Biffle takes another year of experience under his belt into upcoming season
One of the biggest unknowns heading into the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is how the new Generation-6 car will impact competition.
Will the car, which more closely resembles the production models of Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, strip away any previous advantages once enjoyed by successful teams? Will it close the gap between top organizations and those racing in their shadows?
Greg Biffle says he thinks he has a pretty good idea.
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“We’ve done this two or three times, and I’ve always thought that to be the case,” Biffle said of the new-car rollout. "But you know what? It turns out that the guys running good at the end of the year are the ones running good when the (next) season starts.
“You may see a few (move) up and down but I don’t think it’s going to be anything really surprising.”
That’s good news for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who finished fifth in last season’s final race and fifth in the point standings. Wins at Texas and Michigan, a dozen top-five and 21 top-10 finishes helped take some of the sting out of a 2011 misstep that saw him fail to win at least one race for just the second time in his Cup career and miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
A full season spent working with crew chief Matt Puccia, who joined the No. 16 team in mid-2011, began to bear fruit. As a result, Biffle spent 14 weeks atop the point standings, including one stretch of 11 straight.
But once again, there was no championship celebration for the Vancouver, Wash., native at season’s end. The only driver to win titles in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series, Biffle is still chasing that first Cup title as the 2013 season prepares to get under way.
“(It was) kind of bittersweet,” Biffle, 42, said of his team’s 2012 finish. “I’ve got to say we’re disappointed in that we didn’t win the championship. But to look back at the way our Chase started; to finish fifth in points is pretty respectable.
“We led the points longer than anyone in the regular season and (I) was the points leader going into Richmond (the cutoff race for making the Chase). That was quite an accomplishment, I think.”
Others racing under the Roush Fenway umbrella must sort through more than just a new car this year. Teammate Carl Edwards, bogged down in a 69-race winless streak, has a new crew chief in veteran Jimmy Fennig. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has back-to-back Nationwide Series titles, but little Cup experience.
For Biffle and Puccia, few changes are expected. But that doesn’t mean they will approach this season just as they did the last.
Puccia, the 2012 Direct TV Crew Chief of the Year, has a much better feel for what his driver needs. And, he’s got a year’s worth of experience atop a Cup pit box under his belt.
“Look at what he did coming in here for the first time -- how level-headed and organized … it’s amazing what he did (last year)," Biffle said.
Puccia said he understands last year’s shortcomings -- being ill-prepared for the Chase being at the top of the list -- but expects to correct those. The team did a fair amount of testing before the end of the year in an effort to have a better understanding of what areas were lacking.
That they will be racing a new and somewhat different car, Biffle said, could alter the information they’ve already gathered, but won’t make it obsolete.
“It is definitely challenging,” he said. “The one good thing we have going for us is that the chassis is … quite a bit the same. The body is different and the rear axle housing is different … yet underneath there is a lot that is the same.
“(But) it will be different. There are a lot of unknowns.”
See the full schedule of our top 12 Sprint Cup Series drivers and read more below:
11. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Jeff Gordon
9. Tony Stewart
7. Matt Kenseth
6. Denny Hamlin
5. Greg Biffle
4. Kasey Kahne
2. Clint Bowyer