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Greg Biffle in final prep for first NASCAR race since 2016

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It’s all coming back to Greg Biffle.

After two months of slow “ramping up and ramping up,” Biffle’s return to NASCAR competition has arrived.

The 49-year-old retiree will be employed once again this week as he drives Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway. It will be Biffle’s first NASCAR race since the 2016 Cup Series finale in Miami.

“Yesterday I got my uniform on, got in the truck, helmet on, radio plugged in,” Biffle said Tuesday of his race week routine. “I had a debrief meeting a week or so ago with (crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) …. discussed what to expect, how we’re going to do practice and what not. It’s been fun to get a chance to get back into the routine so to speak.”

It won’t be the former Roush Fenway Racing’s driver first time on a NASCAR track since 2016. In March, he got to the chance to shake down Busch’s truck during practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I just really got an idea of what the track looked like and how his truck drove,” Biffle said. “I think that’s a huge advantage to help me for this weekend and to kind of have an idea what it drives like.”

And how does it compare to the truck Biffle last drove in 2004 in Miami?

Well, it has been 15 years.

“To be perfectly honest with you I don’t even remember what they drove like in 2004,” Biffle said. “It’s been so long ago. But I will say this: it felt more like what I’m used to driving, which was a Cup car. They’re kind of on bump stops (in the suspension), more coil bound springs, which is the way the Cup car was in ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08 when I had a lot of success at the Cup level. They drive similar to that. So it was kind of no surprise to me.”

When it comes to Texas, the 1.5-mile track is one of Biffle’s favorites and he said it was one of the “deciding factors” when he chose to compete in the race. He won there once in a Truck in 2000 and twice in Cup.

But the track has changed since Biffle’s last race there. It was repaved in 2017 and the banking in Turn 1 and 2 was reduced by four degrees and the width of the racing surface was expanded from 60 to 80 feet.

Also, the track applied a traction agent in those turns to help improve competition (but it will not this weekend). The traction agent threw Biffle off in his first time out on the track.

“Whatever they’re doing kind of looks like the (racing) line, the groove if you will,” Biffle told reporters in March. “When I come down the frontstretch and I’m kind of looking up I see that black line and so I’m like, ‘OK, that’s kind of the groove.’ Then all of a sudden you realize the corner’s over there, you’re about passed it. It took me a lap or two to figure it out and get my bearings.”

A trophy in his first race in three years isn’t the only motivation Biffle has for Friday night. The race is the first of three in a row NASCAR is calling the “Triple Truck Challenge.”

Should Biffle pull off the win, he and his team would pocket a $50,000 bonus from Gander Outdoors.

“I’ll tell you I haven’t worked in three years, so that would be great for the bank account,” Biffle said.

And what about after Friday night? In March Biffle said he “could be talked into more races, maybe.”

But Biffle said Tuesday “I don’t know exactly what I want to do.

“I’m using this opportunity to get back in the seat, work out Kyle’s schedule for him so he has a driver for this event, which he really needed,” Biffle continued. “Certainly all options are open for me. I said earlier I doubt whether I’d do a full-time Xfinity or Truck (season). I think I’m still on that page, although in the right circumstance I would consider a short return, maybe a year or two. I’m not ruling that out I guess.”

 

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.