Greg Biffle

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NBC Sports Power Rankings special edition: Xfinity, Truck drivers

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With the NASCAR Cup Series off last weekend, attention was focused on the Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Iowa Speedway.

With that in mind, we’re changing gears for this week’s NBC Sports’ NASCAR Power Rankings. Our staff of writers are ranking the top Xfinity and Trucks series drivers.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings shape up:

1. Tyler Reddick (39 points) – He has one less win now than Christopher Bell, but his overall consistency with three more top fives – including 10 in a row – put Reddick over the top.

2. Christopher Bell (36 points) – Well ahead of his 2018 pace with four wins to one, but when he’s not winning he seems to struggle. He has two DNFs among five finishes of 13th or worse. 

3. Cole Custer (32 points) – The second most improved Xfinity driver from last year. He also trails Bell by one win but he’s tied with him with eight top fives and one other top 10.

4. Ross Chastain (29 points) – What he’s done in both Xfinity and Truck with the equipment he’s in has been impressive.

5. Brett Moffitt (22 points) – Benefitted from Ross Chastain’s truck failing inspection and got the win at Iowa (pending the appeal by Chastain’s team Wednesday). Reigning series champ looks to win back-to-back titles with two different teams (just like what Reddick is looking to do).

6. Justin Allgaier (21 points) – Seems to be finding his groove after some early struggles. Has four top-five finishes in the last five races.

7. Grant Enfinger (16 points) – Points leader in the Truck Series and has not finished worse than 11th this season. His fourth-place finish at Iowa was the fourth time he’s placed fourth in the last six races … but he’s still searching for his first win of 2019.

8. Chase Briscoe (11 points) – Has 11 top-10 finishes in last 12 races. That includes six top fives during that stretch, including a best result of third at Pocono (has also finished worse than eighth just once in the same period).

9. Matt Crafton (8 points) – Has identical record to Enfinger (zero wins, six top 5 and nine top 10 finishes each). Major difference is Crafton has led only 22 of 1,640 laps, while Enfinger has led 110 laps.

10. Austin Cindric (5 points) – His 10th-place finish at Iowa was his ninth top 10 in the past 11 Xfinity races. Is showing continued marked improvement in his second full season in the series.

Others Receiving Votes: Michael Annett (3 points), Greg Biffle (1 point).

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.”

 

 

Truck Series practice report from Texas Motor Speedway

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Austin Hill posted a top speed of 185.816 mph in the final Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hill recorded 28 laps around 1.5-mile track. He also had the best 10-lap average at 182.020 mph.

The top five was completed by Brett Moffitt (185.778 mph), Brennan Poole (185.452), Stewart Friesen (185.408) and Todd Gilliland (185.338).

Kyle Busch was sixth fastest.

 

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Johnny Sauter was fastest in the first practice session

Sauter posted a top speed of 185.580 mph. He recorded 16 laps in the session.

He was followed in the top five by his ThorSport Racing teammates Grant Enfinger (185.376 mph) and Ben Rhodes (184.489).

The top five was completed by Busch (183.723) and Moffitt (183.082).

Greg Biffle, who will race for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the June 7 Truck race at Texas, made 14 laps in the session in Busch’s No. 51 truck. His fastest lap was 181.616 mph, which was good for P13 before he was replaced by Busch.

The session was stopped once for a fire in the No. 1 truck of Bayley Currey. Currey was able to exit his truck.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Greg Biffle to make NASCAR return in June Truck Series race in Texas

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Former Cup Series driver Greg Biffle will return to NASCAR in three months, competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the June 7 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

To prepare for the race, Biffle will share Kyle Busch’s No. 51 Toyota during practice today at the 1.5-mile track.

Busch will drive the No. 51 for a majority of the two practice sessions, which run from 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET and 6:05 -6:55 p.m. ET. There is no TV coverage.

Biffle, 49, hasn’t competed in NASCAR since the end of the 2016 season when he parted ways with Roush Fenway Racing.

“As we were putting the finishing touches on our driver lineup for this year, we found ourselves looking for someone to drive the No. 51 Tundra in the June race and we are fortunate to be putting a driver of Greg’s caliber behind the wheel,” Busch said in a press release. “I’ve been friends with Greg for a long time and we’ve always joked about how it would be cool for him to drive trucks again. When this opportunity came about the talks got serious and we both decided it was smart decision.

“Not only is he capable of stepping right in and getting another win for the No. 51 team as we work towards the Owner’s Championship, he will also be an experienced teammate for Harrison (Burton) and Todd (Gilliland) to lean on that weekend as they try to secure a spot in the playoffs and pursue another Truck Series Driver’s Championship for our organization. Once we worked things out with Greg to race for us in the June event, we made a last-minute decision for him to get in the truck and make some laps in practice today and began working on getting all of the proper approvals and paperwork completed so that he is able to do so.”

A 16-time winner in the Truck Series and the 2000 series champion, Biffle hasn’t competed in a truck since the 2004 season finale in Miami. He won at Texas in 2000.

“I’ve always said that I would return to NASCAR in the right situation and when Kyle and I started talking about that KBM needed a driver for the June Texas race I felt like this was the right opportunity to return to the track and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to drive such good equipment,” Biffle said in a press release. “I started my career in the Truck Series and it was one of the greatest times of my life, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to get back behind the wheel of a truck.”

Biffle said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” that he and Busch had talks after the 2016 season about a possible full-time ride in the Truck Series, but that he wasn’t ready for that commitment at the time.

Biffle’s sponsor for the June 7 race will be announced later.

Roush Fenway Racing won’t field Xfinity Series team in 2019

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Roush Fenway Racing will not field a team in the Xfinity Series for the first time in more than a quarter century, RFR President Steve Newmark confirmed Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Roush Fenway Racing first ran in the Xfinity Series in 1992 with Mark Martin, who won once in 14 starts that year. The organization has won a record 138 Xfinity races. Roush Fenway Racing also has captured five Xfinity driver titles — Greg Biffle in 2002, Carl Edwards in 2007, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011-12 and Chris Buescher in 2015.

Newmark told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM’s “Dialed In” that the focus is on strengthening the Cup program with Stenhouse and Ryan Newman, who joins the team to drive the No. 6 car this season.

“We’re going to focus exclusively on both of those Cup teams (in 2019) and realized we needed to allocate all of our resources there,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We’ve fluctuated on the number of the teams in the Xfinity Series and a lot of that has been based on need. We’ve been four, we’ve been one, and I think (2019) we’ve decided on how we’re positioned we’ll step out of that for a year and see how that goes and just focus all the resources, all the engineering, all the wind tunnel on making sure that we perform to our expectations at the Cup level.”

Asked if sponsorship was a key factor in the decision, Newmark said: “There’s no doubt that sponsorship plays a factor in everything that we do. For better or worse that’s the way NASCAR is structured right now and sponsorship is the lifeblood for the teams. My hope is that at some point in time we continue to evolve to a model that moves a little bit way from that. But that was just a factor. We had a great run with Lilly Diabetes, five full seasons, we handled the Ford driver development program last year and the Xfinity Series is something that Jack (Roush) has always been passionate about.

“But when we look at where we are and what we needed to focus on, we just felt like that all the resources should be dedicated to Cup. We’ve always used Xfinity as a feeder series … for Cup, and when we look at our drivers, we’ve got those guys locked up and we think that they’re going to be with us for a number of years. We look at the engineering talent, we look at our crew chiefs, and we kind of felt like we had all the pieces of the puzzle in place and so really what we need to do is go out and execute at the Cup level and we’ll see where we end up in Xfinity in the future.”

Last season, Roush Fenway Racing fielded two full-time Xfinity teams: Ryan Reed in the No. 16 and Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Ty Majeski splitting time in the No. 60 car as Ford development drivers. Reed finished 11th in the points.