Greg Biffle has been with Roush Fenway Racing since he broke into the Cup Series full-time in 2003. During his 12 full years of competing at NASCAR’s top level, he’s finished top 5 in points three times, as recently as 2012 but has yet to win the series championship. Though he is off to a slow start, this year Biffle feels like his team truly has what it takes to not only make the Chase but take that next step.
At 44 years old, Biffle is an elder statesman in the series who realizes his career is closer to the end than the beginning. However, the Biff still feels like he can compete, winning several more times before he’s done to pair along with that elusive Cup championship. He spent some time with Frontstretch’s Mike Neff recently to talk about it all: his team’s slow start to 2014, a contract extension, having fun in the desert and Biffle’s work with his foundation.
Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com: 2014 has been OK but not great. How do you feel about the rest of the season from this point forward?
Greg Biffle: We just really need to continue to work on our cars. We need to be better unloading off of the truck. We’ve been really disappointed so far that we haven’t been faster than we have but that is motivation to work harder. That is what we’re doing. We’re digging deep and finding everything we can to find speed. We really haven’t had a lot of speed. As a team, Carl has really gotten some huge breaks. The caution fell right for him, cycled him to the front and he got a top 5 finish. Fuel mileage worked for him at Bristol and he was able to stay out and pick up a win. He’s been in the right place at the right time but competition wise we’re off a little bit but we’re working hard.
Neff: Last year, the Fords struggled quite a bit. This year, you’ve already got two wins in the Ford camp. Do you feel like you’re at least a little more in touch with where you need to be compared to last year?
Biffle: As the 16 team goes, I don’t think we are where we want to be or need to be. As far as Ford goes it seems like the 2 and the 22 are pretty fast and Carl got up there and stole one. We continue to build our momentum I think but we’re certainly not where we want to be yet.
Greg Biffle looks for the No. 16 crew to get stronger as the season progresses.
Neff: Your contract is up this year, have you been talking about that or are you waiting to see how the year shakes out a little more?
Biffle: We’ve been working pretty diligently on that. It has been a pretty good negotiation so far. There are a lot of new people on both sides of the table so everyone is kind of getting a feel for the program and learning it. We feel pretty good that we’ll have something to announce before we get to summer.
Neff: You come out of the Northwest, not a real hot bed for Stock Car racing, but between you and Kasey Kahne, we have a couple of guys in the Cup series from that area. With your presence in the national spotlight, does that establish a little bit more of a pipeline for drivers to advance from that region of the country into the touring ranks?
Biffle: I do think so, although it is super hard to get an opportunity today. Some of the other series aren’t as robust as they used to be. The Northwest Tour, Winston West, or getting opportunities to run Hooter’s Pro Cup and things like that have changed a lot. I have a young man working in my shop, Billy Workman, Jr., kind of creating a job for him. He is early 20s and came out of the Northwest. He’s raced mostly dirt and won some go-kart championships and those kind of things. He’s running with Kenny Wallace and Kyle Strickler and those guys in their dirt programs. He’s running well. He went to Volusia and ran the DIRTCar Nationals and did pretty well. It is hard to get an opportunity though.
Neff: Larry Phillips is in contention for the Hall of Fame. You have a bit of a connection with him. What does it mean to you to have a Short Track guy considered for that honor?
Biffle: It is pretty neat to see that. He won a tremendous amount of races and was a very tough competitor. It was funny how they did the regions back then. He was in my region and we were competing with each other. I was running in Washington State and he was completely across the country. It was a fun time back then.
Neff: What kind of cars do you have in your shop? Is race team ownership in your future in the Trucks or Nationwide series?
Biffle: No race teams in my future. I get enough of that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I work on my own stuff and I’m doing a little bit with off-road Polaris Razors and side-by-sides and Wildcats. We’re doing engine swaps and roll cages and miscellaneous parts and pieces. That is my tinkering. Kasey has his Sprint Cars and Clint has dirt Late Models, I have these and I enjoy them. I can go ride them anywhere and drive them whenever I want. I go to the desert. We’re building some stuff for outside customers. Just having fun with it. I love to tinker and build stuff. If I didn’t have a hobby like that I’d be going crazy at home. That is my hobby and we sell a little bit of stuff here and there to try and make sense of it.
Neff: You have a property up in the mountains and host a “pickup” race every year. Are you still doing that?
Biffle: Yes, we didn’t do it this year because we went out west for Thanksgiving for the first time in six years or so. So, we didn’t do it this year and I really missed it. I forget what my mountain property looks like. I’ve been so busy in the shop and doing so many other things. I’m going to make some time in the next month or two to get away and do some things up there.
Neff: I understand you have some desert property now to go run your sand rails. What is that all about?
Biffle: I love going to the desert so much and riding out in that area. It is so hard and so far away. It is in the middle of nowhere. It makes it really difficult. Most people who go out there and recreate live within four hours of it. They can make it a day trip or one overnight. If I lived out there I’d be camping overnight once a week. However I can’t get out there and get back so I’m building a metal storage building to keep my off-road cars with some tools, equipment and tires and things like that there. That way I can fly in commercial, jump in a rental car, drive an hour and twenty minutes, open the doors, air up the tires, hit it and go. The cars are big and wide. You have to take the tires off and the shocks off just to get them to fit in a trailer. It is as hard as getting a Cup car to the track when you travel with them. On top of all of that I can just put them away with all of the stuff on them and come back the next time and be ready to go again. It will make it much easier and I’ll be able to do it five or six times a year. A lot of times, I might have an appearance in Salt Lake City or Vegas or Phoenix and all of those places are a twenty minute flight away from there or a veer out of the way. When you go to Texas or Phoenix or California you can take a quick side trip. If I have a way to stop in and ride for half of a day that’s what I’m going to do.
Neff: You and Matt Kenseth were tight friends at Roush. Now that you’re with separate manufacturers are you still able to spend time together?
Biffle: You bet. We still hang out. Jamie McMurray, Matt and I still hang out quite a bit together. We do a lot of stuff together. We rode home from California together and traded a lot of stories. We still do plenty of stuff together.
Neff: What made you decide to work with animals with your foundation?
Biffle: Back in 2004-2005, a lot of drivers were starting their own foundations. We felt like we wanted to do something as well. We were helping a lot of different causes, Victory Junction Gang Camp, Speedway Children’s Charities and several others, but no one had an animal foundation. We had some foster animals and both Nicole and I grew up with pets. We felt like we wanted to make a difference in that arena. A lot of people have children’s charities and we still participate in their events and help raise money and donate to the Victory Junction Gang camp, but we wanted to do something different. It has gone really well. We do the NASCAR pet calendar every year and that is where we raise most of our money. We’re going to be really challenged this year. Every year we’ve sold more calendars than the previous year. We’re starting to get to where it is going to be tough in 2014 to make that number. Even though it is already April. It is a neat calendar because it has all of the drivers and their pets and fans can bring them and get them autographed to make it a keepsake kind of thing and is a souvenir more than anything which helps us sell them.
Neff: Any more kids on the horizon?
Biffle: We have one. She’s two and a half and getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know about number two (laughs).
Neff: I guess you’d call it the triple crown. You and now Austin Dillon have the Truck and Nationwide titles and you’re trying to win the Cup. Obviously you’re a little further along in your career than he is. Does it add any pressure to try and accomplish that feat knowing that you’re winding down in your career and, if you want to get this done, you better get it done in the next year or two?
Biffle: I think you can say it adds a little pressure. It has been added pressure since we started. I think what hurts is if you look at how close you came in 2005 and 2008. Then, under the previous point system to this one, I would have won it in 2005 thanks to six wins. Under the current format I would have won it twice the way it is currently laid out. It gives me encouragement. We’re capable of doing it, not the way we’re running now, but we’re capable. I wouldn’t say it is added pressure but it is something I want to do and I work hard at it every day. I work hard to be competitive in this garage and that is very hard to do. We’ll just keep at it.
Neff: How many track championships did you win coming up?
Biffle: Two. Portland Speedway and Tri-Cities Raceway, in the same year.
Greg Biffle is 18th in points, armed with only one top-10 finish to his credit through the season’s first six races. He’s historically had rollercoaster years, no doubt, so the No. 16 team is hoping that start marks the end of the down while the remainder of this 2014 season will trend up. The new Chase format just might also play into Biffle’s hands; it arms him with the ability to rebound since one win is all it takes. Only time will tell if Biffle’s the first driver to win a championship in all three of NASCAR’s top national touring series.