Biffle says 'systemic problem' hampering Roush
June 05, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
At Roush Fenway Racing, the post-race debriefs are getting longer and longer. After this past weekend’s event at Dover International Speedway, Greg Biffle said a conference call that usually lasts 30 minutes stretched to an hour and a half.
It’s evidence of what Biffle called a “systemic problem” at Roush, comparable to the one that affected the organization in 2010. Although Carl Edwards has a race victory and is second in the Sprint Cup Series standings, Biffle and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are winless, and stand 13th and 14th in points, respectively. Last Sunday at Dover, the three Roush cars finished 13th, 14th, and 15th.
This is all particularly concerning to Biffle, who at the moment is outside Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup position and doesn’t have a victory to help any potential Wild Card hopes. Biffle hasn’t had a top-10 finish since Texas, now seven races ago.
“Granted, you look and say, Carl’s second in points, he’s having a terrific season. But on the contrary, Carl’s kind of slid in there, let’s say. I’m not going to downplay Carl’s success so far this season. But you know, we were all not very good at Dover. … So we have a systemic problem similar to what we had a year and a half ago, two years ago when our cars were struggling bad company-wide. And we’re back in that situation right now,” Biffle said Wednesday.
"(Ford is) definitely not trumping the Cup Series right now."
-- Greg Biffle
Biffle spoke to reporters on a conference call promoting the “Give Kids a Smile” dental care program that will be on his No. 16 car next weekend at Michigan. But it was clear that his concerns are on the performance of his race team, which also builds the chassis of Richard Petty Motorsports drivers Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose.
“Everybody’s working so hard, and they’re all on board. But we’re just struggling with our cars trying to get them where we need to be. And this new car, we recognize there’s something about it -- either the front suspension we’re not working well with, the rear suspension, we’re missing some part of the puzzle right now, and we recognize that. The cat’s out of the bag. You look at our performance this season company-wide and the Petty cars, all of our chassis, let’s say -- they’re just not up to snuff,” Biffle said.
“Carl’s had a few exceptional runs. Track position is super important, and he’s had good track position and been able to hold it. When he loses track position, and we talk about this in our meetings a lot, he’s not able to get back up there. Whereas (Jimmie Johnson) gets a pass-through, or (Kyle Busch) or (Matt Kenseth) rolls a tire or something, they’re able to pass and get back up front. So we’ve really struggled with that. Once we’re up there, that kind of band-aids some of the issues. So we recognize we have problem, and we’re working real hard on it. We have huge plans in place going to Pocono and Michigan to try and get better, to get these cars fast again an get them competitive. Because clearly, we’re not there right now.”
The Generation-6 car introduced this season has “kind of thrown us a curve ball,” Biffle said. In fact, Edwards’ victory at Phoenix in March, and David Ragan's triumph at Talledega last month, are the only wins for any Ford drivers on NASCAR’s top circuit, given that Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are still winless." Although the Penske cars have shown more speed, Biffle said the two teams are still working on how to share information.
“I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but I think we’re currently having discussions on how to make the Ford brand better all across the board. They’re definitely not trumping the Cup Series right now. Yes, (Penske is) are running better than us, we recognize that. But at the same time, we feel like we should be getting a little more as Ford. I’ve got my Ford hat on right now. We need to be running better overall, Penske and Roush,” Biffle said.
“We need to get a little more of the apple, if you will. Ford sparked a discussion on how can our two teams elevate one another without just opening the book, giving away all of our speed secrets. And that’s a delicate situation there, because we have proprietary information, and they do too, and we’re still racing against them for the championship and for the Chase spots. So it is difficult. From Ford’s perspective, you want them to share everything. From the team’s perspective, we’re trying to be the best we can. I think we’re experimenting down that road some right now.”
Historically better at NASCAR’s bigger tracks, the next two weeks present a chance for Biffle to take a step toward playoff contention. He’s especially optimistic about the June 16 event at Michigan, where he finished fourth and first in two races last year. But 2.5-mile Pocono, which like Michigan has recently been resurfaced, also offers opportunity for improvement.
“I think we’ll be better at Pocono than we were at Dover. But I think Michigan will be a step up for us as far as getting our cars fast,” Biffle said. “We have a pretty aggressive plan in place going to Pocono to try to get our cars where they need to be, and quite honestly, we could end up all at the top of the heap if we hit on something and get this ship righted.”