Biffle Finishes Strong; Kenseth Ends Chase In 7th
By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The Chase didn’t unfold the way Greg Biffle would have written the script, but the ending gave him a lot of positives to carry over into the winter.
Biffle rallied late in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to finish fifth in the Sprint Cup Series’ curtain-closer, a run that lifted him two spots in the final seasonal standings to fifth.
After a tough start to the Chase, Biffle finished in the top 10 in the season’s final four races to spring into the top five.
And his Sunday run came in the No. 16 team’s backup Ford after Biffle was involved in a crash in practice.
“We certainly could have been better, but it was a rough weekend for us,” Biffle said. “I crashed our primary car, but I kept it (the backup) out of the fence all day. You can see every car here has some concrete on it except this one here, so I feel pretty good about that. We stayed after it, and the car definitely got better at the end.”
The seasonal finish brought mixed emotions for Biffle, who had big ambitions at the start of the Chase.
“On one hand, it’s exciting for the team,” he said. “This was our first year as a full team, and I’m happy for (crew chief) Matt Puccia to make the Chase and finish fifth. On the other hand, it’s a little disappointing that we didn’t win the title or get closer than we did, so it’s kind of bittersweet.”
Kenseth Strong In Early Going -- Matt Kenseth will remember his final Chase with Roush Fenway Racing mainly for solid victories at Talladega and Kansas.
He finished 18th Sunday in his last ride in the No. 17 Fusion and wound up seventh in the final Chase standings.
"It is really frustrating for me tonight,” Kenseth said. “I thought we had a top-five car in the beginning, and we put two tires on one time and the handling totally went away from us, and we were junk from there on out and the rest of the race.
“We were one of the cars that didn't pit to make it on fuel, and then that cost us a good 10 spots. It was frustrating – a frustrating ending to the season."
Kenseth ran in the top 10 until the race’s final 70 laps.
Stenhouse’s Night Ends Too Soon -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made his final “preview” Sprint Cup run before moving onto the circuit full time in 2013, but he didn’t get the “full” experience. Stenhouse blew a tire on lap 157, slammed the wall and parked for the night.
“That broke the right-front upper control arm, but it was fun, and we learned a lot,” Stenhouse said. “I’m looking forward to next year.”
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Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes
Ford EcoBoost 400 (Homestead-Miami Speedway)
Ford Finishing Order:
5th – Greg Biffle
7th – Aric Almirola
12th – Carl Edwards
13th – Marcos Ambrose
18th – Matt Kenseth
23rd – Trevor Bayne
29th – Casey Mears
31st – David Ragan
33rd – David Gilliland
37th – Ken Schrader
39th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
40th – Josh Wise
41st – Michael McDowell
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. -- No. 6 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion -- “We were getting our Fifth Third, Stand Up To Cancer Fusion better and better and we were slowly working our way up and passing some lead-lap cars. We took the wavearound and got back on the lead lap and then cut the tire down and got in the wall. That broke the right-front upper control arm, but it was fun and we learned a lot. I’m looking forward to next year.”
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “We certainly could have been better, but it was a rough weekend for us. I crashed our primary car, but I kept it out of the fence all day. You can see every car here has some concrete on it except this one here, so I feel pretty good about that. We stayed after it and the car definitely got better at the end.”
YOU RAN OUT OF GAS COMING OFF FOUR ON THE FINAL LAP? “Yeah, I think we would have been about a 10th-place car if that fuel mileage thing hadn’t happened. We were coming along pretty good and we were right there, so we’ll take fifth instead of 10th. That probably made the difference in the points.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FINISH FIFTH IN POINTS AFTER HOW THE CHASE STARTED FOR YOU? “On one hand it’s exciting for the team. This was our first year as a full team and I’m happy for Matt Puccia to make the Chase and finish fifth. On the other hand, it’s a little disappointing that we didn’t win the title or get closer than we did, so it’s kind of bittersweet.”
ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – “We had a strong car all day. We fought with it at the beginning because it was just up on top of the race track. It was tight, it was loose, but Todd Parrott made some great adjustments throughout the race and kept making it better and better and better. We got it really good in the middle part of the race and then at the end we were just trying to do all we could to save fuel. That was a great way to go out. I wish we would have finished third. To be third on the white flag and then finish seventh is disappointing, but that’s racing. I could tell it was starting to run out when I came off of four to take the white, but I’m still proud of my guys and the way they fought. I’m excited about next year. Todd Parrott and all these guys give me great race cars, so we’re gonna win races.”
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Black & Decker Ford Fusion – “It wasn’t the race we wanted. We got off in the middle part of the race, but we finished 13th and we’ll take it. We’ve got a little bit of a foundation built for next year. We’ve got some work to do, but I feel optimistic about the future and looking forward to 2013.”
CASEY MEARS – No. 13 Geico Ford Fusion – “We had a long day. I’d say about a quarter of the way through the race we got going pretty well. We had some pretty good speed and the top was really working well for us. I got in the fence a couple times, but it didn’t seem to slow us down a whole lot. We just touched the right side, and there at the end we had a strategy where we could go all the way to the end. We should have been more than good, but, for some reason, we ran out with four laps to go, so we either didn’t get it full or we had a pick-up problem.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion -- "It is really frustrating for me tonight. I thought we had a top-five car in the beginning and we put two tires on one time and the handling totally went away from us and we were junk from there on out and the rest of the race. We were one of the cars that didn't pit to make it on fuel and then that cost us a good 10 spots. It was frustrating. A frustrating ending to the season."
DOES IT FEEL ODD TO GET OUT OF THAT FORD CAR FOR THE FINAL TIME? "Yeah, a little bit. I think I will probably think about that on the way home though."
CARL EDWARDS, No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion -- "I thought everybody had to stop there at the end. I thought we were on a pretty good strategy but some of the guys didn't have to stop so we couldn't beat them. We were very good on the long run. We just had to pit one more time. I love this racetrack. It is so much fun. I can't wait to come back here next year."
TREVOR BAYNE, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion -- "I am four-for-four with races here at hitting the wall and cutting tires here. We were really fast every single time. We were one of the fastest cars here in both Nationwide and Cup races and that is probably the reason, because I am using up every bit of racetrack that I can to get that speed. The problem is there is a lot of risk with that and I found it more than once. At the end we were still in position and we cut a right rear because of the damage and we couldn't recover from that. I think we had a top-10 type day going. We never had the track position but we were as fast as the leaders. Kyle (Busch) would get to us and I would pull away from him after pit stops and all that. It was unfortunate that we finished where we did when we had that good of a car and that good of a day. I think we worked the best we have together all year right there and that is a very good thing going into 2013."
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL WITH THE LACK OF CAUTION FLAGS TODAY? "No, for this racetrack it surprises me but for the last race of the season it doesn't. People are points racing and trying to get that every little bit they can. Someone like me that isn't in it for the points I am going to go for it and try to get every bit of speed and that is why I found the wall but most the guys were more conservative and racing for points. We had a fairly good day though and I just wish we could have gotten the finish."