Biffle proves consistency can key wins
Jun 2, 2012
Another week, another week of Greg Biffle in the points lead. Ho hum.
That's kind of how the 2012 Sprint Cup season has played out thus far, with Biffle being the points leader following 10 of the first 12 races. And if everything goes the way it has been, the driver of the No. 16 Ford will likely retain his lead for much of the next 14 weeks as the Chase for the Sprint Cup draws closer.
With all due respect to Biffle, many fans would likely expect a bigger name like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or maybe even Carl Edwards in the points lead for this long. But Biffle is not an anomaly or exception, it's just taken him a while to become a commanding driver.
Even though he's been on the Cup scene since 2003, Biffle has never been as dominating or consistent driver as he's been this season. Much of the success can be attributed to Crew Chief Matt Puccia, who took over that role last July. Puccia has instilled a new mindset within the team that while wins are indeed important, consistency will be the main key to becoming a champion.
And that is something Biffle knows a little bit about. In fact, if he is able to maintain his lead in the Cup points this season and ultimately ends up as the series champion, Biffle would become the first driver in NASCAR history to have won championships in Cup, as well as the Nationwide Series (2002) and the Camping World Truck Series (2000).
Even though he's leading Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth by just 10 points, Biffle is not going to give up his points lead very easy, particularly in Sunday's FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Delaware's Dover International Speedway.
Biffle has two career Cup wins at DIS, as does Kenseth, and both drivers consider the rare all-concrete one-mile track – the only all-concrete track on the circuit – to be one of their favorite race tracks.
Biffle made it very clear during Friday's media availability session at how happy he is to be back at Dover.
“I am really excited about this race track and coming here," Biffle said. "It is one we definitely look forward to. The car was pretty good here in the first practice and decent here in the qualifying run. I look forward to Sunday and to see what the track brings.”
Biffle has been especially hot in the last six races, with a win at Texas, a pair of fifth-place finishes at Kansas and Talladega, a 12th-place outing at Darlington and what he calls a "disappointing" fourth-place finish last week in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. He termed it that because he led more than half the 400-lap race, but didn't have enough car left to challenge eventual winner Kasey Kahne at the end of the race.
"Last week was a little bit of a disappointment for us," Biffle said. "We had a really fast race car during the evening and when it got cool at night we weren’t quite as good, just like we were in the all-star (race). We missed it a little bit."
Biffle dominated the first half of the 600, while Kahne battled the last quarter, earning his first victory for his new team, Hendrick Motorsports. Biffle and Kahne battled hard about two-thirds of the way through the race, but Kahne eventually got the upper hand and held on for what many longtime observers are already predicting will be the first of many for Kahne now that he's wearing HMS colors.
“Yeah, that is part of racing hard," BIffle said. "That goes along with putting on a good show actually. … Both Kasey and I are driving as hard as we can.
"I just feel like we each had our own lane at (Charlotte). Our cars were pretty equal at that point in the race. (Aero difference) could have contributed a little bit to it but it wasn’t like he was out front. He basically ran to the top to get to me and then switched over to the bottom and got inside of me. It could have played some sort of role in that.”
Having been No. 1 in the points for so long thus far this season is a much different place for Biffle than at this time last season, when he fell from 12th to 14th after the 13th race of the season, and was never able to get back into the battle for the Chase, eventually failing to make the 10-race championship playoff that ultimately came down to Stewart and Edwards.
“It sounds good but no," Biffle said when asked if he's doing anything different in 2012. "This season I have done basically the same thing. I don’t really worry about the points when we are on the race track. I race as hard as I can every lap and try to get every position I can. Sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you don’t.
"My cars are better this year, which has enabled me to be better. We didn’t have a lot of cautions or spin outs last year as a 16 team; we just had a lot of lousy finishes. We didn’t make it on fuel, got a lap down, something happened, all those things. It wasn’t necessarily points-driven why we didn’t run better last year, and it isn’t the case this year."
As the Cup series begins the second third of the season this weekend, Biffle would like to dominate in similar fashion to the way he did at Charlotte last week, but wind up with a win this time.
“I think that if we look back and analyze what we did last week we know that we have a little bit of an issue when the speeds picked up that our car didn’t turn as good," Biffle said. "We lost the front grip of the car.
"This race (Dover) isn’t starting in the daytime and finishing at night so it will be a different animal for us. As this race runs, the track gets more rubber on it so it gets slicker and slicker as the race goes. We need to work on that grip at the end of the race.
"Last week was kind of its own scenario of staring in the day and finishing at night. That is different than normal. In the all-star race it was kind of the same. We weren’t that great in the race but pretty good in practice and qualifying. In the race we were off a little bit. We need to work on that within our 16 car and figure out what we have to do different here with a different scenario. I think our car will be good when it comes down to the wire. We just have to focus on this place and be there at the end.”
Biffle comes into Sunday's race with two key goals: to earn his second win of the season and win his third career race at Dover. Given his past success, not to mention his affinity for the track and the big fan base that shows up, don't be surprised to see The Biff and the No. 16 Ford Fusion in victory lane late Sunday afternoon.
“I think this is a driver’s race track and a lot of us like this race track but at the same time we share a lot of information," Biffle said of himself and the rest of his Roush Fenway Racing teammates. "We share setups and that kind of thing. I think that helps our organization as a whole. I think we can count on one another for information and that makes us good as a team. We run good at this race track, which is a plus for us.”