Biffle sorry, but still stinging
October 29, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Biffle arrived at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Tuesday apologetic and defiant all at the same time.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver was sorry for the way he reacted during a confrontation with Jimmie Johnson following Sunday's event at Martinsville Speedway, where he grabbed the five-time champion by the collar of his firesuit to express his displeasure. He apologized for that response the same night in a Twitter post, and planned to call Johnson later Tuesday afternoon to do the same in person.
"I would do it again today," Biffle said before meeting with fans for a question-and-answer session at the Hall of Fame. "I may not grab ahold of him where I did, but I was not happy."
The veteran NASCAR racer remains unhappy with what he said was contact from Johnson that knocked the rear bumper cover off his No. 16 car, necessitating an extra pit stop that forced him to rally to a ninth-place finish. He was also miffed at ESPN's television coverage, which he said failed to differentiate between the contact with Johnson and an earlier bump from Dale Earnhardt Jr., which originally knocked the bumper cover loose and also required a pit stop to put the piece of flapping sheet metal back in place.
"They show me and (Johnson) side by side, and the bumper's flying off. Well, that’s a lap and a half after he hit me," said Biffle, who added he contacted ESPN studio analyst and former driver Ricky Craven in an effort to set the record straight.
No wonder, then, he was so agitated afterward, when he stormed straight over to the section of pit road where Johnson was conducting post-race interviews, grabbed him by the back of the collar, and spun around the Hendrick Motorsports driver before voicing his displeasure in a flurry of choice words. Video of the confrontation quickly made the rounds online. Looking back, Biffle said he didn't realize Johnson was on camera, and that he should have grabbed him by the arm instead of the collar.
"Maybe I overreacted a small amount," Biffle said. "But I wanted him to realize that I was not happy with what took place."
And evidently he still is, given that he had to race back to the front twice over the course of Sunday's event, and fell a spot to eighth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings -- three points out of sixth -- as a result. Johnson's assertion that he was inside the No. 16 car isn't reflected in video replays, Biffle said.
"We're going down into Turn 3 and he just runs straight into the back of me. He wasn’t inside of me. I watched the tape. He was offset a little bit, bit just ran into the back of my car. I look in the mirror, and the bumper cover is like this," Biffle said, waving his arm. "We didn't even race for position. It's not like I shut the door on him three times. I was just upset about that part, the way he handed that. I don’t care about the bumper cover, every fender on my car was beat to crap. I'd gotten run into guys, and guys run into me, and all that. Rubbing's racing, and I understand that. … But I had to start at the back and drive all the way back to ninth."
By the end of the race, he had just had enough.
"Put all the circumstances together," Biffle said. "It cost me two positions in points. Cost me possibly a win at a place that I'd never had a chance to win at. It was the first or second lap the guy was behind me. You start adding all those things up, and it's like you're over there throwing rocks at the beehive, right? And eventually, they're going to get (ticked) off, and you're going to get a reaction. And I reacted."
Biffle was able to make light of the situation, saying he wasn't going to employ "the old patented Jeff Gordon two arms to the chest" move, which the four-time champion has shown off in past shoving matches with Matt Kenseth at Bristol and Jeff Burton at Texas. "Anytime you see him unhappy, you know that’s coming, right?" Biffle added. "Can you get B-roll of Texas and Bristol? They're identical, are they not?"
The collar grab, though, might be retired for a while. "It'll be five more years before I grab somebody by the shirt collar," Biffle said, citing the negative reaction that drowned out those who saw him as standing up to the No. 48 team. "I got chopped up. … That stuff affects you."
A more fitting response might come this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, where Biffle has won twice, most recently last spring. But Johnson is the event's defending champion, and tied with Kenseth for the Chase lead -- so who knows what kind of shootout might unfold in the Lone Star State.
"You think he's got extra rivets in his bumper cover?" Biffle asked of Johnson. "Racing's racing, right? Now, he's running for title, right? Just checking."