The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Greg Biffle by Tony Lumbis -- Monday December 16, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Greg Biffle

Tony Lumbis · Monday December 16, 2013

 

2013 Ride: No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford Fusion
2013 Primary Sponsors: 3M, Post-It, Red Cross, Meguiars, Filtrete, Fastenal, American Dental Association’s FIRST
2013 Owners: Jack Roush, John Henry
2013 Crew Chief: Matt Puccia

Stats: 36 races; 1 win, 4 top 5s, 13 top 10s, 0 DNFs, 9th in driver points.
Best Finish: 1st, Michigan – June.
Average Finish: 14.4.

Greg Biffle

High Point: The 2013 season got off to a solid start for Greg Biffle. While not producing head-turning stats, the No. 16 team’s consistency had them sitting third in the Sprint Cup standings following the seventh race of the year at Texas. However, the Roush Fenway team would soon find themselves mired in a disastrous streak in which “The Biff” finished 19th or lower in four of the next five races, including consecutive 36th-place runs at Richmond and Talladega. Following an uninspiring, 15th-place run at the Monster Mile the team sat 13th in points, out of the Chase.

Fortunately, for the eleven-year veteran that would prove to be rock bottom for their regular season. Following a runner-up finish at Pocono, Biffle and company would head to one of their best tracks on the circuit, Michigan International Speedway. The Washington native did not disappoint, leading a race-high 48 laps en route to his 19th career victory. Not only did the team earn an all-important win, but it also propelled them into the top 10 in points, a position where they would remain the rest of the year.

The win also carried historical significance as it marked Ford’s 1,000th NASCAR victory, giving the Blue Oval a momentous occasion to celebrate in their own backyard, just outside of Detroit. For Biffle personally, it was his fourth career win at the D-shaped oval, most of any track where he boasts an average finish of 11th, making it his second-best venue. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the high point of the season came in the Wolverine State for the longtime Roush Fenway driver.

Low Point: To say that Greg Biffle’s strength is racing on NASCAR’s intermediate tracks would be the understatement of the year. Fourteen of his nineteen career victories have come on tracks between just over a mile and two miles in length. By that account, one would think the 43-year-old would be a major threat in the Chase, which includes five “intermediate” venues. That hardly was the case in 2013. The team finished in the top-10 only three times, ironically all at tracks one mile in length and less. Biffle, along with teammate Carl Edwards were never a factor during the sport’s playoff events, which has to leave this team with a lot of homework to do in the offseason.

Summary: This certainly wasn’t Biffle’s worst season of his career, but it was also far from his best. If one were to sum up 2013 in one word, it can be said that he was just kind of “there”. While about two-thirds of the field would take a season with one win and a Chase berth, in a heartbeat, the expectations are much higher for Biffle, who is running out of time to become the first driver to win a championship in all three major NASCAR series (Austin Dillon is coming). Part of the issue could also be attributed to the organization as a whole, which appeared to take a step back after losing one of its most accomplished drivers in Matt Kenseth while struggling to adapt to the new Gen-6 race car. The entire team was clearly a level below Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing this season and it showed in Biffle’s very “average” results.

2013 Team Ranking: 2nd of 3. While the senior member at Roush Fenway Racing finished higher in the points than Edwards, the No. 99 team had one more win and was consistent enough to run in the top 5 in points for most of the regular season. Therefore, Biffle finishes just a notch below “Cousin Carl” but well ahead of rookie teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Off-Track News: Along with sponsor 3M, Biffle and his fans started a new trend in 2013 with their #StickWithBiff campaign on Twitter. All year long, fans could submit a message with the hash tag referencing their favorite driver. To celebrate their efforts, the #16 For Fan Appreciate Ford Fusion was run at Homestead, featuring the names and/or Twitter handles of fans behind selected Tweets.

Closer to the track, the longtime veteran made his 400th start at Texas in the fall. The Biff also found himself in some rare controversy following the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville when he grabbed Jimmie Johnson by the collar to voice his displeasure about contact the two had during the race. It was a rare display of anger for the normally even-keeled Biffle, which left him as a villain in the eyes of some and a hero from the perspective of others.

2014 Outlook: While fans on Twitter were letting everyone know that they were “sticking with Biff”, Biffle announced that he was sticking with Roush for the long haul, despite rumors that had him leaving following his contract expiration at the end of 2014. Look for the entire Roush Fenway organization to rebound after a disappointing 2013 campaign, an upswing Greg Biffle should benefit from.

Entering his third full-time year with crew chief Matt Puccia, a lot will be expected of this duo. While I think the two will perform well, Biffle has not been known to turn in dominating performances since 2005, when he notched six wins and finished second in the points. With the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and a star-studded lineup at Stewart-Haas Racing, nothing less than eye-popping stats will land a driver at the head table in Las Vegas. While I don’t see that type of performance from the 3M Fusion team, two wins and another Chase berth are likely from the reliable Biffle.

2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: C.
2012 Grade: B.
2013 Grade: B.

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