Greg Biffle, a NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck series champion, will try his hand at sports car racing next month in a Ford Multimatic Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
Biffle tested the sleek prototype last weekend on the 3.54-mile Daytona International Speedway road course and he quickly came up to speed with some of the veteran sports car drivers.
Biffle talked about his experience in sports cars and the challenge of the 24-hour race that concludes one week before he returns to Daytona for two weeks of stock-car races, including the Daytona 500.
Question: How much road-racing experience will you bring to this year's 24-hour race?
Biffle: Absolutely zero. In fact, it's kind of interesting. I didn't ever road race until my first time at Portland International Raceway, at PIR. I raced a Northwest Tour car. That was my first experience road racing. I picked up on it really fast; really enjoyed it. I think I qualified fifth there. It was an invitational event. Had some Winston Cup guys then, Mark Martin and a few others came out for that event. I ran really well in it. Second race I went to Topeka, Kan., qualified outside front row in the same kind of car. Moved into the NASCAR Truck Series and road raced in the Craftsman Truck Series a few times, one of my first times to Portland, and won at Watkins Glen, N.Y. I sat on the pole and won there. I've had really good success in the short-term I've road raced, but I don't have a lot of experience. I won in the truck series at Portland and Watkins Glen both, and have had a fun time road racing. I qualified outside front row to Jeff Gordon at the Glen, one one-thousandth of a second he beat me by my first year in a Cup car there, so I am really, really looking forward to this. At the same time I'm kind of nervous. I've never driven a car like this. But we're excited we have somebody like Scott Maxwell to help us down there and all the Multimatic folks and Ford to help us get acquainted with what we're about ready to expect.
Question: Years ago, drivers felt it was important to establish their credentials by expanding to other forms of racing. Will this race help you establish your credentials?
Biffle: I'll tell you what, I can't put it into words. It's a huge opportunity for me. You're nervous about whether you're going to make the cut or not. A guy that's successful in pretty much any series can make a transition and be semi-successful other places. So I'm just looking for the opportunity to be able to get in there and drive the car and let these guys coach me and see if I can't develop my skills into being a decent teammate for these guys and have a chance at winning the 24-hour race. I mean, that's our goal. I don't have a huge interest in moving out of NASCAR, but I would certainly love to have more opportunity to drive these cars. I love to road race.
Question: The off-season in NASCAR lasts only a month, counting testing in January. Are you that eager to get back behind the wheel, or are you eager to sharpen your road-racing skills?
Biffle: Well, I mean, not very many guys that do what I do get an opportunity like this presented to us. I'm just taking advantage of the opportunity. That is what I'm doing. We've already tested (for NASCAR) at Kentucky for two days. Not very many teams are doing stuff like that. But we're trying to get ready for 2005. We're working really hard on our cars. I mean, it's a great deal for me to get back behind the wheel prior to our season starting. Like I said, any chance I get to drive with a caliber race team that this is going to be and the caliber of cars, it's a dream come true for somebody like me to be able to do this.
Question: Do you feel the more a driver competes, the more competitive he becomes?
Biffle: I think so. I mean, you never quit learning. Every lap you make you normally learn something new or you're honing your skills on being better, making a smoother transition to the brake pedal and turning the wheel and things like that. So practice makes perfect, and that holds true in a lot of sports, whether it's golf or anything else. So it certainly isn't going to hurt me to get some extra seat time.
Question: With so many other Nextel Cup drivers in this year's 24 Hours of Daytona, is there a chance other Cup drivers will drive in other sports car races?
Biffle: Probably. I mean, you know, a lot of people, a lot of team owners probably got cold feet about their drivers doing that after (Dale Earnhardt) Junior got in that accident at Sears Point. I feel that any opportunity I get, I'm certainly going to take advantage of it. So really it just boils down to having the opportunity presented to you. That's the thing. And I would say you would see some drivers do that certainly. If the opportunity is presented to me, I'm signing up for sure to do it, with the right permission to be able to do it, which Jack Roush would certainly give me the opportunity. So I say yes. I mean, I see some drivers going over there and doing that.
Question: What do you hope to take from the 24-hour race back to your job on the Nextel Cup Series circuit?
Biffle: Well, certainly it's probably mostly going to reflect in my road-racing abilities. I'm looking forward to testing with the data on the cars and trying to learn something about braking zones, corner entries and maybe learn about the transition between the brake and the throttle, just hone my skills in road racing for the Nextel Cup car for Sears Point and the Glen. I went to the Bondurant School the very first year I raced the Craftsman Truck Series. Ford sent me there. I won a road race that year and finished third at the other one, and it helped my oval-track driving. Some of the things I learned there, like trail braking the car in the corner, some of those things have bled over to my oval-track racing. I just picked up a few things. It doesn't take a lot. If I learn one thing from this race and we're competitive, I'll be happy with that.
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