Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Greg Biffle, on Sunday's California 500: "I owe these guys one"

  Blue skies ahead for Greg Biffle and the Jack Roush fleet? Maybe so, if they can bring their A-game to Los Angeles too (Photo: Autostock)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FONTANA, Calif.
   Greg Biffle's call from seat Sunday to overrule crew chief Greg Erwin on that four-tire versus two-tire decision with 30 laps left in the Kansas 400 may haunt that team for a few days.
   Biffle was dominating the race and leading into the final round of stops…Erwin called for two tires, Biffle insisted on four.
   And Tony Stewart, taking just two tires himself and thus getting the lead and the clean air, pulled away to win, and Biffle finished third.
   That cost Biffle 20 points.
   With Biffle one of seven men within 114 points of leader Mark Martin, points like that may be costly.
    "This team is at the top of its game, and we should have had the win at Kansas," Biffle says. "I made a decision to put on four tires at the end,
and it didn't work out for us.  I guess the way I’m looking at this weekend is that I owe these guys one."
   Of course it's easy to second guess the call.
   Bobby Labonte: "It's the crew chief's job to make those decisions.  He's the one sitting on the war wagon, with all the data in front of him, and he can see what other teams are doing too. As a driver, if you're relaying all the right information about the way the car is behaving, then the crew chief is in the best position to know whether to stop or not, whether to take two tires or four, or whatever.
    "As the guy sitting behind the wheel of that car, sometimes you just have a gut feeling what you need to do. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. If you're right, you look like a hero. If not, you're usually buying dinner that night."
   Well, Biffle would like to be buying dinner this Sunday evening for a different reason – for winning the California Pepsi 500.
   And that would only be a start, because he's sitting eighth in the standings.
   Still if that new chassis setup works as well at this fast, low-banked (14 degrees) two-mile track as it did at the 1-1/2-mile Kansas track Biffle and Erwin could once again be players in the title chase, which runs through Thanksgiving week.
   And that's the key issue here at the moment – the Rick Hendrick guys have run roughshod over the competition most of the season. But the post-Atlanta (Labor Day weekend) NASCAR engine tests showed the Hendrick's Chevy-powered teams aren't beating the Roush guys on horsepower, but rather through the center of the corner.
   Roush says the Fords and Chevrolets showed about the same punch in that test, and more than the Toyotas and Dodges.
    Biffle and Erwin won Kansas in 2007 and finished third last year. "But that setup has been providing us about a seventh to 10th-place finish (this season), because other people have improved their setup," Biffle said.
    "The whole thing has been: 'We're behind. We're behind.'
    "Well, we feel we're starting to understand it better now. 
     "But it's a leap of faith, because you're taking something that's working well and just flush it down the toilet and start with a clean sheet of paper. 
    "That's difficult. But that's what it's taken us to get competitive again at Kansas."
   "This new front-end geometry combination we've been trying to get worked out is something I've never run before," Biffle says.  "This is all new territory for me. 
    "I basically fired off at Kansas with stuff I'd run in practice and happy hour…and Sunday morning we looked at it and made some more adjustments and said 'Here we go.'
   "I'm telling you what -- that thing was awesome.
   "Now the dilemma is I came very close to winning the spring race in California -- if I hadn't stopped on the air hose, I would have won that race.
   "So do I throw away that setup, just throw it in the garbage can, and start like we did at Kansas?"
   And Biffle, remember, could well have won last year's California race too.
    But will this new stuff work for Biffle at California's Auto Club Speedway?
   "That's what we're going to try," Biffle says. "That's our science project this week."
   Fortunately Biffle says it's not all that complicated to change it all back, if Friday practice tells them to. 
   "It takes about 20 minutes to switch back to what I'll call a more conventional setup," Biffle says.
   However Biffle says not only his performance at Kansas, where he led 113 of the 267 laps, but also the performance of his Jack Roush teammates says the team is on the right path.
   "But we've got a long road ahead of us," Biffle concedes.
    "We were a bit behind…and this is the first time we've really been able to make it work. 
    " -- Jamie McMurray was running up front until he had a pit-stop issue. 
    " -- Matt Kenseth was running up front until he had an engine failure.
    " -- And Carl Edwards was running up front until he had a speeding penalty. 
    "I'm not sure how David Ragan ran, but I think all of our cars ran fairly well. And that makes me optimistic for going ahead."
    Certainly this chase, up till Kansas, was as disappointing for Biffle as the season has generally been.
   He had marked Loudon, N.H., Dover, Del., California and Charlotte, the first four playoff stops, as key: "They're really, really good tracks for us.
    "So it's been a disappointing personal start to the chase; I felt we run better than that.
    "But now we feel we're on track -- definitely at California. We feel we're going to be right on the button."
   Of course Biffle and Erwin thought they had something figured out for Dover two weeks ago, and it didn't work. "We tried some stuff at Dover, and it caught us off-guard a little," Biffle said.
   That weekend Goodyear's new Vegas-Charlotte tire design was used, and for some it uncomfortable.

Biffle's Pit Call...

I've heard Darrell Waltrip tell this story of questioning pit calls during races and Junior Johnson got fed up and said over the radio, "Boy, do you want to drive the car or run the pits?!?" D.W. shut his mouth and decided to let the crew chief handle those calls. Greg Biffle and all the other drivers need to keep that in mind.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com