As Michigan looms, Biffle focuses on the future
August 13, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
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Greg Biffle sounded more like a defiant prizefighter psyched up for the next round than a racer feeling the pressure to earn a postseason bid with only four races remaining to set NASCAR's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 16-driver field.
Speaking with the national media on Tuesday, Biffle acknowledged time is running out on securing a place in NASCAR's Chase, but he feels like this week's stop, Michigan International Speedway, is his ace in the hole for a win-and-you're-in scenario, or at least a strong move in the points position.
"We've stayed the course, we're a competitive team,'' Biffle said. "We're about winning races and we're not giving up. It would be easy to throw the towel in and say, 'OK, we ran (20th) at our best track (Michigan in the spring), we're going to give up.'
"But that's not in our DNA and we haven't done that, and I promise you it's going to pay off.''
Part of Biffle's confidence comes from the proactive -- if counterintuitive -- approach his Roush Fenway Racing team has taken to this last month of regular season push.
They used NASCAR's last off week to test at their best track -- the super fast Michigan 2-miler -- to be absolutely on top of their game there instead of trying to gain somewhere else they might have previously struggled.
Biffle's four wins -- including back-to-back in two races from 2012-13 -- at Michigan are most among the current drivers and he has a stellar 10 top-five finishes in 23 starts there.
He would have preferred to wrap up his Chase bid victory at Michigan in June, but instead finished an uncharacteristic 20th place, equaling his worst finish since 2007 and raising an alarm.
"We literally had a 29th-, 28th-place car on speed and talk about taking wind out of your sails,'' Biffle said. "We were looking forward to that, here's our spot, we're going to be fast, and then clearly we were not. We were off and we recognized that. So we've worked very hard. … We've circled back and kind of gone a different direction and have found speed. We went and tested at Michigan. Not very often can you walk away from a test and say, we gained three or fourth-tenths of true speed, which is a tremendous amount and just goes to show how far off we could have been."
While a victory in the next four weeks would make life easiest, Biffle can still make the Chase by points as well. With AJ Allmendinger's Cinderella win at Watkins Glen on Sunday, 12 drivers have "won" their way into the new-look Chase format. That now leaves four positions determined by points. Biffle is currently eight points in the standings behind Clint Bowyer, the current final driver in the Chase, and only 19 points behind Ryan Newman, who is seeded 14th.
"It's kind of funny when it comes down to this, you're not only looking at yourself but you're looking at all these other teams,'' Biffle said. "For instance if AJ Allmendinger didn't win this weekend and Carl Edwards or Kurt Busch (who already have wins) did, we would be looking pretty good in the Chase seeding right now with points.
"So anything can happen. One of these other guys that are behind us in the points goes and wins another one of these races, it really, really shoots us in the foot as far as the points go. We feel like we can win one of these last four races, so that's what we're focusing on is winning one of these and getting our way into the Chase that way.''
While acknowledging he's got a challenge in front of him on the track, Biffle sounded equally optimistic about some off-track changes as well. Earlier this week his longtime sponsor 3M announced it would move to Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet for a three-year deal beginning in 2015.
All that remains is firming up the sponsor for the side of his 19-time winning No. 16 Ford Fusion and Biffle was so excited and upbeat about that Tuesday, he indicated it was now merely a formality before some big news might be announced.
"First of all, I have to say 3M has been a great partner and I've created so many friendships over there,'' Biffle said of his 10-year relationship with the company. "Management changes, things change. This sport is a business … so I've known for a while they were not coming back with the 16 car and that's obviously a business thing on their end.
"It's a bittersweet ending, but (with) new, greener pastures on the other side. We've got a great partnership that we're going to announce in the next three or four weeks. I'm really excited about it, but in due time. We're excited about the future.''
In particular the near future and his showing at Michigan on Sunday -- an afternoon Biffle is hoping will be a season-maker.
"I cannot wait to get there,'' Biffle said, his voice rising. "Do I think we're going to have the fastest car? I'm hoping we're close, but we're definitely going to be running in the top 10. We've got to run top 10, top five. That puts us in position to win races like Pocono, like Watkins Glen.
"Do we wish that happened in April or May, certainly, but we can't change that. We can only focus on the future.''