Biffle Wins Pole For Darlington Sprint

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Darlington Raceway (2005 and 2006).  He comes into this weekend ninth in the point standings and spoke about his expectations for tomorrow night’s race before Friday’s practice session.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – DO YOU LIKE DARLINGTON NOW?  “Oh yeah.  I think this place will always be a fun, challenging place to come.  Darlington is really, really tough.  I talked to a couple of drivers yesterday and they’re like, ‘It’s tougher now than it has been,’ and you think, ‘How can it be tougher?’ But when you run that fast that close to the wall, even before they re-paved it, it’s not very forgiving.  And now we’re running three seconds a lap faster – or whatever we are – and it’s less forgiving.  So it’s hard, it’s really tough.  It’ll be the same old Darlington.” 

SHOULD THIS TRACK BE IN THE CHASE?  “Oh yeah.  I think a lot of the fans and drivers would rather see a place like this in the chase than a place like Talladega, where it’s just throw the dice and see who ends up where and who ends up in a big wreck.  This is about driving.  Talladega is not about driving.” 

HOW DID YOUR TEST AT LOWE’S GO?  “I think we learned a little bit.  That track, for some reason, has been a little frustrating for me since they re-paved it.  We have just been off a little bit and can’t get the car to do what we need it to do.  It’s too loose and then in four laps it’s pushing so bad that you’re a half-second off the pace.  Then we’re able to adjust the car to get it to go fast, but then when you put tires on it you can’t drive it, so that’s been a frustrating point for me at Lowe’s – to get that thing driving right and as much speed as we need to have.” 

ARE THESE TESTS NECESSARY?  “We weren’t ready for that test.  We really didn’t need that test right then.  It would have been better for us later in the year when we could be more organized and have a better test plan in place, but it is what it is.” 

SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE 99 AND HOW ITS REAR WHEELS MIGHT BE POSITIONED DIFFERENTLY OR AT AN ANGLE TO CREATE MORE SIDEFORCE.  IS THAT SOMETHING YOU HAVE TRIED?  “That’s kind of a setup issue on how you’ve got your car setup.  I don’t really want to get into that, but I drive my cars different.  I’ve driven my cars a little bit different since 2005 setup-wise and it’s an area that NASCAR doesn’t regulate.  If they don’t regulate how much caster or camber we run, or what spring we run, then you’re welcome to do what you’d want to do in that area.  So whatever fits the driver’s needs or driving style you’re allowed to do.” 

HOW MUCH MONEY WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO TRADE PLACES WITH KYLE BUSCH AND HAVE THE JUNIOR NATION ON YOUR CASE?  “That’s trouble, I guess.  I don’t know.  When two guys are racing hard people are gonna make mistakes.  You’ve just got to be careful that you’re not driving over your head all the time and have a little bit of margin, but when there’s five to go or 10 to go, the pressure is on to perform.  I didn’t see the wreck.  I didn’t see what happened.  I don’t know if Junior pinched him down.  I don’t know if one guy got loose.  I didn’t even see the replay, so it’s hard for me to comment.  I don’t like any fans mad at me, so I try to be a positive, straight-up driver all the time.  People make mistakes, though.  It was kind of funny because the Junior Nation was a little bit mad at me after Talladega like,

‘Why didn’t you go with Junior on that last lap?’  And I was like, ‘I did go with him and I went from second to 11th.’  We just lost our momentum and Tony ran us all over the race track, but it was funny because I got some e-mails like, ‘You hate Junior.  You didn’t help him.’  I’m like, ‘I wish I wouldn’t have helped him, I would have been better.’  So it’s kind of funny.  Some fans see stuff differently and, like I said, I don’t know anything about that situation so I hate to comment.” 

IS THERE ANY RESENTMENT ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THAT?  “Not really.  If you tangle with the 34 car.  I see him over there going through the scales.  If you tangle with him, there are gonna be 34 car fans that think you did something wrong.  It’s just gonna be that way.  Whether he rear-ended you and caused the wreck or not, you have diehard supporters in this business of each car.  Fans are gonna always see one thing one way and, let’s face it, if we’re supporting our driver – whoever that is, x, y, z driver – no matter what the accident is, we’re supporting our driver whether it was his fault or not.” 

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF A DUST UP THIS WEEK?  “This place is hard.  This is as hard as they get right here.  There are gonna be some guys that have mistakes and accidents during the race tomorrow night and I just hope we’re not one of those.” 

IS THERE ANOTHER TEAM OR ORGANIZATION YOU WATCH BESIDES THE 99?  “I think anybody can see that the Gibbs organization has really stepped their program up.  Last year, Hendrick’s obviously really impressed us and those are the guys the Roush Fenway group are chasing and trying to catch, and I think that baton has kind of shifted.  We’ve got a hold of half of it at Roush Fenway.  We’ve got a hold of half of it because we’re running good, but we’re not quite there.  I think if you look through the garage you can see that the 18, the 20 and the 11 are consistently running really good.  We’re all so close.  Childress’ cars are all right there, all in the top 10.” 

PEOPLE AREN’T MENTIONING CHILDRESS AS MUCH AS GIBBS.  WHY?  “Yeah and that’s just because they’ve been more consistent than anything, like us.  People haven’t been jumping up and down about the 16, but we ran in the top 10 at Richmond the whole night and finished 13th.  It’s not something to make a bunch of noise about, but we were there all night and Childress was the same way.  I was as fast or faster than the 07 at times and he ends up winning the race, so being in the right place at the right time is what this business is about.  But it’s obvious that the 11 was by far the fastest car – period.  So that’s what everybody remembers is that guy.” 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE 17 OR HAS IT JUST BEEN BAD LUCK?  “We do everything we can do as an organization at Roush Fenway – all the crew chiefs and drivers and engineers – we do everything we can do to help all the teams.  Everybody gets the same information, the same technology, the same cars, the same parts, the same everything.  They’ve had a couple of mechanical issues where they had too much camber, I think.  I don’t know that for a fact, but they blew out a couple of tires.  They have fast race cars and didn’t get a chance.  They finished 40th, so you kind of right them off because they weren’t competitive.  Well, they were competitive but they had a tire issue – self-induced, I think.  But we try to help everybody and I know what it’s like.  I’ve been there.  It looks like my year last year – the 17 does.” 

WERE YOU ASKED TO BE IN THE BURNOUT COMPETITION?  “No.  It would probably be fun, but I’ll enjoy watching it.” 

WHO DOES THE BEST BURNOUT?  “I don’t know.  It’s fun to do burnouts.  I think I do a pretty good burnout, but it’s a matter of the tire holding together, too.  These cars have so much power and control that it’s easy to do a burnout, but what happens is, obviously, the tire will come apart and tear the quarterpanels off the car, so NASCAR doesn’t like that when you’re in post-race inspection and the quarterpanels are ripped off it, so you’ve got to be kind of careful.” 

WHAT’S THE SECRET TO IT?  “Probably not too much wheel speed.  You can tell how much load the engine has on it.  There are all kinds of things you can do and you can tell when they start getting slippery and the back tires are getting hot.  It’s fun to drive the car down the race track, especially if it has a little bit of banking on it.  The car will want to just sit there and go sideways down the track, so it’s fun to do them.  Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to do one tomorrow night.” 

YOU’VE DONE A COUPLE HERE ALREADY.  DOES THIS RE-PAVING JOB TAKE AWAY ANY ADVANTAGE YOU MAY HAVE HAD?  “It definitely changes the dynamic of this track 100 percent.  Before, it was about car control and throttle control, and it’s still about that, but it’s kind of different.  I don’t know how to explain it because the tire doesn’t wear out much, much faster, so there’s a lot of things that have changed about it, but it’s still gonna be the same thing.” 

SO YOU FEEL JUST AS CONFIDENT TOMORROW NIGHT?  “Yeah.  I’ve got a good handling car right now.  Yesterday in practice it handled well and we were in the top 10 in speeds, so I feel pretty comfortable about tomorrow night.” 

ANY PROGRESS IN YOUR CONTRACT TALKS?  “No, I haven’t even worked on it.  I haven’t done anything on it the last couple of weeks.” 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DAVID RAGAN’S PROGRESS?  “He’s had a lot of progress.  He’s done a good job.  David has really come a long ways and it’s good to see because some of his information helps us.  We’re looking at what he’s doing and what he’s doing to his race cars and seeing him improve.” 

DID ANY OF YOUR PEOPLE MEET WITH ROUSH THIS WEEK?  “I don’t know anything about that.  I haven’t talked to anybody, really.  This week was sort of off the radar for me because we tested and did all that, so this is a busy week and so is next week with the Nationwide testing.  I haven’t really been paying attention to any of that stuff.  I’ve been worrying about the race car right now.” 

            Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Claritin Ford Fusion, is 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings going into tomorrow night’s race.  He held his weekly Q&A session after Friday’s first practice session.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Claritin Ford Fusion –

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TRACK?  “Yesterday, I felt like wearing black today.  I felt like we were gonna have to have funeral because we killed my favorite race track.  I was really frustrated, but then today as we ran around with the Cup cars, it’s kind of starting to come back and it’s not so bad.  The surface is growing on me and our car is actually getting pretty fast, so I’m feeling better about it.” 

IS IT TOO SMOOTH?  “I personally like a lot of character in a race track.  I think it’s fine to have patches and places that are rough and seams and worn out, old pavement.  I like that, so for me it’s gonna take a little bit just to really like this thing, but somebody is gonna win on Saturday night so there’s no sense in complaining about it.  We’ve just got to go race.” 

WHAT KIND OF RACING WILL WE SEE SATURDAY?  “I don’t know.  I think tonight in the Nationwide race it’s gonna be virtually impossible to pass – really, really tough because you’re on the edge the whole time.  You’re either real fast and doing great or you’re wrecked, so there’s no in between.  I think in the Cup cars with the extra horsepower and less downforce it will be a little bit better race.  Anytime you have more horsepower and less downforce it’s better racing, so I don’t know.  I think that’s how they’ll kind of compare.  Hopefully, tomorrow night it’ll be a great race.  This is, I think, the greatest race track on the circuit and I hope that this paving job doesn’t take away from it.” 

OTHER COMPETITORS HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR CAR AND THE WAY IT’S YAWED OUT AND THE WAY IT GOES DOWN THE TRACK.  WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON ALL THAT.  “Yeah, that’s exactly what makes my car so fast.  In fact, when we thought about taking a couple of weekends off, we were gonna go get a monkey to drive the car because it’s real easy and that’s the only reason we’re winning.  So they should just focus on that and not worry about anything else.” 

WHAT KIND OF INFLUENCE HAS YOUR MOM HAD ON YOUR CAREER?  “My mom had a huge influence on my career, not only the $20 or $40 she’d throw me for every Saturday when I’d go to get pit passes and stuff, but emotionally she’s just been unbelievable with her support.  She’s a woman who has instilled in me the idea that you can do anything you set your mind to and that’s it.  She lives it.  She’s a hardcore woman.  She’s pretty cool.” 

SHOULD DARLINGTON BE IN THE CHASE?  “Oh yeah, it would be fine if this track was in the chase.  That would be great, especially if this pavement gets worn back out.  This is just a real race track.  It’s really fun and you’ve got to really drive on it to make the car go fast.  I think these are the type of tracks that when a guy wins at there’s a lot of  pride.  I was just over there talking with David Pearson and to know that whoever wins this race tomorrow night is gonna be right up there with all the legends, that’s big.  So I think it deserves however many dates we can get it.” 

COULD YOU SEE IT GOING BACK TO LABOR DAY AND BEING KNOWN AS THE SOUTHERN 500?  “I don’t know all the politics around the dates, but if it’s always been the Southern 500 that’s pretty cool.  Anytime you can keep a hold of a piece of history and have new guys compete in it, that’s big.  The Daytona 500 is the Daytona 500.  You know that when you go there it’s the same race that Richard Petty and all those guys raced a long time ago and that means a lot to me.  I think anytime we can keep history, that’s good.  I don’t know the politics of the name though and things like that, but it would be cool.  It would be cool if we ran the same exact schedule they ran in 1955.  That would be great, but things change, I guess.” 

IS LOOSE TOO FAST HERE?  “You can tell from all the cars wrecked.  A little bit loose is OK, but the track right now is a little too green.  That’s just part of it, I guess.  I was pissed off yesterday at the end of the day.  I was just so frustrated, but then I talked to some people that have been around and they said, ‘Hey, when they paved it here 12 years ago, it was the same way.’  And they said it will get better and it will be fine, but right now it’s pretty green.” 

IS THERE A CONCERN GUYS WILL DRIVE OVER THEIR HEAD TOMORROW NIGHT?  “Oh yeah.  Wait until tonight.  Tonight is gonna be spectacular in the Nationwide race.  I mean, there are some serious issues.  The cars are real, real fast.  They’re real hard to drive and there’s such a disparity between the fast cars and the slow cars that the closing rate is crazy.  Since it’s an unconventional line here, the guys that are going slow don’t know where to go, so we’re gonna have huge problems there.  I think in the Cup car, we’re going so fast that it’s going to be real hard to pass.  If we can get long runs, it’ll be pretty cool, but on the short runs, man, it’s gonna be a mess.” 

IS THERE SOME FUN TO BEING ON THIS NEW SURFACE?  “It’s fun, but I just liked the old surface so much.  I really did.  It’s just gonna take me a little while.  I’m just being honest.  The folks here are great.  I know that they’re trying to do the best they can for this race track, I just really, really loved the old surface.  It’s hard for me.  I’m getting there though.  I’m better today than I was yesterday, it’s one step at a time.” 

WILL THIS BE LIKE A TALLADEGA RACE WITHOUT PLATES?  “No, it won’t be like Talladega.  It’s still gonna be a race.  It’s going to be exciting.  I believe there will be more follow the leader than you’ve seen before here because you can’t be as aggressive with the car because there’s not as much room for error.  Before, you could get it real sideways here and you could spin the tires and get it back.  That’s not gonna happen now.  You’ve got to really be precise.  It’s gonna be more like a Charlotte race right now.” 

IS IT BECAUSE OF THE TIRE, THE CAR OR THE SURFACE?  “The surface.  We raced here with this same car on the old surface and it seemed like the same race we’ve always had.  It’s just progress.  I’m sure they were saying the same thing 12 years ago when they paved it.” 

HAVE YOU HIT THE WALL YET?  “Just a little.  Just barely in turn three.  I had a little brake problem yesterday.  I mean, just barely.  It didn’t even scrape the decals off.” 

 IS THERE A SAFETY CONCERN FOR TONIGHT’S RACE?  “I think so, yeah.  They put helmets on every week, but I think we’ve got to really watch out.  I know I’m gonna be extremely cautious tonight just because of what I saw in practice.  I’ve never seen so many cars wreck in practice.”

SPRINT CUP QUALIFYING

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion (Qualified 38th) – THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE ON THE POLE FOR THE NATIONWIDE RACE.  “Yeah, that’s good.  We did the best we could over here, but we’re missing something.  Something is not right and that’s just the best we could do.  We’ll just see what happens.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (Qualified 1st) – CAN YOU KEEP THE POLE?  “I hope so.  We’re real confident, but there are still a lot of cars left to go.  The sun is going down a little bit and the track temperature is dropping dramatically right now, so I don’t suspect that will hold up for the pole.  If we would have beat Junior by maybe a tenth or two I would have thought maybe we’d have left some room, but there are a lot of fast race cars here.  We just have a great 3M Ford Fusion car.  The guys did a great job.  We spent a lot of time in race trim and feel like we have a really, really good car for tomorrow night.  We hope it holds up for a front row start or a top five start.  We’ll be extremely happy with a top five start.” 

ARE WE MAKING TOO MUCH OF THIS NEW SURFACE?  IS IT HARD TO FIGURE OUT?  “It really is.  The biggest thing is we’re two-and-a-half-seconds faster than we had been and it’s just the margin for error.  Darlington has always been right on the fence.  That margin for error hasn’t gone anywhere other than we’re so much faster that it bites you so much quicker and easier now.  It’s almost tougher now with the speeds we’re running.” 

TRAVIS KVAPIL – No. 28 Lafayette Ford Fusion (Qualified 24th) – “We were a top 10 car all weekend and I don’t even think I was really trying that much harder, but I just drove into one like I had been and it didn’t stick this time.  It just kind of slid up the track and I got in the wall a little bit. I’m pretty disappointed in myself.  The guys gave me a great car all weekend.  I don’t know.  It’s a bummer.  I know we’ll really race great tomorrow night, I was just hoping we’d qualify a little bit better.  We’re gonna have to work our way up through there.  In race trim we were able to have a fast car and were able to drive our way up and pass guys, so I feel like we’re gonna be fine tomorrow, I’m just disappointed in my effort right there.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion (Qualified 15th) – “Considering what we went through today and not getting a lot of practice – beating the right side of the car back out from that first practice – it was a nice pick up.  We’ve got a fast car, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning on it.  Qualifying and practicing here in the day and racing at night, we just have to make sure we make the right decisions going into tomorrow night.  It was a decent lap.  If I would have known the car was gonna stick that good, I probably could have gotten a little more out of it.  Everybody always says that, but when you’re here at Darlington, just about the second you think you’ve got this place figured out and everything is under control, it’ll bite you.” 

A LOT OF GUYS WERE IN THE WALL TODAY.  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TOMORROW?  “I don’t know.  There are a lot of unknowns about where’s the best place to pass and where can you afford to overdrive a little bit, and what part of the track is gonna save you if you overdrive.  Hopefully, running the Nationwide race tonight will help a little bit with my passing lanes and how the restarts are and how getting on pit road is, but there are just a lot of unknowns about a new track surface, a new tire and a new car at this track, but that’s what makes this sport so great.  Somebody is gonna get it figured out.”

BILL ELLIOTT – No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion (Qualified 20th) – “I held my breath enough.  It got through one and two real well, but I got loose on the second lap.  I didn’t feel I did as well getting through one and two on my second lap and then I got into three and I was trying to pinch it down a little bit too much and got it out from under me, so I just aborted.” 

GREG BIFFLE POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE – “Certainly everybody has talked about the track is really fast and it’s the same old Darlington.  It will bite you just the second you let your guard down and even faster now with the speeds being two seconds a lap faster than we’re normally going.  You can get in trouble in a hurry and I’ve been close a couple of times to having that stripe and the thing about it is the stripe has gotten a lot meaner because of the speed we’re running.  It’s knocking the bumpers off and flatten the right side a little bit, so you just have to be careful.  I’m gonna try to run a smart race tomorrow night.  It was a great lap.  (Greg) Erwin and all the guys have done a great job getting ready for this event.  All through this testing we’ve played it really smart and have worked on our car and got our car driving really good.  I’m just extremely happy with it in race trim and can’t wait for tomorrow night.” 

IS IT ANY SURPRISE YOU’RE ON THE POLE – A GUY WHO ENJOYS RACING HERE AND WON RACES HERE?  “Yeah, it’s kind of weird because the place is so different now than it has been in the past – that we’re still have able to be successful here says a lot.  I’m really, really happy and excited with how hard our guys have worked back at the race shop – our engineering group and actual team that comes to the race track, it’s been a big effort to try and get our cars fast.  It’s easy to drive and look like a hero and put your car on the front row when it drives really good, and I went out there and it drove really good, but we’ll see about tomorrow night.  I’m excited.  I can’t wait.” 

DID THE FACT YOU WERE PART OF THE TIRE TEST HELP YOU GET UP TO SPEED?  “It certainly was helpful getting up to speed.  We recognized that in the first and second practice session when we were near the top of the sheet, but we were really surprised to see some of those other cars right at the top of the sheet, in fact faster than us.  All of the Gibbs cars were faster than we were, so it didn’t take them long to get the track under their belt.  I think if you look at the last practice session, we’re somewhere in the high twenties on speed and we really didn’t get a good crack at a qualifying effort.  We had all that practice and still came up short because we switched over with about 30 minutes to go and then a lot of people had accidents and they closed the track two or three times and never got going again, so that was my first attempt at a qualifying run since we’ve been here – that lap – so I was a little nervous going off into one.  But I knew I had a great car and I knew it was gonna stick, and once I got the feel of it – about halfway around one and two, I knew that three and four was gonna be a good corner as well.” 

IS PATIENCE GOING TO BE THE KEY TOMORROW AND HAS EVERYTHING YOU LEARNED ABOUT THIS TRACK OUT THE WINDOW?  “Yeah, it really has.  One thing that’s gonna be interesting and exciting tomorrow night – keep in mind that with all this practice we’ve done, we haven’t been side-by-side yet in a group of cars.  So when that green flag flies tomorrow night, it’s gonna be the first time that we’ve gone around here at speed side-by-side 10 deep or 20 deep.  Track position is super-important, I think, and I’m thankful that I was able to get my car at the front of the field to start this race.  I think a lot of people fear whether we’re gonna see a lot of passing or not.  I think you’re gonna see some passing, but it is gonna be difficult to get side-by-side.  You’re gonna see cars slow down a bunch when they do get side-by-side.  You’ll see a guy probably close in half a straightaway in a lap or two if he’s having to fight with another car.  When you get beside another car, your speed will slow down so fast.  You can go from running a 28-flat to a 28.60 just by having to slow up a little bit or not running the line you want to, so that’s gonna make it really interesting tomorrow night and tonight for the Nationwide cars.” 

ARE YOU CAREFUL ON WHO YOU COME UP ON AND WHO IS COMING UP ON YOU?  “Yeah, you really do and the problem is these cars and tires that we’re on, and a new surface like this, is sometimes a little bit unpredictable because sometimes you enter the corner and it will kind of take off sliding.  I’ve actually slowed down and decided to run the bottom just to see how the car handles and I almost thought I was gonna hit the fence, and I entered the corner a lot slower than I normally would, so it does weird stuff.  It is gonna be difficult to be side-by-side, but when they throw the green flag, there’s gonna be 43 of us side-by-side and there’s gonna be passing.  But for guys to try to race each other lap after lap side-by-side, that’s probably not gonna be the smartest move you could make.” 

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A WEEKEND WHERE THIS MANY GUYS HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE WALL?  “The fatality rate is fairly high.  I walked through the garage and everybody I’m parked around the side is wiped off a little bit, but that’s the nature of Darlington, for one.  Two, a brand new surface and a brand new tire – it’s gonna happen.  There are two ways to look at it – it’s almost good that it happens because then you know where the limit is and you know where the edge is and you can say to yourself, ‘Well, I’m not gonna do that again,’ or, ‘I’m not gonna get that high,’ or ‘I know what I did wrong,’ and you learn from it.  If you do that in practice, you can learn from it and fix your car and not do it again.  I don’t know if it puts the guys that don’t have a stripe at a disadadvantage necessarily,