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Tag:Greg Biffle
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:53 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:55 pm
 

Behind the Hauler: Greg Biffle

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Biffle has started the year with solid runs in the Daytona 500 and last week at Phoenix - Getty Images)

Greg Biffle
vowed to have a much better season in 2012 than he did a year ago. So far he’s come through on that promise with a pair of third place finishes to start the season at Daytona and Phoenix. 

The Roush Fenway Racing driver shared his expectations for the new year including his relationship with crew chief Matt Puccia when he visited with SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” recently: 

There are some people who are not looking for results from you based on your performance from last season – is that fair and how do you respond to that?

When you go back and look at the stat sheet and it says a guy finished sixteenth, well he led 240 laps and a shifter broke with two laps to go and you finish sixteenth, the thing is the stat sheet doesn’t say that – all it says is that you finished sixteenth. Take Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600 I had the thing won, had no one in the rear view mirror and a caution comes out when Jimmie Johnson blew up. And then with extra caution laps we couldn’t make it on fuel and so we finished thirteenth. Harvick winds up winning it and he ran like dog all night. That same thing happened all year long…so when you finish thirteen or sixteenth after you’ve been leading all day, you pit for the last stop of the day and caution comes out you got to take the wave around and start twenty-sixth. That happened all year long but you look at the way the car ran, the performance, the pit stops were pretty good. You look at all that and you say that team has the potential to run good and finish good is what I look at. 

Your teammate Carl Edwards lost the championship last year by not winning enough races – what kind of message did that send to you, Matt (Kenseth) and Carl during the off season? 

Well we know that our cars simply weren’t fast enough and knew our fuel mileage was off some. We’re hoping this fuel injection will level the playing field for us because when we got the FR9 engine we lost a little bit of fuel mileage, a little bit of edge. Our competition could beat us by a hair on fuel mileage and it just kept backing us into a corner constantly. Now when a caution comes out periodically or you get off sequence a little here or there all of a sudden fuel mileage isn’t an issue. But there’s always an underlying, it’s like a demon that has its head poked up. And whether it bites you or not just all depends sometimes. So it’s just a matter of right place sometimes and that’s what I say to critics about how we ran versus Carl versus Matt. Our cars are plenty fast enough – we just got done doing a tire test at Texas – we’re super happy with the speed and how it drove. I feel like we’re gonna start the season out, we’re gonna be really strong those first ten races I think.

Is it imperative – I know everybody wants to but is it important for you to have to get off to a get start this year?

Yes. We have to and I think we will. If we race hard and conservative and don’t take any dumb chances. Look at Vegas last year. I feel personally like I had that race won and we ended up five laps down with not a scratch on the car because we couldn’t get fuel into it. There’s a whole bunch of them. If that doesn’t happen this year – we ran good at Phoenix, ran good at Vegas, Martinsville’s a demon but you have Fontana there are some good opportunities for us to lay down some solid top fives or get some wins.

What do you do to put a bad day behind you and move on to focus to the next race?

It’s always looking at the next race. You can’t dwell on what happened in last week’s race good or bad. Because the longer you dwell on what happened last week if things don’t go well, the more it just drags you down. Take the positive from it. Look at how fast our cars are, how good we ran. There’s nothing anyone can do about that other stuff that either went wrong or was out of our control. Otherwise, it will just eat you up so the best thing to do is just let it go.

How is the relationship and chemistry with (crew chief) Matt Puccia? 

Matt is great and we really have built a solid relationship that really started to come together last year. He’s smart, he communicates very well and the team is behind him every step of the way. That’s another reason why I’m so excited about this coming season seeing what he brings to the table and how this team can work together. Like I said, we have some fast cars and great equipment. The team is together all the way and if we can get some breaks, keep the bad luck to a minimum I’m confident we can have a really good season this year.

 
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Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:09 pm
 

Biffle, Harvick post Phoenix comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Congratulations on a very strong run out there today, and you're second in points heading into Las Vegas.  You've got to have a good feeling about all of that.

GREG BIFFLE:  Yeah, I really do.  You know, I certainly would have thought we would have run better today than we did.  We fought the car really bad beginning of this race.  I guess the track is just a lot different than it was on Friday.  I don't care so much for this format of doing all of our practice on Friday when we get here.  I like to practice and qualify, and then Saturday we have happy hour.  We have two race practices to get ready for the race.

It's difficult coming into a green racetrack and doing all your race stuff in one day to get set up for the race and just qualify on Saturday.  It was challenging, and I missed it a little bit.  Matt never gave up on the car.  He kept adjusting on it, adjusting on it.  I never thought it would get that good.  I was in trouble.  I was ready to write that thing off for a 15th, 20th place finish, but boy, it started coming around, coming around, and really took off.

Certainly excited about how they got the car going.  But I got it off a little bit for today's race.  I probably was being a little aggressive.  Great third-place finish, you know.

Q.  I didn't catch your last pit stop.  Did you have any issues with fuel?

GREG BIFFLE:  I didn't.  We just made sure it was full, and then I started saving right from there when I could.  Lift a little bit early on the straightaways if I'm not catching the guy in front of me or whatever.  So I was saving.  And then as we got longer in the run, we got those few caution laps, so that helped us.  But there with about 20 to go, they were panicked to say the least.  I heard the panic in their voice.  He's like, they did an 860 behind you -- they did an 80, you did a 60.  They wanted me to slow down, slow down, slow down, and I felt like I had saved enough gas, so I kind of kept my rhythm about where I had it.

And then with four laps to go, he sounded desperate.  So I backed up a little bit more and started kind of drafting those lap cars.  And then they're like the 29 is running out, try and pass him, try and pass him.  I'm like, well, a little late for that, but yeah, I mean, you should have told me that a lap ago, I could have passed him.  So I missed him by, I don't know, 100 feet at the start finish line, and we've still got gas in the car.  I made the cool down lap and came back and still running and no flicker of fuel pressure, so I know I've at least still got one lap.  That being said, I could have probably easily caught the 29 since he ran out, but obviously not the 11.

Q.  Can you appreciate what Tony Stewart went through today?  Did you hear about him?  He shut it off to save fuel and the thing wouldn't come back.  Is this new technology something that's going to take a few races to work out?

GREG BIFFLE:  Yeah, you could have wrote the story writer to the season starting.  There's going to be growing pains with this system.  Some people are just going to go out, it hasn't even been hot yet.  Wait until it gets hot at racetracks like Indy and other places. I don't know how much heat these things are able to handle.  That may be an issue at some point.  Not starting, cam sensors not recognizing when you shut it off and you're not using the starter but you're using the clutch.  There's all kinds of technology when this -- if you cycle -- you can't cycle the battery switch because it'll go into boot mode and the ECU --

Q.  Is it your policy not to shut the engine off?

GREG BIFFLE:  No, I shut it off today coasting.  I've been testing this winter, so...

Q.  You finished third in a car that you said wasn't to your liking.  What kind of confidence does that give you when you do feel like your car is working on all cylinders?

GREG BIFFLE:  Well, certainly don't want to be greedy, but I thought myself or the 5 would have won the race today, honestly.  My car was just so good, and qualifying -- you know, I got high in 3 and 4 and was in that fuzz, and came back and I wasn't very fast crossing the white, and the second lap I come back and qualified seventh. I knew my car was just super fast.

But I went a little more aggressive on the front end than I -- I was a little nervous about it with the heat today and how warm it was, if what I was going to do was going to work out.  I was trying to keep the front end right on the track real good, and it slid the nose and shattered the front tire.  I fought that all day.  It would be loose in and then shatter the tire when I'd try to go to the gas, so I made a little bit of a mistake probably, but I guess we could have only been two spots better.  But Vegas I won't make that same mistake.

Q.  How do you feel this year compared to last year at this time when you got off to a slow start?

GREG BIFFLE:  I'm feeling really good.  I've got all new guys.  I've got guys working really hard on the car, crew chief and team, and a guy that's really, really smart paying attention to all the fine details, and that's Matt Puccia, and that's the reason why we got two third-place finishes is because of his leadership and his decision making on pit road on what to do to the car.  It's executed, he's thinking about it.  He makes the decisions he wants, and that's why we're sitting here now.

KERRY THARP:  Greg, thanks a lot, and we'll see you in Las Vegas.  Good run today.

Our race runner up at today's eighth annual Subway Fresh Fit 500 is Kevin Harvick, and he drove the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.  Second-place finish today and Kevin is third in points, eight out of the first-place points leader.  Kevin, talk about -- I know you said there on pit road that you were proud of your team for gutting it out here today even though you ran just a little bit shy of Sunoco there at the end.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, when you come out of caution they tell you you're nine laps short, you really don't think there's any possibility to make it.  But a couple cautions and a little bit of saving and a little bit tighter crunch on the numbers, we wound up about a lap short.

But those are the types of things you've got to do to take the chances, and when you're close enough to at least coast around, they did a good job.  So we came here and struggled at the last race here and ran 25th, 30th all day and came back and raced for a win today.  So they've done a good job over the winter, and hopefully that continues over the next few weeks in the preparation that they've done through the winter.

Q.  I guess a key question is if you had not run out of gas, do you think you would have been able to pass Denny there at the end?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I don't think so.  Our cars were pretty evenly matched.  Really the whole second half of the race, he was a little bit better on the restarts and was able to kind of scoot by on the one restart there, I lost a couple spots, so that was our weak point of the day was the restarts.

We were able to match him, make up a little bit of ground, and just -- I don't know that there would have been enough time.

Q.  In trying to determine how much fuel you had left, how big of an issue was the new EFI system for your guys to try to calculate?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, with the EFI it didn't really -- really, you have kind of a little bit more of a cushion because the EFI kind of kept us running there at the end.  Basically what it does is knocks the engine down to just a minimum RPM, it's like a rev limiter and that's basically caution car speed there and that's as fast as it'll go.  But it will keep running.

It got us back to the start finish line, and it ran out coming off of Turn 2 after the checkered.  You can really be pretty aggressive because you don't have to worry about the things restarting.  It has an electric fuel pump if you have to come on pit road, so you can be a little bit more aggressive.

Q.  Kevin, were you aware of Tony Stewart's problem refiring his car, and have you had any issues with turning the engine off and refiring it when you're trying to save fuel?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I feel like we've done a good job preparing for a lot of these situations, not to say that something is not going to go wrong.  We went through fuel mileage, on-off switch.  We have a procedure that looks like a video game that the guys from ECR have come up with, from saving fuel to how to turn the engine on and off, if the engine won't refire, how to reset it.  So there's procedures that go with -- that guys at ECR have come up with on the McLaren system, and we've run across some of those problems but feel like we've fixed them, too.

Q.  I know there's always an issue when you practice on a cold track and then you race on a hot track, but with the new construction of this track and in the race yesterday, the guys decided not to put tires on because they were having a hard time with cold tires on the track, and I was wondering, how is it different for you racing yesterday and then racing today with the tires and the difference in temperature?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, we didn't end on four tires today, I can promise you that, after yesterday.  But our car was faster on two tires than it was on four tires.  Our weakness was still the restarts and getting grip, but we were better with restart grip on two tires than we were with four.  So the tracks -- whether it was cool or hot, it stayed pretty consistent, and for two races now I think it's put on pretty good shows.

Q.  You sounded so calm after the race was over on the radio.  Even though you finished second, it really seemed like a team-building situation for you and Shane and the guys.  You sounded like you really seemed to be on a quest to find the championship you've been looking for.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, this is obviously a group of guys that has been together for a while, and in the end, I have to help be that team leader to be able to keep the guys together, whether it's a good day or bad.  A lot of them may think it's a bad day, but obviously we all want to win, but in the end, finishing second and being in contention for race wins and having the speed in the car is really what you're looking for early in the year, and if you can knock out a couple wins, that's what you want to do.

It's definitely -- we have to build it one week at a time, and that confidence and that character that comes with winning or losing is part of it.

Q.  We had a race today where a group of guys led chunks of laps, you and then Kyle, the 48 and of course the 11 at the end.  What was behind all that?  Was there adjustments, car adjustments?  Did the track change?  What put different guys up front for such long stretches?

KEVIN HARVICK:  You know, I think some of it probably had to do with tire strategy, and when guys had to put four on they'd get shuffled back and when you put two on, you'd keep your track position up front.  You know, I think it was a group of cars that were probably the fastest cars all day and probably those are the ones that you're talking about.

Q.  Usually you've run toward the middle of the pack for most of the race and then you inch your way closer and then try to win at the end.  How did it feel today to have a dominant car for a majority of the day?  You were always up front.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, that's the way we'd like to do it.  We don't intentionally qualify in the middle of the pack, and I think qualifying helped us get our track position and keep our track position all day.  Shane called a good race, and we were able to keep ourselves up front.  I think a lot of that starts with qualifying.

  

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 2:14 am
 

Biffle: Maybe next time we do something different


Greg Biffle (16) couldn't run down Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth for the win.(Getty Images)


Greg Biffle post-race press conference:

TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS PLAYED OUT FOR YOUR TEAM HERE THIS EVENING.

“Well, obviously I wish we would have done a few things maybe a little bit different. We had a great speed weeks. Coming out of here with a third place finish is really exciting for us. More importantly, we didn’t wreck and we got a good finish. I still am a little blown away by the end of that race and that we weren’t able to push up to the back of the 17 car. I was kind of surprised by that. Next time maybe we will do something a little bit different.” 

THE CRAZINESS OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY, CAN YOU SUM THAT UP? 

“Well, the weather down here has been kind of unusual the entire time. One day it is 90 degrees and the next day it is high 50’s. It was up and down. You always expect a few rain showers but that was more than we have seen down here in a long time. It was unfortunate it got delayed but I think the race went pretty well and I hope that a lot of people got to see it.” 

WHY COULDN’T YOU GET TO KENSETH AT THE END? 

“That is a good question. Here is the thing, and I don’t know what it was, but all night Junior had been shoving me against the back of the 17 car at will. Granted, he had somebody pushing him, but we weren’t locked together.

"Any time you get locked together the things just go, they just take off like before when we had the tandem racing. Once he got against my bumper and I made sure he stayed against it around the corner, I was about three-quarters throttle and then once we got straight I pushed the gas down. I thought that we would drive up on the back of the 17 without a problem. It must have just pushed enough air out in front of my car that it pushed the 17 car out about five or six feet in front of me and I couldn’t get any closer. I thought I needed to get out from behind him because then we would get by him so on the back stretch I moved up a little bit but Matt is not stupid, we had no run at him. We were all going the same speed so when I moved over Matt moved over real easy and Junior is against my back bumper so I am trying not to wreck because he is shoving on me and I am doing this down the back thinking I am not going to be able to get a run at him.

"Probably the only thing that, at that point I could have done, and I didn’t know how much he had on him from behind or if the top lane was coming, but the only thing I could have done was got real straight down the back stretch and pushed the brake pedal down pretty and kept going straight and slow our cars down a fair enough and then let Junior make a run at Matt around three and four and we could have moved up beside him coming off the corner and then Junior and I would have had to dice it out to the line. That is probably what I should have done, just anchored down the brakes down the back stretch and put distance between Matt and I. I thought for sure that I didn’t need to do that, I thought he would shove me right up to his back bumper. Monday morning quarterbacking I didn’t think we needed to do that. He had been shoving me right up to his back bumper. He had all night and I had no doubt it would happen then.”  

HOW DID YOU MANAGE ALL THE DOWN TIME THE LAST FEW DAYS AND THEN IN THE RACE TODAY? 

“I have been cooped up in a motor home in the infield with my seven-and-a-half month old baby daughter. We have been cooped up for 13 days. I tell you what, the last two days sitting over there in the rain, I have had my fill. I was ready to race, you know? You get all that adrenaline and excitement and you just kind of sit around and I looked at the same walls regardless. We were down here for a long time and we were ready to get going home and get ready for the next race.” 



Daytona Speedweeks
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:37 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 6:44 pm
 

Drivers anxious, but don't see delay as big deal

Posted by Brian De Los Santos


It was a soggy day at Daytona International Speedway. (Getty Images)

NASCAR wanted desperately to be able to run the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but the weather would not cooperate, forcing the first postponement in the race's history. Drivers and crew chiefs were in some disagreement about how much the rain will ultimately impact the race when it does get under way.

On postponement

Carl Edwards: “Well, this is one of the toughest things for us drivers and you guys are living it as well. You planned on getting this race in and writing the stories and covering the event. When you put that off for another day, for all of us it is now who can really stay focused. That is not just the drivers; it is the pit crews, crew chiefs and everyone, including the officials. I think we will be just fine. Someone told me this was the first time it was postponed. A couple years ago I remember it was late or something. I think that is a pretty good record for NASCAR. They have been living right to have 53 of these and never have one of them postponed. That is pretty spectacular. We will come race tomorrow and I think everyone is really excited about this race. All the drivers I have spoken with and all the fans. This is going to be a very good Daytona 500 and I think NASCAR is doing the right thing in not dragging this out. Everybody knows we will be racing tomorrow during the day, it will be a good event and hopefully the weather will hold off and we aren’t in the same position tomorrow.”

Greg Biffle: "I just tweeted that I guess I’m gonna have to win the first Monday Daytona 500. As you can tell, I’m still in my uniform because I was optimistic that this weather was gonna get out of here and we were gonna get this thing going, but I’ll just have to save my energy for tomorrow. I got all of the hard work done today. I did all the hospitality and that stuff, so I’m ready to go. I just can’t wait. I guess I’ll have to wait until 12 o’clock tomorrow and take that green flag. I’m just excited. I’m still on the front row. Hopefully, the weather is better tomorrow. I know a lot of race fans are disappointed and a lot of people at home on TV, but we just hope they tune in tomorrow. It’ll be a great race.”

Dave Rogers (Kyle Busch's crew chief): "This has proved to be a historic event -- 54 years and the first time the Daytona 500 has ever been rained out. Everyone wishes we could have raced today. It's an exciting day to be down here in Daytona. The first race of the year and we were real excited to get on the race track and see how strong our Toyota Camry is -- obviously want to duplicate our performance from the Shootout last Saturday, but we're going to have to wait another day. Tomorrow's looking pretty bad too -- 80 percent chance of thunderstorms and then as a race team you start to think about the logistics. Phoenix is next week -- it's a long trip for these transport drivers. If it gets delayed too long, it could have consequences that bleed over into next week's event. Hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate and we'll get the Daytona 500 in tomorrow afternoon."


How will the rain effect the track?

Carl Edwards: “The only thing is that the rain will make the track a little more abrasive to start. I think NASCAR will have a competition caution and we will get to look at the tires. We didn’t see any trouble in the Gatorade race, the shootout, that is something you worry about at these places because of the speeds. If you get the camber wrong, we have had trouble at these places because too much camber heats up that outside edge of the tire sometimes even on the straightaway. I don’t think anyone will have an issue though.”

Greg Biffle: “I think this race track, because of the grip and the downforce the race cars have, I think that you won’t see a big difference with the track rubbering up. The speeds will be a little bit faster because the track will be green, but I think for that first run the track is gonna get some rubber on it. NASCAR will probably do a competition caution just to make sure that everything is going OK – probably lap 30 or 25 – so I think it’ll be OK. It’ll just be fast at 12 when we start, but then it’ll be the same game after the first pit stop.”

Joey Logano: "It's not going to change the track that much. It's not a big handling race track, so it shouldn't change much. Just another day to be thinking about it -- another day to be getting ready. Go to sleep and go at it again tomorrow at noon."

Dave Rogers (Kyle Busch's crew chief): "It certainly will, but this track still has a lot of grip in it. The pavement is still fresh. I would be more concerned at other tracks than I am here at Daytona. There's definitely some things you have to think about. You can't really do anything about it, but the cooling. We were all excited to race on a cooler day -- low 60s. That means we can get a little more aggressive,we can push on people a little bit more and not have to worry about that water temp as much. If we end up racing in 70, 75, 80 degree weather then obviously the drivers aren't going to be able to push as hard and you're going to have some affects there. The weather is definitely going to affect the way the race plays out, but at this point, as a crew chief there's not much you can do because you can't work on the cars at all. We just have to stay here and play it out."

Jason Ratcliff (Joey Logano's crew chief): "It does a little bit. Obviously, with the new surface -- the tire is pretty durable here. Goodyear brought a tire that's really durable because the surface is so new. I don't think it's going to show up as much as maybe another race track that had an older, abrasive surface. It's going to be much cooler outside -- the track is going to be green. It could change dramatically until we get some rubber back on the track. Then as the temperatures start dropping, we may see something that is more similar to what we saw in the Shootout than what we saw in the 150s."

Brian Pattie (Clint Bowyer's crew chief): "I don't know that it changes much here. If we were at an intermediate track, it would probably change the setup somewhat, but we're so wide open here. It actually gains grip, so it wouldn't be a bad thing for us. Definitely cooler weather would help our Toyota run better, I think. I don't know if I would change anything."

Daytona Speedweeks



Posted on: February 18, 2012 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 4:26 pm
 

Biffle back on top in second Daytona practice

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA 500 SECOND PRACTICE

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Greg Biffle remained the fastest driver in opening practice for the Daytona 500.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver led Saturday's second session to back up the fast speed he turned in during the day's opening practice.

Biffle's lap of 193.241 mph was the best of the 49 drivers who took part in the session.

Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was next on the list with Budweiser Shootout pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. third, Tony Stewart fourth and Mark Martin rounding out the top five.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is slated for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

 
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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:27 pm
 

Greg Biffle leads opening Daytona 500 practice

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA 500 PRACTICE ONE

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Ford camp fired the first salvo in Daytona 500 practice as Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose put their names on top of the speed chart in Saturday's first session of the weekend.

Drivers spent most of their time in single file laps as they prepared for Sunday's qualifying session.

Biffle turned a lap of 193.395 mph to top the session with Ambrose next at 193.349 mph.

Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard completed the first five.

A second session is slated for Saturday afternoon at which time pack drafting is expected.

 
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Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:50 pm
 

Shootout to provide gauge of Daytona rule changes

By Pete Pistone


  Matt Kenseth, Driver Of The #17 Best Buy Ford, Leads
(Whether the rule changes will result in more pack racing or the return of tandem drafting remains to be seen)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There's money and glory on the line but that won't be the most important thing in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.

The opportunity for drivers to finally put the many rule changes and modifications NASCAR implemented after last month's Preseason Thunder test into race mode is what's on everyone's mind.

After three days of testing a variety of restrictor plate measurements, spoiler heights, spring packages and cooling system tweaks, NASCAR landed on what for now is considered a suitable package to officially open Speedweeks. In an effort to if not eliminate at least limit the use of tandem drafting, which the sanctioning body found to be an extremely disliked practice by a majority of fans, the rash of changes were introduced to teams.

But while practicing during a test is one thing, being on track during racing conditions is quite another.

"I'm really not sure what to expect," said Greg Biffle. "My guess is you'll see a combination of the big packs that NASCAR seems to want us to return to and then some use of the tandem when the time is right."

The exhibition race will give drivers a chance to try and get a handle on what to expect when next Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races roll around as well as when the green flag flies in the Daytona 500.

"There's no reason to thin the tandem will completely disappear," said defending Budweiser Shootout winner Kurt Busch, who makes his debut with Phoenix Racing in Saturday night's race. "But I do think based on what we saw during the test we won't see it all race long either in the Shootout or the 500."

Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout format remains unchanged from last year with a 25 lap opening segment followed by a ten minute break and then a 50-lap dash to the checkered flag.

Criteria has been tweaked to fill out the 25-car field to include:

• Drivers finishing among the top 25 in the 2011 championship driver points

• Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions and winners of Shootout events. 

Following the first segment, a 10-minute “pit stop” gives crews the opportunity to make normal adjustments to their cars. Other notes: All work must be done on pit road or in the garage; teams may not change springs, shocks or rear ends; all green- and yellow-flag laps in both segments will count. Following the 10-minute “pit stop,” the event’s second segment remains a 50-lap sprint for the win.

Those entered in Saturday’s race: Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Joey Logano, Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray

In addition to Busch, other drivers will be making their debuts with new teams including Bowyer with Michael Waltrip Racing, Kahne with Hendrick Motorsports, Ragan with Front Row Motorsports and Allmendinger with Penske Racing. Allmendinger already has one 2012 Speedweeks victory in last month’s GRAND-AM Sports Car Series Rolex 24. Kurt Busch is the defending champion of the Shootout.

Drivers will draw for their starting positions in a ceremony held Friday night to set the lineup.


   
More NASCAR coverage

Posted on: January 13, 2012 2:03 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 12:46 pm
 

2011 Team Review/Preview: Roush Fenway Racing

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Edwards damaged his car in the post-race celebration but was still the All-Star Race winner at Charlotte in May)

Review


Roush Fenway Racing couldn’t have missed out on the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship any closer than it did. Unfortunately the organization and Carl Edwards has the dubious distinction of being the only team to miss out on a title by virtue of a tiebreaker, thanks to Tony Stewart’s five victories in the season. 

But the season turned in by Edwards was still impressive and overall RFR enjoyed another banner campaign even if the Sprint Cup trophy didn’t accompany team owner Jack Roush home from Homestead. 

“I’m 69 years old, and I had a couple of chances to look at my own mortality and think about what I have done with my life,” Roush said trying to put the disappointment in perspective. “Looking at the end of your time in the mirror thinking that you missed an opportunity that could have ended your time probably did more to sober me than anything else.”

Edwards won one race during the year in addition to taking home a one million dollar payday in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was otherwise the model of consistency. Edwards finished second seven times and although he managed an average finish of 4.9 in the Chase (the best in the format’s history), it wasn’t enough to stop the Stewart and his incredible drive to the title. 

"If I look back on this Chase, there's not one thing that I say that I'd have done or wish I had done,” Edwards said. “I'm truly proud of this season." 

The year also included some contract drama for Edwards who after entertaining offers from other teams including Joe Gibbs Racing signed a contract extension to remain in the Roush camp. 

Edwards’ teammate Matt Kenseth had another typically consistent year that saw the former series champion return to victory lane with multiple victories.

Kenseth finished the season fourth in the series standings and scored three wins along the way, including a victory at Texas Motor Speedway in April to snap a 76-race winless drought.

Through it all, Kenseth was his usual low-key self and didn't mind if others received more attention.

“What’s important to me is trying to win races and trying to be competitive and doing the best job we can do every week," Kenseth said. "I don’t really care about Wii dance-offs or how much coverage you get for doing certain things. If somebody wants to say I’m boring or whatever, I was hired to try to win races and try to run good and that’s what I try to do every week.” 

His undoing may have come at Martinsville when he was swept up into a feud with Brian Vickers that ended with Kenseth in a wrecked race car and took him from championship contention. 

“I wish Matt hadn’t lost his mind at Martinsville and taken himself out of contention,” said a disappointed Roush. “Finishing fourth in points is commendable but he wasn’t challenging for the championship at Homestead, which we had hoped for.” 

Greg Biffle went through the campaign winless and could finish no higher than sixteenth in the standings. A variety of pit road miscues as well as mechanical problems added to Biffle’s frustrations. 

“We didn’t win a race with Greg Biffle and we should have,” Roush said. “We should have won more races with Carl but we didn’t – either because of decisions we made on pit road or because of the way things unfolded on the race track in regards to weather. Sometimes a wreck and a caution that would occur would frustrate your best-made plans and strategy.” 

Finally David Ragan became a first-time Sprint Cup Series winner with his victory at Daytona in the July Coke Zero 400. Ragan nearly won the Daytona 500 but was penalized for an illegal pass on a late race restart but was able to rebound with the trip to victory lane in the annual Fourth of July weekend race. 

However it was a pressure-filled year for Ragan who was forced to compete not knowing what his future would be with the team given sponsorship issues with long-time backer UPS. 

In the end UPS pulled its full-time sponsorship from the No. 6 car and Ragan was squeezed out when Roush was forced to downsize his team to three cars for 2012. 

While Roush was hoping to keep Ragan in the fold, he was disappointed at his overall performance during his career with the team. 

“David Ragan was a frustration and disappointment for all of us because he was not able to realize the potential given what his skill is, what the expectations of the sponsor were and what the performance was being demonstrated in the car and the engineering package was,” Roush said.



Preview 

The streamlined Roush stable brings Edwards, Biffle and Kenseth back for 2012 and hopes to avoid a hangover effect of just missing out on last year’s championship. 

Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne feel confident they can put last year’s disappointment behind and concentrate on finishing the job this season. 

“I’ve accepted the fact that we didn’t win it, but I’m also really excited about the way we could potentially run this year,” Edwards said. “I feel more confident than I’ve felt ever, and kind of more calm because I know we can do it.” 

Kenseth has found chemistry with old school crew chief Jimmy Fennig and with the core of the No. 17 team back as well as a host of new sponsors including newcomer Best Buy, the duo looks forward to challenging for this year’s crown. 

“We won races last year which was big and were in the Chase,” said Kenseth. “It didn’t work out the way we’d hoped in the end but I have no reason to think we won’t be strong again this year and back in the hunt for wins and a Chase spot.” 

Biffle believes having a full season with crew chief Matt Puccia, who replaced veteran Greg Erwin at mid-season, will be beneficial in the No. 16 team’s rebuilding process.

“I can’t say enough about Matt and how he helped bring this team together when he came in,” said Biffle. “That’s a tough thing to do and once we can eliminate mistakes and hopefully some of the bad luck we endured last year we’re gonna be in the mix I promise you that.”

 

Outlook

The last driver to come up on the short end of a Sprint Cup title in dramatic fashion was Denny Hamlin when he lost to Jimmie Johnson in 2010 title race. Hamlin and his team was never able to recover from the experience. The pressure will be on Edwards and Osborne to avoid a similar fate. Kenseth should again be his sneaky self and find his way into the Chase but he’ll need to not let the wheels fall off his championship hopes again. Biffle was a bit of a mystery last season and still appears to be a long shot to make the playoffs. Overall the leaner Roush organization will be a factor for wins and Chase berths.

CHECK OUT MORE POSTS FROM OUR 2011 TEAM REVIEW/2012 PREVIEW SERIES 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com