NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
Topics: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
August 1, 2010
LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford. He is the winner of the Pennsylvania 500. It is his first victory of 2010 and 12th top 10 of the year. Also this win gets you into the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race.
He's joined by his crew chief Greg Erwin.
Take us through your run, Greg.
GREG BIFFLE: I'll tell you what, it's been a helluva day. Hitting the wall on the first turn, first lap, coming off of turn one, just scraped it. I knew it was going to be a long day from there. It lost the nose, middle of the corner. I got out of the gas and it never stopped. I couldn't understand why.
I had a lot of trouble through the first part of the race with the front of the racecar just not wanting to turn, the front tires.
Greg did some shim adjustments on the front. We did some tire pressure, wedge, and got the thing handling fairly well.
Late in the race, I don't know if it was the cool weather, mist, when it started cooling off, to me it was a completely different racecar. I don't know what happened to it, but it simply took off. I was getting ready to pass Denny Hamlin, I had two tires, he had four, came over, the caution flag came out. The car was phenomenally fast there at the end. I felt really good, solid top-five finish.
It feels good getting in that position, no matter what happens, we're going to finish in the top five because our car is so fast. I had that feeling at Chicago. Unfortunately we had engine failure. Then I felt like that at Indy last week. Wish I was up here talking about two in a row, but it was dang close.
Man, the car just took off at the end. It was really nice. It's been a long time. The guys have been working really hard. I beat the hell out of the engine today. It shouldn't be running, but it still is. I'm thankful for that. But it got the durability test today, I can promise you.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, can you share with us some of your thoughts from the day.
GREG ERWIN: Pretty surprised really. This team is all about fight. The 16 guys have been up and down. This core group of people we've had with us now since about the end of 2007 all the way through the 2008 season, we've hung on each other's backs. Being able to come out and over the last three weeks, show the improvement that the team has shown, the qualifying efforts have been significantly better, the results have been better, it means a lot to finally capitalize.
We feel like we've been just a little bit, just this far off, for quite a while. For it to come out and turn out like the way it is, especially with the way it started off, it didn't look very promising, but certainly the weather came to us. The track conditions came to our setup. We were on the fortunate end today. We're very grateful.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Two tires early didn't look like the right call. Two tires late, everybody scratching their head. Why did you try it the second time?
GREG ERWIN: The first time it worked really, if you look at the net position is what we look at. Obviously it's going to slip and slide. The first couple guys on four are going to get you more often than not, unless you're the leader and you can get out in front. When you can be in front, in clean air, then two tires obviously had the largest advantage.
We probably netted six or eight positions running order on the racetrack before the next pit cycle cycled out. At the end you got to give a shout out to those pit boys. That was a two-tire, gas-only stop. Took us in third and out with the lead. With the 77, we knew what kind of strategy they were going to play.
Still put them on the front row, put the clean air on the nose. It did seem to kind of work out the first time, so we went for it again. Besides, we got beat on it last week, remember (laughter)?
Q. Greg, obviously an emotional day for you, but also for Jack Roush. You talked to him in Victory Lane. Tell us about the conversation, what he said, just the emotions you could hear through the phone.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I have to tell you that when it got to be five to go, I started thinking about it. You know, I started thinking, This race is meant to be. It's for Jack. Then I thought, you know, spending all the time I've spent with the Ford people, you know, how desperate they are to prove they've got good product, they've got great cars and trucks, but they want to prove on the racetrack they want to win. Then I thought about all the 3M guys, but Jack mostly. You know, I just thought this is going to be a great day if I can complete this thing.
In Victory Lane he told me that he had never met somebody that had the will to win like I do. He said he didn't say that because I drive for him; he said he feels that out of any of the drivers. You know, kind of put goosebumps on my arms. I'm glad he thinks of me like that.
I give 110% all the time, I never give up. No matter how grim the outcome can be, I'll still be digging no matter what. That's what I did today. I just kept after it in the racecar, took every advantage that I could get.
Later in the day, the car just really started going. These guys wanted me to slow down at the end. That's tough. I've been in that situation. Used to be in it quite a bit, being out front, five-second lead, slow down, take care of the car, take care of the fuel, take care of the engine, just back it down a little bit. That's hard to do inside the car.
Q. (No microphone.)
GREG BIFFLE: He's excited. When he was telling me what he thought of me, he was proud what happened today. I'm just so thankful that we were able to put Roush Fenway back in Victory Lane. We know it's been a long time. There's a lot of people that have worked on these racecars and touched 'em. The fab guys back at the shop have been working night and day to try to figure out what we're missing. The engine guys have been working really hard on this new engine. My team have been working really hard. They've been working out, working on pit stops, strategy. It finally paid off.
I've said it two or three times, this is a different front suspension package. We've been to the racetrack with two dozen in the last two years trying to figure out why are these guys beating our ass so bad. This hopefully is the one that's it, you know.
We went to Chicago. Not a lot of people remember that race, but we qualified fourth. We passed for third place coming down to the end of that race, and I had to beat Reutimann and Carl. I was a little better than Carl, I was pretty sure, but I don't know about Reutimann. Never got the opportunity. The engine broke. That could have been our first win. And Indy could have definitely been our second win. I think as a team we're on the right track. I'm really happy about that.
Q. Greg, from your perspective in the car as the driver, from your perspective on the pit box, how many times did you go through, with all of the red flags, weather situations, rain, how many times did you think the race was about to end, could end or end up running the full distance?
GREG BIFFLE: I'll tell you, I'm not superstitious, but this has happened to me I don't know how many times. I'm sitting there in fourth and I'm going, Starting to rain. I see the 5 car a few spots back, the 33. I'm like, Man, I hope this thing rains out. Get a good top five and get out of here.
Then we have a pit stop. Get ready to go green, it stops. We're sitting there. The 77 is the leader and I'm second. I'm like, Well, this wouldn't be bad, but I might want -- it's a long ways to go still, there's a lot of racing left. But I'm thinking to myself, This wouldn't be bad if I ended up second. So then off we go again.
You know, I was fairly comfortable I'd be able to beat the 77 on no tires with my two, and my car was pretty decent. I felt like that. But if there had been some more cautions, my car was pretty fast. I don't know if he was running as hard as he could, I could beat the 14 on lap time if I wanted to. So, you know, I thought it was over a few times, to be honest with you, I did.
GREG ERWIN: You go through that. We're getting better and better at looking at this weather. It's not an easy call to make. You look at what the guys are going to do around you. You know about where you're at in your fuel window. You know you can or can't make it to the end on gas. You're committing to pitting at least for gas, whether it's gas only or right sides. Pretty much a lot of it was straight up.
Last week I didn't think there would be as many cars that would put two on. We figured there would be a couple. This week I started second-guessing myself. I bet there's going to be three or four cars put four on that last stop, and they did. The 14, the 29 and one other there. They all lined up in a row on four tires. I said, Boy oh boy, if they come on through that field on four tires, get up there, win this race, we're really going to feel bad.
Didn't work out. Feel pretty happy.
Q. This breaks a 64-race winless streak. Can you talk about what this means to you personally and, Greg Erwin, what this means as you're in the hunt for a championship?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I never doubted myself whether I had the ability to win at this level. I guess sometimes you can start doing that, but I never did. I just was frustrated that we haven't capitalized on some of the opportunities that we've had.
I've made a mistake. We put two on, should have put four. Put four on, should have put two. Kansas last year we decided to put four on, we got the fastest car. I was too loose to beat 'em. We lost that race. And last week.
So I hadn't given up faith that we'd be able to get back in Victory Lane. You know, didn't anticipate, although we do run good here, didn't anticipate it being here. I was thinking maybe Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta. Those are some of our good racetracks coming up into the Chase.
Hopefully we might get a couple more before Richmond.
Q. What did this mean to you? Did you have any family and friends here, being you're from here?
GREG ERWIN: Turns out I did. My brother here. Brought my son with me here this weekend. It's kind of nice. Two races a year here. I normally get to see my mother a couple times. Didn't get to see her yet this weekend.
It's cool. As a kid I used to come up here and hang out with my dad and my uncles. I was here the day that Tim Richmond won that comeback race here, and used to watch Cale Yarborough zing around here. Thought it would be pretty cool to do that someday. Who knew, little kid then.
It was great for my son to be able to see this. He doesn't get to come with me much. He misses out on a lot, so I'm pretty happy for him. I think he thinks this is pretty cool.
Q. Greg, when you were talking about shifting in the corners, the rev chip, what was the meeting where they told you not to do that and why did you choose to ignore that advice?
GREG BIFFLE: Last week at Indy we had a discussion about running the car on the rev chip. They want us to come off the throttle instead of running it right up against the rev chip. As you can imagine, an engine turning 97 or 98 hundred rpm, it's missing all of a sudden, that the timing belts and the valve trainer and everything are going crazy inside the engine. They don't want to put the extra harmonics through it.
I only hit the rev chip a couple times, but I ran it up to the rev chip, didn't get on the rev chip. I don't know a lot down there in turn one. I kind of felt handicapped to having to use third gear in turn one just 'cause I had to slow the car way down and turn it early and then drive it through the corner and up off onto the straightaway. I tried not to shift, I was 2/10ths a lap slower, 3/10ths a lap slower when I didn't do that.
I really feel like our car wasn't handling as good as it needed to be, and I couldn't carry the momentum through there that the other cars could. So, you know, I just had to drive it the way I did. I had to slow down. I had to put it in third and turn the corner slow and give it gas, speed back up again. That was the only corner I did it on. I tried all I could do. I tried to run the top, the bottom, I tried to roll through there in fourth. I'd have more steering wheel in it, then it would snap it loose. Instead of being in third, it could drive off straight. I said, Heck with it, I'm going to shift. If the motor boils up, the motor boils up. That's the only way I could survive is shifting, so that's what I did.
Q. How many times did you take two tires on pit road?
GREG ERWIN: I think it was twice. Once early and once at the end there.
Q. Can you talk about what this could mean for the team as far as momentum, trying to keep your shot at the championship and the Chase?
GREG ERWIN: Just picture yourself working 60, 70, a hundred hours a week, right, 40, 50 weeks out of the year, coming up short, watching these guys kick your butt every week, basking in the glory. Being able to walk in front of those guys 6:00 every Monday morning, look 'em in the eye, tell 'em, We'll get them next week. That's what you've got to do.
There's not many doubters on that team. They'll do anything I ask them to do. Anything in that company will do anything we ask them to do. They'll build us anything we ask them to build us. They'll come in here and they'll fight till they throw the checkered flag. Whether you're 5th, 10th, 12th, wherever you're at, there's really no quit in any of those guys that are with me and work around us in that 3M 16 shop.
It's going to be a lot easier tomorrow morning to stand in front of them, I can tell you that. Big momentum boost. Perfect time of the season.
Q. With your ability to be in contention for wins, particularly these last several weeks, today's victory, is it fair to say that the tools are available at Roush Fenway at this time for guys to make trips to Victory Lane? There was a lot of criticism early in the season about being behind.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, there is. You know, I'm surprised that there's not more focus on that now because everybody said, What's wrong with our racecars? We've all complained our racecars aren't what they need to be. I don't think they're there yet. We're on the right track. I certainly feel like when I show up every week now that I probably have a car I can compete and win with. But we still got a little bit more work to do.
Kind of one disappointing aspect of it is the suspension package, if you will, is Matt didn't run as well at Chicago as I anticipated him to run. The 99 ran really good. I mean, he ran decent after a while, but it wasn't magic on his car for some reason. You know, I thought that he would be right there. They're still fighting a little bit.
But I thought that he would be better right off when we put the suspension back. But they're working on it. They're figuring it out.
Q. I wanted to go back to the two-tire thing. You were mentioning some of the races you lost during this winless streak. Did you talk about Indy after that performance? Are you clean-air guys going forward? Have you almost had a change in philosophy? You came out swinging today with the two tires and clearly made a statement: clear air is what I want?
GREG BIFFLE: I don't think two tires or four tires are always going to be the case. It just depends what racetrack you're at. If you're at Michigan, you're going to put four tires on. Just depends on the racetrack itself, the way it's shaped, how easy it is to pass, how hard it is to pass.
We really just wanted to get some track position. You know, we knew that putting two on, we weren't going to get the lead, but we were going to jump ourself from in the teens up to the top five and then see how our car drove up there. It didn't drive any different, and I lost those spots back. But we kept working on it and got it going better.
And at the end, I mean, it was a no-brainer to put two tires on. Our tires had six laps on it. Was it six green flag laps or four green? Didn't have a lot of laps on the tires. I can't believe all those guys had four tires.
GREG ERWIN: It was an extended caution, that plays into it. Red flag, we're driving around. The left sides are cooling down, the weather is cooling down. You're gaining more and more benefit.
GREG BIFFLE: I was really surprised that not more guys did two than what did. There was a fair amount of 'em that did two. I was surprised with some of those guys, the 24 and those guys doing four. They probably hadn't done two all day. That's the other thing. If you don't do two tires all day, you get to the end of the race, you can't just bolt two on because you don't know what it's going to do. You know, so...
GREG ERWIN: Like Indy (smiling).
Q. Did you see anything with Elliott's crash?
GREG BIFFLE: I didn't see Elliott's crash. Was it in the same bad zone?
Q. (No microphone.)
GREG BIFFLE: That's how the other crash in the spring race occurred. The 9 got down in that grass and then came across in front of the field.
You know, I didn't see what happened. It's dangerous to have grass next to where you're running 200 miles an hour. That's all there is to it. And, you know, it's just the way it is, the way these racetracks have been built forever. It's a great racetrack, it's so much fun to drive.
Talladega and Daytona had that same issue, and they added pavement, like a skid pad, whatever you want to call it, so when the car gets out of control, gets going that direction, you still have some control. Because once you hit the grass, especially with it wet, with it dry it's going to make it a little different, you hit the grass wet, you're along for the ride. It feels like you pick up speed actually when you get into the wet grass.
You know, they'll have to look at it. I understand times are tough. We might go half a dozen races and nobody gets in that grass ever. But this is two races in a row somebody has been over there playing around.
Q. (No microphone.)
GREG BIFFLE: I didn't hear that. That's great. We applaud the racetracks for doing safety stuff for us. We understand that times are tough. They need to do fan items. We need to cater to the fans in the infield, whether it's concessions, bathrooms, accommodate them and all that. But certainly we all appreciate a hundred percent them thinking of us on the racetrack, the safety of the drivers out there.
We can never do too much for safety. We're blessed to have the things that have gone on in our sport that have probably saved a lot of lives because of what we've done since then.
Q. If there had been a caution with 10 or 5 laps to go, do you think you would have been able to hold off the guys with four tires?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, that's a good question. The lap times we were running, you know, we were running pretty dang good lap times. My car was driving really good. I mean, my car was driving so good. It would have been a shootout for sure. It would have been lane choice, who got the jump on the start, did we end up three-wide. Would have, could have, should have. Last week, if I would have taken two, would I have won? I don't know.
It would have been a shootout. I was ready for it, though.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. That will call it a day.
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