'Crazy'-Fast Biffle Captures Sprint Cup Pole
By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
CONCORD, N.C. -- Fresh off Sunday’s last-lap melee at Talladega Superspeedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was back on track Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 and the midpoint of the 2012 edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
And the man on the pole at the end of the night was Greg Biffle, pilot of the No. 16 3M/IDG Ford Fusion.
Biffle went out 32nd of the 47 cars and set a new track record of 193.708 miles per hour, claiming his third pole of the season and 12th in 361 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts.
Put simply, Biffle’s Ford Fusion was flying, especially through Turns 3 and 4 at the 1.5-mile track.
Laughing on the team radio afterwards, Biffle said, “That was crazy!”
And the speed certainly was intense.
“It was a nerve-wracking lap,” said Biffle. “I couldn’t believe the times I was seeing. … I just drove it off into Turn 1 and dug really deep.”
Biffle credited his Roush Fenway Racing team for their efforts, noting the team had been to five different tracks to test in the last two weeks.
“We started off our Chase a little bit behind and we’ve been working really, really hard,” said Biffle. “… These cars won’t go much faster than that. It was a perfect lap.”
Mark Martin, a former teammate of Biffle’s at Roush Fenway Racing, was second at 193.361 mph.
Ryan Newman qualified on the inside of Row 2, followed by Clint Bowyer.
Row 3 will be Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.
Matt Kenseth was one of the few drivers to make two qualifying laps, actually going faster on his second lap at 192.885 mph to earn the seventh starting spot with the No. 17 Best Buy Ford. Completing the top 10 were Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.
Best Buy is also sponsoring Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s No. 6 Ford Fusion for this weekend’s race.
Best Buy is also sponsoring Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s No. 6 Ford Fusion for this weekend’s race.
“It’s cool to be with Best Buy for the first time in our relationship,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will make his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup start on Saturday night from 29th on the grid.
In Friday’s lone practice round, Hamlin was fastest at 191.693 mph, followed by Martin at 191.442 mph. Kenseth, Sunday’s big winner at Talladega was third at 191.333 mph. Rounding out the top five were Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon.
Thursday morning began with the surprise announcement that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss at least the next two races following concussions that occurred at Kansas Speedway during an Aug. 29 tire test and again on Sunday at Talladega.
That set off a small domino effect of driver movement. Regan Smith will sub for Earnhardt the next two weeks; Kurt Busch moved this week from Phoenix Racing to Furniture Row Racing, where he replaced Smith; and AJ Allmendinger returned to drive for Phoenix this weekend, his first drive since being suspended from NASCAR for substance abuse in July.
This race always has a highly unusual schedule, with 90 minutes of practice on Thursday afternoon followed by qualifying on Thursday night. There will be two more rounds of practice Friday, then Saturday night’s race, the fifth of 10 in the Chase.
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Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes
Bank of America 500 Qualifying (Charlotte Motor Speedway)
FORD QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1st – Greg Biffle
7th – Matt Kenseth
16th – Trevor Bayne
17th – Aric Almirola
18th – Marcos Ambrose
19th – Carl Edwards
23rd – Scott Speed
25th – David Ragan
27th – Casey Mears
29th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
33rd – Michael McDowell
36th – David Gilliland
42nd – Timmy Hill
43rd – Josh Wise (DNQ)
TREVOR BAYNE – No. 21 Good Sam Ford Fusion – “It’s the toughest when you know you have to make the show and can’t bring it back wadded up or you’re going home. You want to go for poles. That’s what we came here to do tonight, but it makes it hard when you know you’ve got to bring the thing back in one piece or you’re going home. I’m really proud of my guys. We picked up four-tenths from practice, which is kind of the trend for everybody. We’re at the top of the board right now, so I’m not gonna complain too much. I’m really happy with this Camping World and Good Sam Ford. I wish I would have been a little tighter. I know that there’s a couple tenths out there on the race track just from the time when it got loose and I had to chase it and wait to get to the gas. Some of these guys ran that fast in practice earlier. I don’t know how fast they’re gonna go, but I’m shaking if it counts for anything.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Best Buy Ford Fusion – “Today has been a big struggle for us. We’ve just been too loose and we were still too loose there. I don’t know what we’ve got to do, but we’ve got all day tomorrow to figure it out. We’re in the race, so we’ll be able to make laps and see what happens.”
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “We were just a little bit loose. We didn’t get too many cracks at it in practice. We were trying a bunch of stuff and now we’ll just go work on race trim. This is a 500-mile race and we’ve had success at this race track. If we can get the car handling right, we’ll be OK. But we definitely wanted to be faster than that, but if I ran it 10 times, I don’t know if I’d go much faster than that. That’s about all I can get out of it.” IS IT NICE TO PRACTICE IN THE SAME CONDITIONS YOU’LL RACE? “There’s no advantage because everyone gets to do the same thing. It’s hard to get an advantage around here. You’ve just got to be better and that’s what we’ve got to keep working on.”
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion – “Whenever we qualify in the top 10 I should be pleased, but I felt like we were gonna have a little more than that. I was trying as hard as I could to go after Greg and I just didn’t have enough car to do it, but I’m still fairly pleased with that. I wish we had a little more speed, but it’s still pretty good.”
ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – “We made some adjustments, but it just seemed like the track kept changing on us in practice and we couldn’t keep up with it. We were just too loose and right there on our qualifying run we were still a little bit too loose, but we made a lot of gains on it. Our car was a lot better, so I’m really proud of the guys on this Smithfield Ford. I think it’ll race really good, so we’ll see.”
CASEY MEARS – No. 13 Geico Ford Fusion – “It was definitely better than it was in practice, but we needed to run a fair amount faster to be good for the overall qualifying picture. We definitely improved on it. We’ve been having a really hard time getting the car to turn just past center of one and two and we made some adjustments that helped it turn a little bit better, so it wasn’t that great of a lap. Hopefully it can hold in there OK and we can work on it again tomorrow and be good for the race.”
DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 Glory Foods Ford Fusion – “We had a left-rear tire rub. It grabbed the fender and pulled it in and filled the cockpit all up with smoke. I was probably a little hesitant getting into three with all that smoke just not knowing what was going on, so we’ll get it fixed up for tomorrow. We’ve got some more practice and the car overall is really good. We had really good speed in practice. I’m really disappointed that happened tonight, but it’s Charlotte. We’ll work on it and get it tuned in for tomorrow.”
DAVID RAGAN – No. 34 Glory Foods Ford Fusion – “It’s a solid pick-up from practice. Anytime you can improve some is a positive, but it’s always fun to be on top of the board when it’s your time to go. Our Glory Foods Ford has been comfortable and easy to drive since we unloaded, but we just need to find a little bit more speed. We’ve got some practice tomorrow and I’m looking forward to an exciting race on Saturday night.”
SCOTT SPEED – No. 95 – B&D Electrical Ford Fusion – “We made some good changes before qualifying. We haven’t been really quick here. Earlier this year we weren’t really fast, so it was cool that we were able to make some changes and make the thing go faster and see some results from that, so that’s a few more steps in the right direction for us.”
GREG BIFFLE POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – TELL US ABOUT THAT RUN. “That obviously is the fastest I’ve been around this race track, fast as anybody has, and it was a nerve-racking lap. I just couldn’t believe the speeds I was seeing and I knew when I went to take off that 29-flat was the time to beat. I knew that I struggled to run a 29.40, so I knew it was gonna be tough to do and I just dug deep. I drove it off into turn one and the car stuck really, really well. Three and four is where I’d been struggling and I just committed to myself that I had to drive it in there far enough and get back to the gas quick to be a factor and try to be at the top. The car was really, really good. I owe a lot to the guys working on this race car and Doug Yates and the engine shop for how hard they’ve worked on these engines to be able to put down a lap like that.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SENSATION OF THAT LAP? AND DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THE TEXAS TEST? “I think we probably didn’t learn anything because the compound of the race track is a lot different than here, but we’ve been at five race tracks in the last two weeks trying to catch up. We started off the Chase a little bit behind for some reason and we’ve worked really, really hard and being in the car for two days at Texas could have helped a little bit. It didn’t really help setup-wise, but we got home 10 o’clock last night and was back over here in the race car today at 3:30, so we’ve worked really hard at this to get it going. I was super-excited after that lap because I drove it off into turn one further than I thought was gonna work and the car hooked the bottom and stuck and it was incredible. I said, ‘If I can get that to work in three and four, this is gonna be something of a lap.’ And I did. When he told me the lap time, I was sitting in my motorhome earlier watching the broadcast and I heard them say what the track record was and I knew at that point it was a track record and I was pretty excited about it. I knew it was gonna take a lot to beat it because these cars won’t go much faster than that. That was a perfect lap and I hit all of my marks just right on the button and I knew it was gonna be hard to beat.”
HOW DO YOU GO FROM QUALIFYING 2ND AT ATLANTA, 22ND AT CHICAGO TO BEING ON THE POLE HERE? “It all depends on the lap you get. Chicago, we just missed it a little bit in qualifying. I got loose and we didn’t run that good at Chicago. We run better at these type of race tracks – Michigan, here, Kansas next week – different track make-ups. We’ve led a lot of laps here and have run really good here and qualified really good, but it has been a little bit inconsistent and it’s a matter of the lap you get. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you just get the right lap.”
MATT WAS TALKING ABOUT SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT HAVE PLAGUED HIS TEAM IN THE CHASE. IS THAT A ROUSH-WIDE ISSUE? IS THAT RELATED TO YOUR STRUGGLES? “We’ve been really looking at that and wondering what we missed. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, what I think it is more than anything – maybe the 17 team is distracted, they’ve got other things going on – I don’t have that problem on my team with mechanical issues. We’ve had zero mechanical issues. Our cars are prepared, so we’ve been really good in that department, but I do know – and didn’t really know at the time – I heard some people over at Nashville testing and doing some stuff, but a lot of teams have been testing Nashville every week for a long time. In fact, I believe that the 48 and 88 tested Nashville prior to him winning at Michigan, working on rear skew stuff and working on different rear suspension when they cut the skirt off. So from then on the setups started changing and at some of these race tracks we just didn’t have our cars right, and those race tracks didn’t pop up until the Chase started unfortunately. So the couple races going into the Chase we weren’t very good and then a couple races after the Chase started we weren’t very good, so I think we got behind by not going to Nashville and not doing some testing. We got behind as an organization and as the 16 team. I honestly believe that because we learned a little bit at Nashville. We learned a little bit maybe at Texas, not really because it was the 2013 car, but it’s the same chassis. We’re gonna test Kansas and then we’re gonna go back to Nashville the week after that, so we’ve gotten back around a little better grip on this thing. We felt like we were prepared. If we would have known we weren’t, we would have been testing, but we felt like, ‘Hey, when this Chase starts, we’re gonna be a factor.’ We all believed it and we all felt like it and we were off a little bit, but these next tracks coming up we’d be good at these places whether we tested or not because Charlotte, Kansas with new pavement, Phoenix, Texas – those type of tracks we weren’t really having that big of an issue with. For some reason, we had a big issue at Chicago. Loudon was a shocker to us – why we were so bad there – and then Dover we actually weren’t that bad, but we had a loose wheel and lost two laps. So Dover we felt like we were decent. That’s the way it starts.”
DO YOU THINK IT’S TOO LATE TO GET BACK IN THE TITLE HUNT? “There’s two ways to look at that. We’re certainly not gonna give up. We’re gonna try to win here Saturday night, try to win next week and that’s all we can do is be in control of our own destiny and try to win these races. Is it too late for us to get back in the hunt? Probably. Mathematically, it doesn’t look good, but it’s possible. We’re 50 points out. Take for instance last week, we finished sixth and I look at the scoreboard and Brad is seventh. We gained one point, so 49 more weeks and I’ll be right there with him (laughter). Unfortunately, that’s the way this sport goes, so all we can do is do the best we can and whatever happens happens. If we get back in it, it’s because they gave it back to us. That’s really what’s gonna have to happen, and we’re gonna have to earn it for sure. We’re gonna have to earn it Saturday night here in the Bank of America 500 and next week and on to the rest of the races, but they’re gonna have to give us a little bit back to get us in the hunt.”
HOW DO YOU KNOW THE CAR WILL STICK WHEN YOU DRIVE IT HARDER THAN YOU DID IN PRACTICE? “You really don’t and what that comes down to a lot of times is courage. It may be courage and stupidity, so you have to trust that race car that it’s gonna have the grip and you’ve got to trust your skills as a driver that if I drive it down in the corner too hard, too fast and get back in the gas, that my skill level is enough that I can recover if something happens. I got sideways a few times in practice and I’ve been able to drive this car fairly good. You run the bottom of the race track, so you’ve got a lot of room to save it if you do screw up, and I felt like I could deal with those circumstances and drive the car in the corner – I drove in the corner faster than I thought it was gonna work, and I went straight to the gas. It gave me one wiggle and I kind of breathed the throttle to maybe half and then back down and it drove right around the bottom of the race track, so I was thoroughly impressed with that corner, and then I didn’t overdrive it down here (in three and four) and did the same thing down here. We’re talking thousandths-of-a-second between Mark and I. It’s just amazing between the top-five how tight it is and how little a difference that is when you’re driving down into these corners, so you really don’t know. You can go by the lap time. I knew Kevin Harvick did a 29-flat and I knew how hard I had to drive it to go 29-flat, so I tried to drive it there a bit more.”
DID YOU KNOW BY EIGHT O’CLOCK CONDITIONS WOULD BE AS GOOD AS THEY WERE? “Yes and no. We kind of historically know this race track that when it cools down at night this place gets fast. We were a little disappointed when we were 16th in practice because we went 15 minutes before the end of practice and just that temperature change in that 15 minutes with guys going out with five minutes to go – everybody that went out with five minutes to go beat us – about every car. They just kept bumping us down because when we parked it we were third, and I said, ‘A few guys might beat us,’ and then all of a sudden one more, one more, one more, and we just started going down the board. I’m like, ‘My gosh, we’re gonna be 15th before it’s over,’ and we were 16th. I would have never thought that, so those 15 spots going even later could have made a difference for some of the guys, but we got all of the speed there was on the track out of our car. But you just don’t ever know what you’re gonna have, to be truthful with you.”
YOU GUYS SEEM TO DO WELL IN THE FIRST HALF OF RACES HERE, BUT FALTER IN THE SECOND HALF. WHAT CAN YOU DO THIS YEAR TO BE DIFFERENT AND BE STRONG AT THE END? “As this track takes rubber and gets rubbered up a little bit, at the end of these races we’ve fallen off just a little bit. I think we know more about our cars, we know more about how to keep them going faster later in the run. Our setups have changed some towards what we think some of the guys have beaten us with and we’ve learned a bit since we were here last. We led a lot of the 600 and ended up fourth, but we’ve studied that and what we can do to be better at the end of this thing and I hope we’ve got it figured out, but we’ll have to wait and see on Saturday night.”
DID YOU TRY ANY SPECIFIC CHANGES IN THE TEXAS TEST THAT YOU THINK WILL HELP THE 2013 CAR? “We didn’t get to do a whole lot of different stuff to the car. The car was kind of like it was. We made a few adjustments to it. We kind of worked on the suspension some. We mainly did tire testing and then we went out in a pack – three cars, myself, Kyle (Busch) and Paul Menard – at the end of the practice per NASCAR’s request to see what they drive like and when we got into following one another we feel like we’ve got a little more work to do with the car and the mechanical grip. They seem to be pretty aero-tight, similar to our cars now, maybe a tick more, but we don’t know that because we didn’t have any 2012 cars there to compare that to, so it would be unfair to say they’re worse than the 2012 car right now before we make additional changes to them. So they were pretty tight behind each other. We talked about it. I think they’ve got a lot of ideas to try. We still have six or seven weeks of racing left and I’m sure they’re gonna test a bunch more and get them going, but they do drive a little bit different with the camber in the back and the weight out. I think it’s an advantage and Goodyear is working hard at trying to come up with a tire that complements that so we can get the racing a little more side-by-side.”