NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500 Qualifying
Topics: Daytona 500
February 19, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to Carl, Jack and Chip on winning the pole for the 2012 Daytona 500.
We'll call up Greg Biffle who will be starting on the outside pole. Greg drives the No.16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, and he gets the outside pole for the 2012 Daytona 500.
Greg, you were hearing Carl talk a little bit, but it's got to be a feather in your cap and give you a little spring in your step the next few days knowing you're going to be starting up front for the Daytona 500.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it really is. The first thing that comes to mind is what a team effort it's been getting these cars prepared, how hard everybody's worked. We have fuel injection, we got all kinds of things that could play a factor in qualifying here.
One thing is apparent, we have good, fast racecars. We were the fastest in both practices, felt like we may have helped the 99 a little bit. Pulled the team effort together to get the front row for today, so that's exciting for us to do that.
I remember 2004, all‑Ford front row with Jack and I on the front row, then Doug Yates with Elliott Sadler in the 38 car. Kind of felt the same today. It's great to start up front on Sunday.
KERRY THARP: Jack, I'll have you comment about Greg's performance and having the front row again.
JACK ROUSH: One of the things that's in play in our team, one of the dynamics, is the jousting between Matt and Greg, as to who has been with us longer, the seniority thing.
Greg won the first championship in the Truck Series in the 1990s.
GREG BIFFLE: 2000.
JACK ROUSH: Then two years later he won in the Nationwide Series. Greg brought us our first championship. It was my embarrassment that I wasn't able to support him and get him in the Chase last year. But we certainly feel we're off to a great start. Greg it committed, motivated, able. I'm glad he's on the front row. Would have been happier if he had the pole.
KERRY THARP: We'll go ahead and take questions.
Q. You're one of just four guys in the field last night that wasn't involved in an accident. Three of them were veteran guys with lots of experience in both pack and tandem racing. What is it going to take for you and everybody else to avoid the mishaps come next Sunday?
GREG BIFFLE: A lot of that, as well, is luck. Hopefully my jar, won't call it my purse, over there that has my luck in it, hopefully I haven't used very much of it because I missed some big wrecks last night. Every wreck I was right in the middle of it. Thank goodness I didn't cause any of them.
It's a matter of paying attention to your surroundings and a lot of it is what position you're in. That wreck up there with the 24, the 18, I saw the 18 wrecking on the bottom. I was being told, you know, Slow down, get down. Then, No, stay up, c'mon. Joel changed his mind three or four times, and so did I.
I caught myself watching the 18 car. I thought he was going to come back across the track. I'm watching the 18, I've got the gas down, I'm on the brakes, I have the gas down. Then Joel is telling me, Get to the bottom. I look forward and I see the 24 car is in the air. I dang near ran right into that wreck because I was watching the 18 come back up the racetrack at me.
I went from full throttle back to skidding the tires again, then turning down the racetrack and getting by all that stuff. It's just paying attention to what's going on and hopefully nobody's coming at you at that angle.
It's going to be the same way for the 150s and the 500.
Q. How difficult is it that you don't have radio communication with other drivers?
GREG BIFFLE: It's actually not any more difficult because we weren't tandem racing. I'm not typically going to be talking to another driver anyway. I was behind that car, that car, that car, then that car. I was never with another car, other than I pushed Kyle to the lead that one time. So that was only half a lap.
Really, it's kind of a non‑issue since the cars are broke apart. If we were tandem racing, I would say we should be talking to each other. But it doesn't really work out now with the spoiler and all the stuff.
Q. Jack, one of the reasons that tag‑team drafting is not going to be is people have been told you can't do that because of the overheating issues. Does it concern you or how do you manage it that in the biggest race of the season with the laps winding down, the same way that some guy might not be able to make it on gas, but he's going to go for it at the end of the race, do you worry with the race on the line there's the danger of an engine blowing and causes mayhem at the end of the race?
JACK ROUSH: I'm watching it just like you. You should be asking Greg that question. The point that's there is there's a limit to how long the engine can keep its water. There's a limit to how long it will go on fuel. As you approach the checkered flag, in a perfect world you'd use all your fuel up, your engine and water up, you'd get the checkered flag in time.
It is true that these cars are hard to push now. It is true that they're loose. But I believe it will be the case that the race will be decided, much as it was for the Shootout, with two cars that tag up, that connect, and that are the best two cars running together. Not necessarily the best car is going to win the race, but the best two cars are going to have the chance to do it. I think the best two cars will win the race, but I don't think they'll spend much time doing it throughout the race, which is I think one of the criticisms that fans have.
GREG BIFFLE: You're exactly right. You're right up the alley. We could beat this horse to death, but the facts are the fans kind of spoke out, wanted to see these cars back in a larger pack. I think NASCAR wanted to see that as well. The drivers were about half and half. They started implementing things to try to break them apart.
I think lowering the back bumper another two inches really keeps the cars apart now because I can have a run at that car in front of me, I'm going to push him. I get within two feet from him and I start looking around, look at the gauges, see if the engine is still running because it just stops, then that guy takes off like he pushed the turbo button. That air just pushes his car. It keeps the cars from being bumper‑to‑bumper, driving around all the time.
Carl and I tried it yesterday. I pushed Kyle to the lead. But it's hard to stay connected to the car, for one. Two, it's going to overheat. Here is what typically happens when a car overheats. It blows the water out, which you can see. Then the gauge is flashing red. As it continues to get hotter and hotter and hotter, it starts losing power, so the car starts slowing down, which is a good thing.
I'm not saying every engine will do that. Jack knows as well as I do, they'll blow the water out, start getting hot, blow a head gasket, or just start losing power. It's that simple. It just starts expiring. It won't break like that (snapping fingers). It will just start losing power, most likely. That's what happens to them.
Q. Jack, it seems like maybe we're just perceiving it wrong. Seems like Ford recently stepped up their support. You guys are in the front, on the pole. Is there more support behind the scenes from Ford than in years past? Maybe the economy is turning around. Or has the level remained the same?
JACK ROUSH: There's a new sheriff over there. Jamie Allison got his job two years ago. He has his legs under him, doing a real nice job. Annie does a nice job. Ford has been really consistent and trying to do the right things for the race teams for a long time. The team they have right now is doing much better than average and they're getting enough experience right now to figure out how to bring the resources of Ford to bear.
Two years ago we had an issue with our simulations not doing what they might. We had to make our changes one at a time. You couldn't make a bar change, a wedge change and an air pressure change at the same time. Of course, the FR‑9 engine has come on, Doug has done a nice job with that. Actually had it with ARCA yesterday on the pole. Done well with it with Nationwide with the championship with Ricky.
It's a special time for Ford. NASCAR is committed to have everyone on the same template package as far as aero is concerned. It means the nuances, the things you do with a 4/10ths model schedule, the things you do with simulations is important. Ford is behind us on all that and they're doing a great job. You're not wrong in saying that Ford has really stepped up.
Q. Greg, with the 150s on Thursday, any special strategy for the duels?
GREG BIFFLE: Certainly primary concern, protect the racecar. We know that we want to start the race with this 500 car. We got a lot of work into it.
Secondly, we needed to get in competition with this car, see how it drives, see what adjustments we need to make to it, what we want to do to it.
Obviously starting on the front row or on the pole for that 150, that's going to be a good spot. We'll try and maneuver our way and stay up front. I'm sure at some point we'll be back in a little bit of traffic. But we don't want to get back in the latter part of this event three‑wide or something, back where guys are fighting for their life to try to get in the 500.
We want to be coherent and pay attention to that. We're going to race it just like normal. But if something happens, we get in a predicament where we don't feel comfortable, or I don't, I'll probably ease my way out of that position. But for the most part we're planning on racing it just like normal. I know the crew chief is not super excited about that. That's what we need to do to get this car ready for the 500.
Q. It looked today during the second qualifying lap some of the cars were starting through throw out water halfway through the lap. Given the changes in the fuel delivery system, with the rule changes that NASCAR made to the package, is there a more radical difference today between qualifying and race trim than there used to be at these tracks?
GREG BIFFLE: Not so much, other than before we used to be able to have qualifying radiators. We had giant radiators in the car with a ton of water capacity and we could tape the front solid. Some of the cars were taped solid. It makes a heck of a difference on the speed. It's extremely different on speed.
But the problem is the engine will overheat. Once it gets that certain temperature, like I talked about, it starts losing power. Then your speed is overcome by your engine losing power and you have a chance of hurting it and not being able to run the 150.
There are differences now. A lot of times the water you see coming out is just the expansion tank, the water getting to 250, it not having enough of an air gap, it will make itself a little bit of room by puking just a little bit of water. We see that a lot of times in qualifying at different places.
Q. I'm a little worried about cars being so unstable that when you get a run with two cars, like Kurt Busch Friday night, when he has to make a move, the guy behind can't see very well, both cars get unstable and you're sideways. The blocking also seems to be back in vogue.
GREG BIFFLE: Take and replay the 2005, 2006, 2004 of the old car, it's exactly the same. Cars are sliding all over the place. I mean, they don't slide now near as bad as they used to before they repaved it. Before they repaved it, you were death grip on the steering wheel constantly. It's hard for you guys. Nobody in here knows what that used to be like except for us that were inside that car. The thing would almost spin out by yourself in a qualifying lap. Now you could drive it with one finger because the track has so much grip.
Anytime in history that you've tried to push a car, Carl and I know this very well, so does Jack, Talladega 2008 I think, Carl tried to push me out to the front. We were almost to the lead. He was maybe three feet down on my left side, tried to push me in the middle of the corner just a little bit at Talladega. We spun out and it wrecked all our cars.
That's what I saw last night and in practice when Tony pushed on the 51 car, when Kurt moved up, spun him out. When these other guys pushed on the 20, wasn't square on his bumper, you're going to spin him out. Going around the corner, the car has a lot of G forces on it. If you push it in the wrong spot, it's going to spin out.
My car drives pretty stable. David Ragan was in front of me last night. His car was so loose, I'm glad I was not driving it. But my car, on the other hand, was stuck to the racetrack like glue. I could drive it anywhere. Yeah, when Kyle was pushing me, I was like this, white knuckling it, because it just pushes the back of the car around.
I don't know how you fix that. Right now I think the balance is pretty good on drivability and how long you can push each other. I mean, for what NASCAR was going for, see more of the big‑pack racing, I think the balance right now is pretty good.
Let's face it, when you saw big packs like that, it was always a five‑ or six‑car wreck minimum. That's just the facts, unless one guy spins off to the bottom, like the 15 did. When you're bunched up like that, one guy wrecks, you're going to see six guys in it.
KERRY THARP: Greg, Jack, congratulations. Good luck the rest of the Speedweeks.
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