“They should fire me. You just can’t make mistakes like that,” were the words of Greg Biffle when the Sprint Cup Series was last at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Biffle had just finished fourth behind race winner and teammate Matt Kenseth. However, it was how he finished fourth that had him upset.
Racing in the lead pack late in the race and feeling like he had a shot at winning, Biffle brought his No. 16 3M Ford Fusion down pit road for his final stop. After leading laps and running in the top five entering pit road, Biffle ran over his air hose.
He had to back up before the crew could service the car, which lost him value time and positions. He left pit road at the back end of the top ten and once the race restarted, he only had enough time to rebound to fourth.
Since California in February, Biffle and his Greg Irwin led team have been one of the most consistent teams on the circuit when it comes to the mile to two-mile ovals. Even coming close to taking home a few trophies had mistakes not been made.
Following California came Las Vegas, where once again Biffle led laps and finished in the top ten. But no one had anything for Kyle Busch that day.
And so the No.16 team moved forward, trying to break their winless steak. When the Sprint Cup Series arrived at Michigan in, June Biffle and all the Roush-Fenway cars were expected to not only be strong contenders but one of them was expected to take home the win.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson dominated the day with Biffle staying in the top five and the only car that could hang with the No.48, and prepared to give Johnson a run late in the going.
And just like most Michigan races it came down to fuel mileage with Johnson leading.
The two then started to battle for the lead, swapping back and forth over the final laps. Johnson ran out of gas coming to the white flag giving Biffle the lead and what looked like the win until he too ran out of gas going down the backstretch.
He crossed the finish line in fifth position.
“The 48 came up there and was driving like we weren’t on a fuel mileage run,” Biffle said about battling Johnson. “He ran us down and I messed with him for a little bit, I picked up a half a second, so I could run with him.”
Biffle then applauded his team for the great car they had brought him that weekend, a car that he felt, should have won the race.
“He [Johnson] made me use too much throttle and burned up the gas. We would have made it no problem, we had a great strategy, and the No. 5 [winner Mark Martin] wouldn’t have beaten us. If the 48 had backed off he would have made it too, and he wouldn’t have beat us…just the way it is.”
However, the team’s strongest performance thus far in 2009 came last weekend in Kansas. The car that was brought for Chase race No. 3 was built specifically for that race in hopes of making large gains in the championship fight.
Even though Biffle looked solid in practice, a 31st place qualifying effort had everyone shaking their heads. After Sunday they would be shaking their heads for a different reason as once again Biffle lost his chance at the victory because of another driver error.
When the race started Biffle wasted no time in making his way to the front, passing 31 cars before the first pit stop. Once Biffle got to the front and got the lead he wasn’t about to give it up anytime soon.
He was credited with leading the most laps earning the five bonus points, but race-winning points were still up for grabs.
A caution with less than 40 laps to go brought all the leaders back down pit road for their final stops. The decision became whether to put on two or four tires for the shootout to the finish.
When Biffle brought his Ford to his pit stall the call was for two tires, but then Biffle changed his mind and made the call for his crew to change four tires.
“I stuck my fingers out the window, and he [crew chief Greg Irwin] said ‘four, four, four.’”
Amazingly Biffle’s four tires were not enough to propel him to the front and the win. He finished third behind Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and in his post race interviews said he regretted the call that was made.
“I feel bad; at the end I wanted to take four tires and the crew chief wanted to take two, and I decided I wanted four. Probably the wrong thing to do,” he said.
His run though was a bright spot in what has been a disappointing year for Roush-Fenway Racing. After winning the first two races of the season with Matt Kenseth, the organization has not been back to victory lane.
That includes Biffle, who hasn't won since Dover of September 2008, and who has personally cost his team a shot at wins this year.
At Kansas they came close once again and that gives everyone confidence.
“It was a good day for the company today and a good day for us…At one point late in the race, it looked we were going to have this thing won fairly easily, depending on how the cautions fell,” he said.
Biffle now heads back to the Auto Club Speedway in California with a team that is hungry for a victory. California has always been a good track for them; they won there in 2005, and proved they had the right package there in February.
The excellent run at Kansas and another missed opportunity will definitely stick with them as they head out west.
“I know what I did wrong. I know I made a mistake. But we’re sure excited to be running good again and especially going to some tracks we like, like California and some other places,” he said after Kansas on Sunday.
“I’m having the time of my life, I know that.”
Sunday Greg Biffle and the 3M team will be out to prove they know how to have the time of their life and still get to victory lane.
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