2008 Ride: No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
2008 Sponsors: 3M, DISH Network
2008 Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry (Fenway Sports Marketing Group)
2008 Crew Chief: Greg Erwin
Stats: 36 races, 2 wins, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s, third in points
High Point: Following a roller coaster of a 26-race regular season, Greg Biffle came out swinging when the Chase began. His Roush Fenway team posted back-to-back victories (New Hampshire and Dover) to open the playoffs and followed those runs with a third at Kansas.
Just like that, one of the five Chase drivers who had failed to win a race in the regular season put the field – most notably title favorites Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson – on alert that this was anything but a two-man battle for the ’08 crown.
Biffle’s three-race hot streak was the culmination of an eight-race run that saw him finish in the top 15 seven times – the lone exception being a 21st on the road at Watkins Glen. That run included two fourth-place showings (Chicago and Michigan) and a runner-up in Fontana.
“I feel like this has been coming for a while,” Biffle said after the Dover win. “There’s a lot of concentration right now. It doesn’t get more important than this.”
Low Point: After impressive runs in the Coca-Cola 600 in May (second) and at Dover on June 1 (third), Biffle and crew suffered a midseason swoon that witnessed a fall from fifth in the points standings to 11th, just nine points from 13th.
Runs of 15th at Pocono, 20th at Michigan, 11th at Infineon, 21st at New Hampshire – and the kicker – a 43rd in the July Daytona race, found the team floundering. The Daytona race, in particular, was a tough one to swallow. Although Biffle had qualified a disappointing 33rd, he seemed to be biding his time and staying out of trouble when, on lap 69, Juan Pablo Montoya hooked the right side of Biffle’s Ford coming out of turn 4. The contact sent him head-on into the outside retaining wall and to the garage for the evening.
It also sent the team scrambling for answers on how to turn what had once been a promising season from going into an all-out tailspin. The aforementioned 11-race hot streak that was to follow would answer those questions.
Summary: It was a rebound year for Biffle and the No. 16 team. Having failed to qualify for the Chase the two previous campaigns (after finishing second in 2005), Biffle flexed his muscles late in the year, preserving a now six-year streak with at least one win on the Cup circuit.
Biffle managed a 12.9-place average finish throughout the 2008 season and kept the DNFs (three) to a minimum. After finding himself second in the points standings, just 30 points off the leader after the spring Atlanta race and as low as 11th in July, the water for this team finally found its level.
The late regular-season run to the playoffs and the subsequent scorching start to the Chase showed that when Biffle and crew are on, they are capable of winning in bunches. The problem with this team is that they can’t sustain the hot streaks for any length of time. Two top-five finishes are followed by three runs in the mid-teens, killing momentum as quickly as it began.
A third-place showing in the 2008 points standings is nothing to scoff at, though, and a season that included two wins, two poles and 17 top 10s is considered a success in most shops.
Team Ranking: Biffle slides comfortably into second on Roush Fenway’s 2008 depth chart. His two wins and a third-place points finish may have him a solid No. 1 at most organizations, but most organizations don’t have the white-hot Edwards on the roster. Edwards’s nine-win season led the circuit, and his runner-up showing to Jimmie Johnson in the points standings solidified his unquestioned spot atop the lineup.
Off-Track News: The most notable news out of the Biffle camp came in late June, when the Vancouver, Wash., native inked a three-year contract extension that secured his place at RFR through the 2011 season. Primary sponsor 3M also announced its intention to remain with the team through 2011.
“I have a team that can contend for the championship this season, and for future seasons as well,” Biffle said at the press conference announcing the extension on June 27. “3M has been an incredible partner for several years now, and having them on board made the decision even easier. All the elements are in place: the resources of Ford and Roush Fenway, the excellent team, the outstanding cars and having a great primary sponsor like 3M for the next few years.”
2009 Outlook: The future looks bright for Biffle and the boys on the No. 16 team. With driver and sponsor contracts a non-issue, Biffle can get down to the task of claiming his first Sprint Cup championship – and make no mistake, this is a team that could do just that.
Biffle is a driver that can win in spurts, and to win within the Chase parameters, that’s exactly what a team must be able to do. Could he regain his six-win 2005 form that saw him finish an agonizingly close 35 points out of first? Quite possibly; but the consistency must take hold. That, and like 2008, Biffle must peak at the right time – only in 2009, the peak must be for a sustained length of races. Starting out hot in the Chase will only get you so far if you expect to win a championship.
Biffle and his team must find that September magic once more and hold onto it for a 10-race stretch. If they can do so, a title is not out of his reach.
Quote of the Year: “All I want is equipment to drive that stays together. It is really frustrating, but you know what, I’ve just come accustomed to expecting it, because week after week it’s something. Something breaks, something falls off. I give it 110% as a driver all the time, and you just want your equipment to last and be able to win these races.” – Greg Biffle, after a parts failure landed him 43rd in the running order at Darlington in May after starting on the pole and leading 95 laps. The comment was also seen as a negotiating ploy for a driver with offers coming in from other teams at the time.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: C
2008 Grade: A-