Greg Biffle: ‘Slow death’ comment borne out of frustration

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After raising some eyebrows with Friday’s comment that “we’re dying a slow death,” Greg Biffle clarified things somewhat in a Sunday morning session with reporters at Auto Club Speedway.

Biffle qualified 29th Friday.

“This is unacceptable,” he said afterward. “We’re dying a slow death. We need to start showing up for the weekend closer to where we need to be.”

Sunday, Biffle said his “slow death” remark was not so much about Roush Fenway Racing as a whole, but borne more out of frustration that the organization continues to come up short on speed and competitiveness.

“It’s difficult as a competitor to show up at a place you’ve won twice at and come off the track 32nd in speed,” Biffle said, even though his memory was slightly off. He’s won just one Sprint Cup race at Fontana (plus three Xfinity races) and was 26th in Friday’s first Cup practice.

“I didn’t mean we were dying a slow death,” he continued. “You want to unload off the truck and be in the top 10 or top 15. Granted, we were much better yesterday when we were (17th) and 14th in the final practice on speed, so we got it better.

“You just feel crushed when you’ve worked so hard and everybody’s put so much effort into it – and then we come here and come off the truck with that kind of speed. That really crushed us. That was a blow to us that we ended up in that position off the truck.”

Biffle’s performance has been up and down thus far in 2015. He finished 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500, only to fall back to 25th the following week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Things looked more optimistic after he finished 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but again fell backward last week at Phoenix International Raceway (27th).

“Certainly, Las Vegas was a high point for us … something for us to build on,” Biffle said. “Then we came here and were kind of scratching our heads on what we missed off the truck.”

With 2015 rules mandating reduced horsepower and downforce, it’s more difficult for drivers to have input.

“The sport has changed so much,” Biffle said. “I remember when (former teammates) Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt (Kenseth) and I would say to do this, do that.

“Today, these cars are so complicated. There’s so many more factors.”

But one constant that the No. 16 and Roush Fenway Racing have is Roush Yates engines, providing a good baseline of power to build around.

“One thing I know is it’s not the engine,” Biffle said. “Could it be improved to give a little more power? Sure. But Penske uses the same motors as we do. So you can check that off. We just keep looking for what creates speed in the car and working in that direction.”

Even with this season’s struggles, Biffle remains optimistic things will improve soon.

“I wouldn’t say we’re leading the way, but I think we’re on the edge of figuring out what we need to make our cars better,” he said. “We’re all saying the exact same thing.

“We know what we need, we just need to figure out how to get our mousetrap to do what we need.”

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Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.