Tag: Greg Biffle

I’m Back!

It’s crazy to think back and realize it’s been about two years since I’ve been fully invested into this site. Life has a way of just taking priority over something that’s a hobby and certainly does not pay anything. But that’s ok, because it’s given me time to get my life in order and re-prioritize things, including this blog.

I started this with a friend in 2010 and have been able to do some amazing things during that time. Now it’s time to get back to what the original core value of the site was, and that’s providing opinions and stats of the Cup Series. With all of that said, let me get caught up with some commentary about what has taken place this off season.

Driver Retirements

Every sport goes through a spell where there’s a changing of the guard. Outside of Carl Edwards’ surprise announcement, it was time for Tony Stewart to leave and no one cares about Brian Scott or Ryan Ellis hanging up their helmets. I always love to play the what if game, and Edwards will leave me guessing what else he could have done. I say good for him to make that decision to walk away now with his health, as long as he’s content with his career. Don’t let fans fool you, they’re selfish and would rather a driver run way too long than walk away with dignity.

While not officially retirements, Greg Biffle and Casey Mears have been left out in the cold this off season, and that’s a good thing. Biffle is a lot older than most realize and there’s nothing he can add to an organization that isn’t a top tier team. It’s like how Clint Bowyer struggled last year going to HScott Motorsports, he’s likely to rebound in a big way because he’s with a top team. Mears always confused me how he kept getting rides. Sure he has a fuel mileage win with Hendrick Motorsports, when they were winning everything, but beyond that he’s been below average. I also enjoyed how suddenly everyone was a Mears fan when he got dumped, but before then most probably thought he just stared in GEICO commercials and didn’t race.

New Series Sponsor

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or MENCS does not have a great ring to it, but it might over time. I hate the abbreviation because I feel like it’s a men’s club or something, but Monster might kick some much needed life into the series. Sprint did a good job of at track activation, but Monster could take it a whole new level. That is if they don’t go bankrupt first, but hey they’re only paying about half of what Sprint did for only two years, so they don’t have much to lose. I think NASCAR realized that by positioning the series as the <insert sponsor> NASCAR Cup Series. Side note, I’ll be calling it the Cup Series wherever I can because I don’t want to get too attached like I did with Winston.

New Race Format

Has anyone ever mentioned that NASCAR fans don’t like change? Naturally, they will not like this, but what I’ve gotten through my head is after 26 years of being a fan, I’m too invested to walk away. That said, this new format has promise, but I will have to see it in action before getting sold 100% on it. The strategy that will play out to “win” a segment should be intriguing. Removing the term “chase” from the dialogue of NASCAR was a plus as well, it is now simply referred to as playoffs.

Something that was added and not popularized during the press conference is a team cannot add body panels onto their cars if in an accident. Which will basically means: if you crash, you’re done. No more patchwork to get a car out there to run 15 mph off the pace and drop debris. While it’s a noble cause for teams to try and repair their cars to earn points, since there’s very little attrition during races there’s no real reason for it. Years ago engine/parts failures were common, now engines are near bullet proof.

The biggest con from all of this is the constant comparison of racing to stick and ball sports, oh and the word “moments” being used in everyone’s responses when talking about the formats. My guess is that NASCAR suggested that and we’ll see the new marketing campaign for this based around “moments.” Shoot me now.

Teams Folding/Merging

The charter system was a step in the right direction to make NASCAR ownership more cut and dry. Instead it seems to have hindered smaller teams even more, since if they’re not a charter they receive less money. And even having a charter wasn’t the cure all for teams as teams downsized or folded regardless of having a charter. The benefit is someone like Tommy Baldwin can walk away from ownership with something rather than getting taken to the cleaners. But the endgame shouldn’t be about the cash out, it should be about keeping these teams a float. When you have a system where Go FAS Racing decides it’s better long term to lease their charter to the Wood Brothers, then lease a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports in the meantime, something is broken.

Who Will Be First Out Of The Chase?

The champagne has dried from the celebration Saturday night in Richmond over the 16 drivers who got into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now comes the reality check that four of those drivers will be booted from the playoff bracket once the checkered flag falls at Dover in three weeks.

What’s exciting about this year’s Chase is the idea that even one bad run can be erased with a victory in the three race window. Not finish Chicagoland and win New Hampshire, then you’re cruising into the Contender (second) round. Finish near the top at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, then not finish Dover, and you could be on the outside looking in.

The opening round will be the easiest to make predictions on who will not move on, because like all sports it’s easy to identify the weak links. As you progress, the competition gets stronger and you’d be better off throwing a dart at a wall than make an educated guess.

Here’s my prediction on who will not make it out of the Challenger (first) round of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup (no particular order, done alphabetical):

AJ Allmendinger

It has been a great year for Allmendinger and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team. They got the monkey off their back with a victory at Watkins Glen, which punched their ticket into the Chase. The problem is this single car team is despite all the support they get from Richard Childress Racing, it’s still David vs. Goliath for them. Allmendinger admitted after Richmond that he drove a less than good car that race because they were saving their best for these three races. I believe that their best is still light years behind the bests of other organizations. This is not a knock, but reality. That said, they have a lot to build on and hang their hat on for this season.

Aric Almirola

This paragraph is going to sound a lot like Allmendinger’s above, Almirola picked up the random win at the rain-shortened race at Daytona in July. He’s been good this season, but without the win, we wouldn’t be talking about him now. He’s in the Chase and anything can happen, but most likely he will run decent with others out pacing him each of the three weeks. He and his Richard Petty Motorsports team have much to build on with this and the rumored alliance with Team Penske in the future, but for now it’ll be a quick three races and back to reality for the team.

Greg Biffle

Biffle tried everything in his power to not be in the Chase on Saturday night. He finished 19th and was just horrible out there. In a race where they had it nearly locked up, but anything could have happened, Biffle and his Roush Fenway Racing team brought a knife to a gun fight. He had positive vibes after the Richmond race based on testing at Chicagoland earlier in the year. I’m calling bull on that and he’s been mid-pack most of the season. It won’t take long until he’s bounced out of the Chase and we’re left wondering what is wrong with Roush Fenway Racing once again, despite having two out of three cars in the Chase this season.

Matt Kenseth

After racking up seven wins last season, how could Matt Kenseth have gone 26 races without a win? Well it happened, and Kenseth has been a slow sinking ship since the end of July. New Hampshire and Indianapolis saw back to back fourth place finishes. Then it was 38th at Pocono. He followed that with a ninth at Watkins Glen, then a 38th at Michigan. Bristol he was third, Atlanta he was second, and this past weekend he was 41st. That’s exactly how I opened this was someone doing well twice in a row, and then bombing out the third race. Without winning one of these races, I’m leaning towards it being a short post-season for Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing bunch this year.

A Few Crazy Scenarios For 2015 Free Agency In NASCAR

It’s only May, roughly three months into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the jockeying for 2015 free agents might begin soon. Hendrick Motorsports announced that Nationwide Insurance would sponsor Dale Earnhardt, Jr. starting in 2015 on Friday and it’s a move that impacts two teams at minimum.

Nationwide Insurance will move from Roush Fenway Racing, where it has sponsored Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. the past two years. Stenhouse already has glaring holes in his sponsorship for 2014, this will just add to that issue for 2015 and beyond. Looking at RFR as a whole, both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are unsigned beyond the 2014 season.

At Hendrick Motorsports, bringing in Nationwide brings up questions about what happens to Kasey Kahne. Currently he has Farmers Insurance as his sponsor, their contract expires at the close of 2014, and not many could picture two rival insurance companies sponsoring cars coming out of the same shop.

Having rivals sponsors has happened in the past, a good example is found at Richard Childress Racing where they are sponsored, as a team, by Lucas Oil. At the same time driver Paul Menard has Quaker State on his car and is featured from time to time because of the connections between his sponsor, Menards, and Quaker State. This was also the case when Kevin Harvick drove a Shell/Pennzoil sponsored car with Menard as a teammate.

If Farmers does not return and a replacement is not found, does Hendrick look elsewhere? It’s no secret that Kahne has not lived up to expectations so far this season and honestly, has come up short on what many thought to be a dream pairing with him and Hendrick Motorsports. His contract runs through 2015, but could he be bought out a year early to make room for another driver with sponsorship?

Could that other driver be Hendrick developmental driver Chase Elliott? He has backing from NAPA and has been shocking the Nationwide Series with two wins and a second place finish in the last three races. The plan seems to have Elliott replace Jeff Gordon when he retires, but there is no timeline to when that could be. I think it would be a mistake to bring Elliott up too fast, as in next season or even the year after, but if the sponsor requests it, it could happen. That’s what got Joey Logano into the Sprint Cup Series before he was ready. The Home Depot wanted him in the car and Joe Gibbs Racing obliged.

An off the wall scenario could find Carl Edwards in play for the Hendrick ride if they decide to go in another direction. Edwards made it known he wants to be top dog at Roush Fenway Racing, which played into Matt Kenseth’s departure, but the team hasn’t performed how many expected. They have improved this season, but sponsorship questions continue to linger year after year and Edwards might want to jump ship.

It might be too early to get a good feel on how this might all shake out, but it will keep things entertaining for the rest of the season. I can’t see Hendrick bailing on Kahne just yet, but if he continues to be so far behind his teammates it will lead to some serious discussions. For Edwards, I can’t believe Ford or Roush would let him walk to another team, especially a Chevrolet back team, so look for them to throw a lot of money at him to keep him locked up. All this excitement and we still have Talladega to look forward to this Sunday.

Biffle Won’t Be Cutting Johnson Any Slack

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Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson won’t be exchanging Christmas gifts anytime soon after their run in at Martinsville in Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. Biffle was positioned in the top-10 when contact from Johnson sent him spinning.

While there was minimal damage to Biffle’s car, the real damage was having to go to the back of the line after pitting. He did have a strong enough car to work his way back to a ninth place finish, but it could have been a lot better had that not happened.

After the race Biffle got to Johnson to explain his frustration. “Hey, you tore my rear bumper off, you (expletive),” said Biffle. Johnson contended he was next to Biffle, but Biffle warned him he’d “better watch it.”  In the end it was a case of agreeing to disagree over the incident.

With three races to go and Johnson neck and neck for the title, it’ll be interesting to see if Biffle cuts him any slack in the coming weeks.  Drivers tend to have very long memories and if it’s not this season, it could go into next.

Chase Watch: Dover

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With the third race completed and Jimmie Johnson once again showing why he’s the master of being clutch, here’s a rundown of the Chase drivers and some analysis.

Matt Kenseth | 1st | 2149 points – Kenseth slipped late and couldn’t become the first to win three races to open a Chase. The seventh place finish would be good for most, but not Kenseth. He knows that as long as Johnson is out there, he has to perform.

Jimmie Johnson | 2nd | 2141 points (-8) – Johnson and crew announced to the NASCAR world, “we’re back!” He led 243 of 400 laps to get his fifth win of the season. Nothing short of dominance out of him and his team. I thought the call for two tires would bite him on the last pit stop, but his car seemed to excel with them.

Kyle Busch | 3rd | 2137 points (-12) – Busch gained points on Kenseth, but then ended up losing a position with Johnson leap frogging him. Busch led 30 laps and looked poised to finish in the top-3, but two tires were not his friend late in the going.

Kevin Harvick | 4th | 2110 points (-39) – Harvick had a quiet and sold sixth place finish. There were issues on pit road, but he was able to overcome them thanks to the final caution. He was able to jump from 6th to 4th in points.

Jeff Gordon | 5th | 2110 points (-39) – Gordon had the winning strategy by stretching his fuel, the problem was the late caution that came out. Instead he finished fourth, which is a good start as he was able to chip away a little bit in the standings.

Greg Biffle | 6th | 2108 points (-41) – Biffle turned in another Biffle like finish. You didn’t heard much about him, until ESPN talked about how a Roush Fenway Racing car won’t win the title, and he finished in the top-10 in ninth. Like Newman’s note a few below, story of Biffle’s season and career, good, but not good enough.

Ryan Newman | 7th | 210 points (-48) – It wasn’t flashy, but Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team just kept working and got an eight place finish out of it. The problem is the rest of the top-10 was Chase drivers as well. This might be story of Newman’s season, just not good enough.

Clint Bowyer | 8th | 2098 points (-51) – Bowyer was going to go for it like Gordon on fuel, but the last caution ruined that. Bowyer was quick at times, but relatively invisible out there. Bowyer did jump up two positions thanks Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards struggling.

Kurt Busch| 9th | 2094 points (-55) – Busch has been all but knocked out of the title talk. He finished 21st after a loose wheel caused him to pit and lose three laps. Then the caution came out and he was stuck those laps down. What Busch can control, they’re golden, but every time they pit it’s a rap shoot to whether he’ll lose time or not.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. | 10th | 2092 points (-57) – Earnhardt wishes he could mulligan his first Chase race. He finished second at Dover and was able to go from 11th to 10th in points. If he can keep rattling off top-5 finishes and hope for trouble with some of the others, Earnhardt might be back in it. I’m definitely feeling better about his chances than Kurt’s.

Carl Edwards | 11th | 2084 points (-65) – Edwards was the worst finishing Chase driver, coming home in the 35th place after a hub issue. That dropped him from 4th to 11th in the points and might be the death blow for Edwards’ championship hopes.

Joey Logano | 12th | 2083 points (-66) – Logano is saying the same thing as Earnhardt, “can I have Chicago back?” Logano was on point and was able to use a four tire stop on the last pit stop to get to third in the final run down.

Kasey Kahne | 13th | 2071 points (-78) – Kahne was one of three drivers in the Chase not to finish in the top-10. He came home in the 13th position, too little too late. After last week’s race he’s just trying to see how high he can get in the standings, the problem is it won’t be first.

Biffle Looking To Keep Up In The Chase

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Greg Biffle was coming fast at the end of last week’s Sylvania 300 from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. If there was 20 or so more laps, he could have gotten up there and mixed it up with Kyle Busch and winner Matt Kenseth.

While it wasn’t a victory last weekend, merely a third place finish, Biffle comes into Dover this weekend knowing momentum is on his side. He’s been able to climb up to fifth place in the standings and wants to chip away at the 38 point advantage Kenseth has on him.

He was none too happy when it was suggested to him that it’s a three man race for the title (Kenseth, Busch, and Jimmie Johnson) at this point. Biffle said:

“The Chase, from what I understand, is made up of 10 races and to be two races into the Chase and say it’s a three-man race already, to me, seems silly as to why somebody would want to put themselves in that position and say it’s a three-man race.  Obviously, you don’t have anything on the line.  It’s not like we’re making a wager in Vegas that it’s a three-man race.  It’s somebody’s opinion and everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I can’t imagine with eight races to go that somebody would be willing to say, ‘Oh, this is a three-man race.’  Take for instance last week, we finished third and moved up six spots in the points to fifth.  I don’t know how one would say it’s a three-man race.”

There’s one big wildcard coming up in the schedule and that’s Talladega.

“Now, if we get past Talladega and there are four races to go or three races to go, I could see that.  But they could break for three races in a row and maybe not even go to Vegas and not even be in the top 10.  So I’d say it’s a little early,” commented Biffle.

The trick with the Chase is having a teammate who is going for the same title you’re going for. Biffle knows that while he wants to win, not doing anything to jeopardize his teammate’s (Carl Edwards) chances is just as important.

“Carl and I have a lot of respect for each other.  We had an incident earlier in the season at Michigan where the whole organization sat down and I think we understand each other and appreciate each other’s abilities a lot more since that meeting and we kind of do what we can to help one another that doesn’t hurt yourself and that’s what came out of that meeting in Sonoma after the Michigan race and that’s the way we’ve really handled it since then.  Carl and I are parked next to each other in the garage and we’re talking about our cars and competition and how our car is in race trim versus qualifying trim, so we share everything and try to help one another with what we can,” Biffle explained.

The AAA 400 from the Dover International Speedway gets underway at 2:00 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN Sunday afternoon.