Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Greg Biffle says this will be a four-man championship race in 2009...and he plans to be right in there amongst 'em

Greg Biffle says Texas World, that aged track in College Station, Texas, is fast as heck -- like 218 mph (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Mulhern

   Hey, with all the hoopla here about Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, and their 2009 championship chances, what about Greg Biffle?
   Remember how he opened the chase last September, with back-to-back wins at Loudon and Dover, to take the psychological edge.
   And Greg Erwin, who runs Biffle's team, has become one of the top crew chiefs on the tour since joining car owner Jack Roush two years ago.
   Biffle and Erwin spent Thursday testing at Texas World Speedway, the two-mile Michigan/California-type oval that was once on the NASCAR tour, many, many years ago.  
   "We're the first team that's tested there in the new era, I would say, and it's very fast," Biffle says. "A little bit bumpy…to be expected of a track with pavement that old.  But just a very fast place. 
   "It's a fun track. But our cars today are probably pretty danged fast for a track like that -- fastest I've been in a race car, 218 mph. That's getting her done, if you want to say. And a 195-mph average.
   "So it was a pretty fast place."
   And the tires? Biffle didn't say.
   If that track gets resurfaced – ground down, perhaps – it could be the hot testing place this season, with NASCAR's testing ban.
   Biffle meanwhile says it's clear to him the man to beat in the 10-month title chase "has a blue 48 on the side," meaning Johnson.
   "If I was going to take my averages, that would be where I'd start.
   "And you've got to think that the 99 and the 16 and the 18 are going to be some good cars."
   Biffle himself was maybe a little frustrated midway through last year's chase, when Johnson kicked things into high gear and began pulling away.
    What to do differently this season? Biffle just shakes his head: "That's a tough, that's really tough…because, man, I'll tell you what, I gave it my all last year. Everything I had. And it wasn't good enough. 
    "I need to be…we as a team need to be a little bit better. 
   "We were able to win at Loudon and Dover, and I finished third at Kansas to those two guys (in round three of the 10-race chase).
   "We're just going to have to get that much better at those other places. 
    "My two hardest places to win, in the championship, are Martinsville and Loudon. So we won at Loudon, and we ran very well at Martinsville -- had to pit under green, and finished 11th, which was great for us at Martinsville.
    "We went to Charlotte (last fall) and finished like 13th or 11th or 12th, right outside the top-10.  That was not a great race for us. We finished second there in the beginning of the year. And then in the fall race, in the chase, we didn't have that. And we'd felt it was a place we could win."

   The Daytona 500, the general consensus here so among drivers, won't be much different without pre-race testing on this 2.5-mile oval.
   "I expect to be about normal for our speedway (Daytona-Talladega) program…which usually drops us in right in the middle of all the cars on speed, and that's not a bad place to be," Biffle says.
   "It could be worse obviously. And you could be up front in the top three or four. 
    "But we haven't found anything spectacular, like we stumbled across a ton of speed…but we feel we're going to be right there in the top-20, hopefully top-15 -- and that's where a guy needs to be, to be competitive, to win these races.
   "At these restrictor-plate tracks, as close together as all the cars are, so jumbled up, it's hard to see somebody so clearly faster than another."
   Well, at Daytona and Talladega, maybe, but several drivers – Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton in particular – have pointed out here that at the other tracks engine-power has become the key issue, because NASCAR has so tightened the body template rules that it's all-but impossible for teams to gain any significant edge in aerodynamics.
   Hamlin, who runs as Busch's teammate on the Gibbs' Toyota team, says the Gibbs engines were superior early last season, "but we never got them any better, while Hendrick and the others did get better as the year went on."
   Burton too says he and his Richard Childress Chevy teammates "need more speed."
   That may be the key issue at California and Las Vegas, the second and third tour stops this spring, after Daytona.

  Martin Truex Jr. -- Biffle's deal may be solid, but it looks like everything is still up in the air at Earnhardt-Ganassi (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Meanwhile, among the stories swirling behind the scenes in North Carolina race shops, one of the most curious – and potential sad – is playing out at the new Earnhardt-Ganassi compound…which is looking like the old Ganassi compound, with only a two-car team set for the full season, according to Aric Almirola, who ran DEI's legendary number eight at times last season but who was apparently going to be bounced just a few days ago by Ganassi in favor of Bobby Labonte. Then Labonte, at the last minute, bailed out to take a ride with Doug Yates.
   Almirola says he'll be here in the Daytona in number eight, but after that everything is still up in the air. And it's beginning to look like Ganassi will have only a two-car team for the rest of the season, instead of the four-car team planned with the Earnhardt merger – a merger that doesn't look like much of a merger after all. DEI had four teams last season, four very good teams; Ganassi had three teams to start the season, and then had to drop Dario Franchitti midway, because of lack of sponsorship.
   So now it's starting to look like the Earnhardt-Ganassi merger was just a way for Ganassi to pull off a Chevrolet factory deal, and it appears that what is left of DEI may in fact be shutting down.
   The confusion and furor, Martin Truex Jr. insists, "hasn't been very disruptive to our team, at all, as far as I can tell. 
   "There's a possibility there could be some things different there, I don't know. 
   "From the outside looking in, I don't see much change.
    "What is disruptive to our team, is we still have less teammates, we have less information to go around. 
    "Roush has four cars or five cars, and Hendrick has got four, and Gibbs has four or three or whatever. 
    "We're down to two or three; it makes it more difficult for us for sure.  There's no two ways about it.
   "Can we be successful?  Yes. The best year we ever had we were a two-car team, in 2007.  So it can be done.  We can do it."
   However Almirola, the promising rookie, seems to be twisting in the wind. "It's not a position you want to see anyone in, especially a teammate and a friend of yours," Truex says of the uncertainty surrounding Almirola's future. "That's a tough deal right now. 
   "I wish he could run.  He's got a lot of talent, and I wish he could run full-time. 
    "I hope they can get that deal finished up. 
    "He's got a great future; it's just bad timing for him.
     "For him trying to run full-time without a sponsor, and the way things are, it's just tough.
    "I feel bad for him because I think he deserves a shot."

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