Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, Greg Biffle raced his way into the Daytona 500.
It wasn’t the first time Biffle has faced that crucible.
In 2002, he attempted to qualify for the team then known as Roush Racing. But he suffered an engine failure in his Duel qualifier, finished 22nd and didn’t get in.
Two decades later, Biffle found better luck. He finished 13th in his Duel qualifier Thursday to put himself and the fledgling NY Racing Team in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”
“It’s a humbling experience,” said Biffle, who went on to make 14 Daytona 500 starts for the Roush organization (2003-16) after his DNQ in 2002.
“It’s challenging. I’m used to coming down here, being in the 500. [But] you’re a charter team or you’re high enough in points. It definitely has been a lot of pressure.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys that come down here and have to do it every year. It’s tough.”
Biffle’s pact with the NY Racing Team was announced Monday. The following day, he was limited to 10 minutes of practice in the first Cup session – in his words, “because some of those new car issues that we weren’t quite ready for.”
The team eventually got things sorted, but Biffle couldn’t lock into the Daytona 500 on single-lap qualifying speed Wednesday. He’d have to be the top finishing non-chartered driver in his Thursday Duel.
Duel 1 saw Kaz Grala pass J.J. Yeley on the final lap for a transfer spot into Sunday. With Yeley going home, Duel 2 had Biffle race Timmy Hill for the other transfer spot (the other non-chartered driver in Duel 2, Jacques Villeneuve, was already locked in on speed).
Hill fell off the lead lap early. But Biffle still had obstacles to overcome.
“These team guys thrown together, we had trouble getting fuel in the car, I ran out of gas with two laps to go, 25 pounds of fuel pressure – everything happened tonight,” he said in initial comments to Fox Sports. “But we finished (13th). You know, I’m glad that maybe that fuel stop wasn’t perfect because I might have been in that wreck.”
Trouble averted, Biffle now looks ahead to his first start at NASCAR’s top level since the 2016 season.
By then, the Roush organization had fallen to mid-pack and Biffle was frustrated by being unable to compete for wins. So, he called time on his Cup career.
But he didn’t leave racing entirely. In recent years, he’s won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race for Kyle Busch Motorsports and has also raced in Stadium Super Trucks and the SRX short track series.
The chance to drive a Next Gen car, one built by Richard Childress Racing and powered by a Hendrick engine, was enough to lure Biffle back to Daytona.
And based on the performance of his car in the Duels, he feels he can make the most of this opportunity.
“It’s been a challenge all weekend, but I think we got our feet under us now, especially with the way the car drove,” he said. “The car drove amazing. Really, really good. I watched some guys that looked like they were too free and have handling issues, and I didn’t experience that.
“Makes me feel good for the 500 on Sunday that I’ve got a competitive car that I can challenge for the win (with).”