racing is gonna be better or they don’t like the way the racing is or their surface is, I think most times the tracks get repaved because they want to get reconfigured or because the pavement is gonna fall apart, and, obviously, after the pothole in Daytona and that concrete came up at Martinsville one time, when things like that happen I think it makes everybody look at their surfaces more closely and seeing if there are gonna be any problems with cracking or the track falling apart. So I think that’s what really dictates when the tracks get paved and when they don’t get paved. From a driver’s standpoint, it’s always fun when they’re wore out and slick. I think the racing is better. I think there are more lanes on the race track, but you have to pave them sooner or later.”
HOW HARD IS IT TO BE THE ONE CAR THAT IS STRUGGLED WHEN ALL OF THE OTHER TEAM CARS ARE RUNNING WELL? “Our team is smaller than it used to be, but whenever you have a big team you drive for, even though you don’t really talk about it or focus about it in meetings, but when you get done with the day no matter where you finish, you want to be the best out of your stable because you know everybody has access to the same stuff. I feel like all of our cars are running pretty good right now. I think this day and age with this car, this rules package and all the things going on that it’s harder to be way off than what it used to be. You used to be able to build a car with a totally different body on it and basically then your teammate and it could look totally different in the wind tunnel and things like there, where you can’t really do that anymore. So even though when I look at the stuff and I see a lot different setups between the three of us every once in a while, they still run closer to the same speed than what you think they would. You’re always looking to get your stuff better. You always want to be the one finishing up front, obviously. There was that one year Carl won nine races and I don’t know if we won any or maybe only a couple, but you always look at that and try to get better.”
IS PROGRESSIVE BANKING REALLY AS GOOD AS IT’S BEEN MADE OUT TO BE? “I think it depends what you want. You said it didn’t work out so well at Bristol, I’d have to argue with that at least a little bit. They took a track that was one groove, that you couldn’t pass on it, and at least now there are several grooves. It’s still not the easiest track in the world to pass on, but I thought the race was fairly entertaining at the end of Bristol with me and Brad racing for the lead. He passed me. I passed him back. It was side-by-side a little bit, so it depends what you’re looking for. I think a lot of tracks I can look at and think about ones they reconfigured and I don’t think they made better, but if you want to use Homestead for an example, that’s just about a perfect race track. They did the variable banking and it used to be so flat. It’s got the most banking on the top, but not very much more, and it’s pretty darn competitive.
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – “The top is probably the fastest groove when you get into a long run, but you can certainly pass there. Look at what Tony did there last year. I don’t think the racing can be much better than what we did there, so I think that’s a good example of the variable banking working well and doing it what they wanted it to do.”
DO PREFER LONG RUNS LIKE AT TEXAS LAST WEEK AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE TIRES FALL OFF A LITTLE BIT MORE? “It depends what situation you’re in. If you’re like it was last year at Texas when we were leading the race by four or five seconds, you love the long green flag runs. You don’t want anybody to get caught up and take a chance of losing the race, but when you’re not the leader or you’re not the second-place guy, those guys were quite a ways ahead of everybody, I think most of the rest of the field would like to see a caution and get another shot at making an adjustment on a pit stop and getting caught up to everybody and catching your breath so you can make another run at it. I think it depends where you’re running. I like races with a lot of green flag running. You can’t pass anybody under caution, so it’s always fun to be racing and have those long runs and concentrate on that. Like I say, the farther toward the front you are, the more you enjoy that. I thought the tire dropped off quite a bit at Texas. One thing about this tire the last few years, even at places like this, you’ll see a lot of fall off, but they put down a lot of rubber and it’s kind of slimy, so sometimes that makes it tough. But I think there was a fair amount of drop off. I think we had a second-and-a-half of drop off at least or something like that, and I think this will be similar to that.”
WHAT ABOUT THE CAR MAKES THE SETUP HARD FOR SUNDAY WITH THE TEMPERATURES GOING FROM COLD TO WARM? “Besides just your grille tape adjustments and things like that which changes your water temperature and your downforce level in the front, other than that, I think the biggest thing is the speed of the race track and the pace of the race will be enough different where you’re trying to run these cars so low to the ground and you’re making 1/32nd of an inch bump stop shim changes and stuff like that. To have your bump stop loads and have your nose right where you want it and your profile all setup. When we first go out there today it will probably be a second-and-a-half to two seconds faster than what lap 30 of the race will be, so I think that’s probably one of the challenges of hitting your setup right and having it right for when the pace slows down.”
AS A COMPETITOR DID YOU SPEND MORE TIME FIGURING OUT HOW TO TURN A SECOND PLACE FINISH INTO A WIN THAN SAY TRYING TO HAVE A BETTER CAR WHEN YOU WERE RUNNING 15TH ALL DAY AND THAT WAS THE BEST YOU COULD DO? AND IS THAT TIME PROVEN TO BE BENEFICIAL? “I think there are times when we’ve gone through long periods without winning that it eats at you a little bit and you think about it, but I don’t think necessarily during a particular race or after you finish second or third. I think no matter where you finish you always try to figure out what you could have done better, what you can do better next time, what you need to do next time to make your car better, so I don’t think you ever really sit and think about how did I not get from third to first. You try not to agonize about that too much, you just try to make yourself better the next time and do a better job next time, if possible.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID TRACKS SHOULD MAYBE LOOK AT THE COMPOUND THEY’RE USING NOW TO REPAVE? HAVE YOU BEEN INCLUDED IN ANY MEETINGS ABOUT REPAVE ISSUES? “All the racing seems to be better when the pavement wears out and this new stuff doesn’t do that. We’ve all talked about it before, it would be cool if you could pave it and it’s already wore out, but the pavement is sturdy and doesn’t fall apart, but the top surface has some abrasion to it and gets slick, but nobody has figured out how to do that. I’m not smart enough to know what they put in the black top and how they mix it, what chemicals are in there, or how much rock. I’m not smart enough to figure all that out, but it seems like if you could pave it and have it a little abrasive – kind of like what it would be after a few years of aging – it seems like that would be pretty cool if you could figure out how to do that. I don’t know how you do that. All this new pavement is so good and I think it’s great because it’s great for the tracks financially and they won’t have to pave them for a long time. But I’m not sure that in my lifetime Daytona will ever get like it was before they repaved it. That was all of the real old stuff, it had big rocks in it and it was real slick and wore out, and this new stuff just seems to be pretty durable. Like you say, at Charlotte with all the miles we’ve run on that and you can hardly tell it’s aged at all. The same at Darlington. Darlington is just like it was when they paved it pretty much. It’s very similar, so I’m not sure if that needs to be fixed or I don’t know how you fix that.”
HAVE YOU BEEN CONSULTED? “I’ve never been consulted, but certainly NASCAR always listens when you have something to say. They do all those meetings – in the winter and during the year – where they tell us all about what’s going on and ask our opinions and listen, which is really nice. It’s nice to feel like you can at least voice your opinion.”