NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Quicken Loans 400
Topics: Quicken Loans 400
June 16, 2013
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our race winner, today's 45th annual Quicken Loans 400 here today at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and our winner is Greg Biffle, and he drove the No.16 3M Give Kids a Smile Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing. He's joined up front by his car owner Jack Roush, his crew chief Matt Puccia, and this was Greg's 19th career win in the Sprint Cup Series. This is his fourth win at Michigan International Speedway. He's got back‑to‑back wins now at Michigan, and this is the 1,000th victory for Ford Motor Company in NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Certainly a milestone to remember.
And then finally, with this win today at Michigan, Greg Biffle has secured his spot in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint All‑Star Race. So congratulations on that. I think you took care of a few things here today. But talk about your win here, the race team, the victory, the significance of winning this 1,000th win for Ford, as well.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it's definitely a special day. It was Father's Day, my first, Emma's first victory lane today, so that was pretty special for me. You know, we certainly didn't probably have the fastest car today at times and kept working on it, kept making slight adjustments on pit stops, and you know, track position is huge with our car, and it's been well documented that we feel like we've been a little bit behind this season. We've been gaining on it. We've probably gotten a little more than we deserved the past two weeks with a second and a win, but we certainly have gotten much, much better, and it looks like we're well on our way to getting some speed back in these cars, and continue to work on them and figure them out and get them to be just a little bit better yet.
It was fun racing with those guys. The 29 was coming at the start of that last run there, and then he kind of started to fade, and then the 48 was coming, so then I stepped it up a notch, run just about as hard as I could, and so I was matching his lap time for lap time, and Turn 1 got really slippery with about six or eight to go, I'm not sure why, and I don't know exactly what happened to the 48, but I about busted my butt down there a couple times trying to get all I could get.
Just super excited for Ford. 1,000th win for them, and we got to go drive a bunch of their cars and trucks over at the proving grounds this week, see some of the great 2014 and '15 stuff coming to market. It's really exciting to see all that and all the racing heritage, and to be able to be a part of that with the 1,000th win, I think I contributed over 50 of those, which is a small number compared to 1,000, but still sure excited to be the number 1,000.
KERRY THARP: Matt, talk about the performance today of the No.16 team and how this car wound up in victory lane.
MATT PUCCIA: A little bit of a struggle this weekend for us. We weren't where we needed to be off the truck, but we kept working on it. We kept digging, and we talked about it last night and kind of made a plan what the track was going to do with being a green racetrack and no rubber. I think we made the right adjustments. We were just a little bit off and we kept working on it and got it a lot better. Just to be here in victory lane is just incredible. We've come‑‑ we've worked really hard on our program trying to get our cars better, making them faster and what it's going to take to get up here and run these guys. Still got a little bit more work to do, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. I believe we learned some stuff this weekend that's going to help us going into these next few races.
KERRY THARP: And Jack, congratulations on winning here at Michigan, I know a special, special place for you, and also the 1,000th win for Ford Motor Company. Just maybe talk about that significance and just the overall day that you had today.
JACK ROUSH: Well, it's always a great thing to load the cars up and know that we're going to come to MIS and have a chance to race here. It's been a great racetrack. We've had a lot of success over the years. Greg especially really steps up for the race.
I think Matt did a great job, a better‑than‑average job today of making adjustments in the car, and I'm not saying average for him but average for the field. I think there was more improvement in the 16 cars than there was in most of the cars throughout the race, and that really was the telling difference that was there. I was no less proud to have helped Ford win its 1,000th race in NASCAR as I was to win the race here at the 100th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company. I think Greg won that one, as well. Those are two great milestones that I've been honored to be a part of.
As far as the 1,000 wins that Ford has had here in NASCAR, it's over 50 years, and we've been involved just over half of that time, and there have been a lot of great teams and a lot of great drivers that have been part of that, and we're just glad and honored to be a part of that history.
Q. Greg, you've talked the last few weeks about trying to find something, get the cars right, second last week, first this week. Would that lead us to believe that you have found something?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I think that I certainly don't want to downplay our success at all because this is pretty exciting for our team and what we've done. But we feel like‑‑ I feel like we've just scratched the surface of how much better our cars are going to get, and we're going to work towards getting them better over this next‑‑ until the end of the season.
You know, we were nowhere near competing with the 48 car and the 5 and a few others last week at Pocono, but we got up there, got track position, our car was fast in fairly clean air and we finished second. And here today it was obvious that the 48 was a little bit faster than us again.
So we've gained on it, definitely we've gained on it. But we're not celebrating quite yet. If you want to put it on a scale, we've probably found half of the speed we needed to and downforce or front suspension or whatever. But we've got some work to do still. Qualified 19th; we need to qualify better. We'll continue‑‑ like Matt said, we were way off when we came off the truck, and we got better, better, better, better, qualified, we thought we could have been better qualifying, and then Saturday got the car felt like where we wanted, and just kept dialing it in all day and getting track position.
And we had a real tough time on pit road. We lost track position every pit stop that was under yellow and gained every‑‑ well, broke even or gained under green.
It was kind of a long answer, but we definitely feel like we've made gains, 100 percent. We're certainly not celebrating that we've found everything yet.
Q. Jack, any of the speed y'all picked up here in the last week have to do with some of the cooperation y'all are starting to have with Penske Racing, and can you address how you feel like that's going to work?
JACK ROUSH: We had kind of a summit meeting with the Penske guys last week and talked about some strategies for engineering things going forward. The primary benefit of that cooperation is in front of us. We've done very little together. We have had one cooperative wind tunnel test that exposed some things to both teams that were different about the cars.
We've just scratched the surface on it. The Penske organization is obviously a great‑‑ got a great program. They won a championship last year, and they've run very well at a number of the races where we've struggled seemingly this year so far. But it's going to be great to have somebody that we can share information with and to learn from in some things where we might be deficient.
But I wouldn't say that‑‑ the big thing that happened today is Greg Biffle stood up in the seat, stood on the gas so hard when it counted and Matt Puccia with his chemistry with him and the spotter, they made great decisions with the strategy on the racetrack and with adjustments in the car, and that's the reason we're sitting here.
But we look forward to the one Ford thing that Jamie Allison talks about coming to fruition and being of benefit to both teams.
Q. Greg, you said a couple times you weren't sure who had the fastest car out there. Three laps, three and a half laps and the 48 is coming on, you're digging for everything you can get. Did you have a sense for what you had left and what you could have done at that point?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, my car wasn't as fast off of the green as I needed it to be. You know, right when they throw the green, they got jumbled up and I got about a 20‑car‑length lead, 25‑car‑length lead. The 29 was able to run me down to about a 10‑car‑length deficit, and then my car, the balance started coming in, and I started pushing the envelope a little bit harder and started to drive the car harder. I was kind of taking care of it when they were 25 back. When he started getting closer to 10 back, I started standing on‑‑ like Jack said, standing up on the wheel a little bit. And when he started falling back a little bit, then they told me the 48 was catching him, so I continued to drive as hard as I could.
I had a little bit left in the gas task but not much. I didn't want to make a mistake, but I was driving pretty hard.
And then when the 48 got‑‑ when we got down to 10 to go, I started just doing everything I could, run as hard as I could, picked the best line I thought I could around the track, and the three laps that he was behind me in clean air we were able to match his lap time, within a hundredth of a second, or pretty close to it. So I felt pretty confident at that point he wasn't going to catch me. But I was running as hard as I could get.
And then Turn 1 started to get‑‑ I don't know if it's because I was running as hard as I was, but Turn 1 started to get a little funny on me. It snapped out from under me, almost lost it, and wrecking while you're leading is probably not the most prestigious thing to do, but I almost did, and I said I can't let this thing get out from under me down here, so I tried a little bit different line and it was chattering all four tires and I was still able to maintain the same lap time, and then he got in the fence. I don't know if that was a product of what happened to the racetrack or if he truly got a flat tire or something happened. But I was able to hold him off at that particular point.
But to your point, he was quite a bit faster than we were, it's obvious, and we needed to continue to‑‑ like Matt and Jack said, we've got to continue working on it. The guy started 10th and was behind me with 10 to go. That's a fast race car. To start 10th and be catching me with 10 to go or be 20 back or whatever he was, however close he got, until he could start averaging his lap time out.
We're not to that level yet, but we're going to‑‑ we're certainly a lot closer than we have been. You know, that's the work we still have left to do. And it doesn't seem like his teammates are quite that fast, either. I mean, they're pretty fast, but it seems like maybe the‑‑ I heard the 5 was pretty fast today. I didn't get to see him, but the 48 and 88 and 5 are a little bit behind that 24 car, too.
Q. Greg, kind of following up on that, Jimmie said he wore out the right front trying to catch you because he was pushing the envelope, and some of us heard on the radio that you said something to the effect of I love it when the 48 crashes when he's trying to catch up with me. Could you kind of expand on that? I assume it comes from the fact that it was the reverse of last week when you were trying to catch him at Pocono.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah. Well, let me clarify that a little bit. I don’t want to see anybody wreck; I should have said make a mistake. And that’s truly what he did is he made a mistake. He pushed the envelope, and we all do that. I almost did that; he almost busted me, and basically that’s what I was referring to was breaking him. We got him to make a mistake, we got him to falter, and we pushed the envelope, and that’s part of racing and part of running hard and being competitive, and it makes you feel good when you push the guy over the edge, and he made a mistake. And that's what makes you feel good is that you outsmarted him or you beat him at his game, and he definitely had a fast car and we got him to make a mistake today, and I don't think he was going to catch me, but at the same time he made a mistake trying.
We all do that, but today it was him.
Q. Greg, right before your final pit stop Carl had to come in because he was overheating a little bit, had something on his grille. He thought maybe you should have come back and helped him. I was curious if you even got a request, or I think you may have also had something on your grille at the time.
GREG BIFFLE: I had something on my grille, also, and I was 280 degrees for the last 15 laps of the race. I couldn't find anybody to back up to me to get stuff off my grille. These races are very, very hard to win. You look at when the last time was I win here, or the last win I had was here. This is a competitive sport. If it's not the last pit stop of the day or it's not coming down to the last pit stop of the day‑‑ we had so much‑‑ it would be different if he was eight car lengths back, and I didn't know when I passed him he had something on his grille or I'd let him get it off then. And I don't know if he did have something on his grille.
But when I looked up in the mirror and he was 25 car lengths back, and they said, Carl has got something on his grille, I said, I can't help him, not in this‑‑ not right now. This is my chance to win today, right here, and the 48 is coming. I don't know if you know that or not, but the 48 is coming. There were other guys coming behind Carl that were going to pass him, and I couldn't‑‑ I didn't feel like I could take that risk at that particular time to back up, lose all that track position and‑‑ it may have changed the outcome of the race because the caution did come out, and I was fortunate enough to stay in the lead lap and start up front again.
You know, I don't know all the timing and where we were at, but it's possible that I wouldn't have had the lead when all that cycled through. The caution came out and I was on pit road. We try and help our teammates as much as we can, and if it would have been the middle of the race, not a problem?
JACK ROUSH: There's no team orders for that kind of thing, but I do support the decision that Greg made to not give up his track position, and we'll discuss that.
Q. For Greg and Jack, it's been an emotional and bittersweet week with the passing of one of your fellow competitors here, the win for Ford and the 1,000th win. How do you sum that whole scenario up? You must be sad but you must be very, very happy, as well, I guess.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, Jason and I were pretty good friends about five years ago. We sort of drifted apart when he wasn't racing Nationwide and Cup Series anymore. I remember sitting in this motor home lot playing Uno with him and Alison and Matt and Katie and Jamie and Christy, the four of us, probably five or six years ago, pretty funny memory that we have doing that.
You know, we have‑‑ it's kind of ironic, I thought about it on the flight up here, we have Give Kids a Smile on the car this weekend as our sponsor, and probably you look at it differently when you have a two‑year‑old daughter, but I've looked at it‑‑ when I first heard about it, the only thing I could think of was Charlie, and you know, how sad he's going to be to‑‑ those guys, they were best friends, and that's going to be rough, and today is Father's Day. There's no good way‑‑ nothing good can come of that.
We're thinking about him, and we know they'll get through it, and we'll support them in whatever way we can. But it was a tragic thing. I wish there was something I could do.
JACK ROUSH: Every time somebody gets hurt in racing, we need to look behind it and see what we can learn about the tragedy and see what we can do to establish some safety thing that would be‑‑ that would make it survivable for somebody else in the future. If there was something to be learned from this, Jason will have an impact, as Dale Earnhardt's death did, on the generation of drivers that follow him.
Q. Matt, was this race harder to manage than most races? It seemed like it was confusing with all the blown engines, the two versus four tires, cautions falling on top of each other? More difficult to strategize because of all that?
MATT PUCCIA: It's just a little different than with some of the tracks, the Texases and Chicagos where tires are worth so much, and here fuel dictates a lot of what you do as far as tires. It just opens up a lot of different strategies. We sat down this morning, sat down all week and just kind of made a plan what we're going to do when different scenarios came up, and that's what we did. It makes it fun. I like it. Fortunately enough we came up on top on the deal.
Q. Jack, can you talk a little bit about the engines? The guys throughout the day were on the radio talking about the temperatures rising; at what point do you hit the panic button?
JACK ROUSH: Well, one of the problems we have with this racetrack and it's not unique to MIS but it seems like we get more hot dog wrappers than almost anyplace else here, and there was a lot of overheating and problems that people had that were caused by engine heat.
There's enough science around the engines now, unlike when we started 25 years ago or 26 years ago, we understand what the effect is, the detrimental effect of high oil temperature on valve springs and coatings in the cam shaft and other things. The engine has only got so many minutes it can run with high oil temperatures and not fail a component, and there was some great anxiety over that.
On Carl's situation where they were wondering if they could go outside the parameters as Greg was outside the parameters for a little while, and the parameters are for normal conditions, but when it comes time to win the race, you have to do what you have to do and the engine needs to hang on. But there was a number of problems that people had, and I'm always nervous, take no joy when somebody has a mechanical problem because we all face the same risks.
Q. (No microphone.)
JACK ROUSH: Well, right front tires get much less trouble in today's tire development world than they have historically. One of the things that I think the drivers will tell you is they almost like to race better when they had a tire that they could feel better than the tires today in terms of the right front. And those tires are also more trouble if you got a little excessive on the camber or you got a little excessive on the wedge and you got to pushing, you could have trouble.
We don't have as much of that as we used to, but I was very comfortable with the adjustments we had in our cars thinking that we weren't outside the box on camber, and certainly the problem we had handling‑wise on most of our cars or all of our cars all day was being loose, so we were not putting the right front tire in jeopardy.
Q. For Greg and Jack, a lot of talk this week about what's wrong with Ford and the sharing and not sharing and what should you share. If you could express in your inner circle how much anxiety was building up and how much of a relief is winning today?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, there was, I guess, anxiety building because we weren't as competitive as we wanted to be. We aren't as competitive as we were last year, and the sharing really has nothing to do with that because last year Penske wasn't Ford and we weren't sharing with them anyway. And we were better than we were.
You know, that wasn't really a result of our performance, either gaining or a result of why we weren't performing. But going forward if we can share a little bit, there's not as many Ford teams out there as there are other manufacturers, so for us to share a little bit and have to race the 22 and the 2 every week, with them having a little bit of what we do or us having some of what they do, that may not be a bad thing. You know, that clearly‑‑ you know, versus us racing for each other for 15th or 14th, I'd rather race them for top 5. And so if we can help each other be better‑‑ and it's not going to be one‑sided. You know, there's stuff certainly that we can bring to the table, I'm sure, but you've just got to make a decision on how much you're going to share, what you're going to share ahead of time so everybody knows.
But you know, I think overall we're still a little bit behind the other two manufacturers, and we'll continue to narrow that gap over the next 10 weeks or as we get closer to the Chase.
JACK ROUSH: I'll comment and follow on to that a little. With the Gen‑5 car we were at the top of our game; it was a fully developed car, and it may have been that it had a little bit of an advantage over the other manufacturers and potential, but we certainly had reached the limits on many things. As we started with the new Gen‑6 car, it was jump ball. In fact, the car changed through its development and its introduction to have substantially more downforce and more rear downforce in particular than the Gen‑5 car than was anticipated being to start with.
So we've had to figure out what to work on, where to put our focus and expend our resources, and we haven't done as well with it as I'd like to. But certainly we're on the path, and we've got nice light cars that I'm not the least bit unhappy about and our engine is doing a nice job, and we've just got to find that last little tweak in the front suspension or the last little aerodynamic benefit that's going to help us and we'll be right where we were with the Gen‑5 car or close to it.
Q. Greg, where were you at, at what point were you all in the pit stop when the green flag pit stop when Jamie lost the tire? Was there concern that you were going to go a lap down, and also I know you touched on this, actually talked about this earlier, but is it just‑‑ I know you can't speak for him, is it just frustration on Carl and Jimmy Fennig's part that they ended up with the finish they did because they did seem upset afterwards that you didn't slow down and allow them to clean off their grille?
MATT PUCCIA: I'll ‑‑ when we pitted there, I knew with our lead that we had and the strategy I was going to play there with the two tires and how much fuel we were going to take, we could not have gone a lap down, even with the caution we wouldn't have caught that caution. We played that card that we had enough of a lead on, the only one that we could have risked that would have been the 99 car at that time.
GREG BIFFLE: I saw the 99 car had already pitted. And back to Jimmie and Carl, what you've got to remember is there's 43 cars out there. They could have got the stuff off their grille on somebody else's car. You're constantly passing lap cars, and look in your mirror and see how far‑‑ you've got a guy 25 car lengths behind you, if it's that hot, we all know it's painful, but you roll out of the gas and you let the guy in third catch up to you and you have a spotter tell him, hey, I'm hot, I'm going to let you go, I've got to get the piece off my grille, will you give me a favor and let me get it off my grille. So you're backing up to that guy. It's a two‑way street, right? You ask that guy up there to climb back down the rock to help you or you wait for the guy that's coming that way and ask him for help. There's two ways of doing it. It's not just get me back up or I've got to pit. There's lots of options, you know, to get stuff off your grille. And I had to get stuff off my grille several times.
Q. You touched on this earlier. The race took a certain complexion in the second half. What from your perspective did you need to capitalize on in those 100 laps to get to the point you did to lead the race?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, our biggest thing today, probably our biggest struggle went unknown by probably everybody around, I think, is we pitted behind the 36 car, and every time the caution came out, when we were getting ready to go he was coming in. So we went from 8th to 15th, 16th, I don't know what, and then the next pit stop he's coming in, we hit together. I ran into him and had to back up and lost a bunch of track position.
So that's the reason why we weren't up there leading earlier or up there running with the guys in the front. We felt like we had a fast enough car, but we just kept‑‑ I don't know how the timing worked out that we kept running into the other‑‑ the guy pitting in front of us. Usually you have a problem one time and you get it ironed out or get it fixed somehow, but we were unable to fix it, so it happened three times to us, and that was our biggest struggle today out of anything. That was what we struggled with the most. It was very, very hard to pass here, or anywhere, and it's very hard to gain track position, and we lost track position a lot every time we pitted.
Q. Greg, with this rapid fire season, sometimes wins can feel a little bit fleeting. You seem like a guy that takes those wins and feels them and really appreciates them more than most. Can you talk about just what today's success or just a win in general means to you personally and professionally?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I've been doing this‑‑ I hate to say it, I've been doing this a fairly long time now, and you never know when your last win is going to come. And every time I've won, it doesn't matter at what level, you never know when the next race is you're going to have a chance, an opportunity, to be at the right place at the right time, your engine doesn't fail, you hang a lug nut on a pit stop the last stop of the day, you decide to take four, everybody else took two. You just never know when the next one is going to come. They're so prestigious to have, I'm thankful for every one I get. And this one was special today because of Father's Day, and I've been thinking when I'm going to be able to take him into victory lane and get a picture. That was important for me to do that. That's what made today so special.
Q. My question is for you, Jack: At what point today did you fully believe we've got a checkered flag, we're going to win, and what did it mean a little deeper for you to bring Ford this 1,000th victory?
JACK ROUSH: Well, as I said to start with, it humbles me that I've been a part of something that's been going on for a half a century, which is nearly twice as long as I've been involved with NASCAR, and Ford, there have been a lot of great teams, a lot of great drivers, a lot of great engines, engine builders that have contributed to Ford's success, and I'm just proud and honored to be a part of that.
I knew some people in the field after the last stop there had taken four tires behind him, I wasn't sure who, and I knew that they'd only taken two tires because that was their strategy and protecting our track position if the thing had stayed green. So I was hoping that the fact that our tires or somebody's better setup would not overhaul him at the end there. But when the 48 was coming for two tenths of a second lap for a while, and then when Greg stood up in the seat a little more, it stopped that. I said, this is probably going to be okay. The first indication was when he stopped the 29 from coming, and then when he stopped the 48 from coming, even before the 48 hit the wall I was pretty sure he was not going to give it up.
Q. One question for Greg and one for Jack: This might seem kind of silly, but you've talked about how you still feel you guys got a little bit of work to do, but given the situation and the win today, do you feel there's enough time left that you can be serious contender for the championship?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, if you'd have asked me that two weeks ago, I'd have said no, we don't stand a chance, I don't think we'll make the Chase. We went to Pocono with a good car and finished second, got ourselves 10th in points. When I left there I still wasn't a believer that we're all in the safety zone yet. Now I believe that we've gained a little bit more on it, on the setup, and we're gaining bits and pieces on the aero.
I think if we continue to work hard over the next 10 weeks or something, we'll be pretty competitive when it comes time for the Chase. You know, years past we've been kind of at the top when the Chase came, sort of. This feels different. This feels like we're rising up as we're coming to the Chase. So maybe that momentum as we get better and better and better and stronger, maybe when the Chase starts, we're going to be top dog or competing with the top 5 cars. And that's what you've got to do. You've got to compete with the top 5 cars every week, or you don't stand a chance in the Chase.
We're at that point at Pocono at here, but we've got to do that at all these other racetracks, as well. So we've got some work to do, but I feel like we can be a serious contender over what we've just done in the two short weeks, I think we continue to work hard in the next 10 weeks, we'll be there.
Q. For Jack, I know you'd be pleased if any of your drivers won, but is there a more appropriate person to get Ford this win in your stable than Greg, someone who has, as he mentioned earlier, contributed, won Nationwide and Truck Series championships and contributed a great number of wins to that total?
JACK ROUSH: Greg is an outstanding driver for MIS, and he stands out every place he goes if we can put the right hardware in his car. You know, in our world the crew chief, the driver, the engineer and all the technicians are a team, and we've worked hard in the last month and a half to try to improve the chemistry of that team so they could work together better to get the best ideas to come to bear on the setups in the cars. Pocono was a half measure, we were halfway there, we thought we had a full measure of cooperation in this race, and the next three races are races that we've tested at that we think will be really a bellwether on what we'll be able to do as we continue to explore this effort of chemistry improvement.
But I'm not unhappy with the Ford car. I'm not unhappy with the engine. I'm not unhappy with the simulations we have. But we just need to bring in a more timely manner the judgments, the senior and the most experienced judgments to bear on the setups in the cars. As I said, we made a half measure at it, we had half of what we were trying to do in place for Pocono, and we had what we thought was an improved effort for the last time that we're at a mile‑and‑a‑half track when we came to the two‑mile track here at Michigan, and I'm anxious to go into‑‑ Sears Point is a one‑off. We'll go out there, and we think‑‑ we didn't actually send our team there but we cooperated with another team that was there and we have some good data from that. Hopefully we learned enough at our Kentucky test, we'll go to Kentucky and beyond that Loudon, and we'll be in good shape.
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