2009 Ride: No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
2009 Primary Sponsor: 3M
2009 Owners: John Henry, Jack Roush
2009 Crew Chief: Greg Erwin
2009 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s, 0 poles, 7th in points
High Points: All the teams compete to make the Chase, something Biffle and the Roush No. 16 outfit accomplished by the skins of their teeth. He left Richmond this fall 12th in the standings, the last man to make the cut but in the playoffs nonetheless for a second straight year.
He had three particularly strong Cup runs that stuck out to me this season. Leading 93 laps at Texas, he finished third, a run that would wind up tying his season-best performance on the year. He also led 113 of 267 laps at Kansas in the fall before also finishing third; and at Darlington in May he ran well and led 117 laps early before pit strategy dropped him back to eighth.
Low Points: There were two sets of three race stretches this season that had to try Biffle’s soul. At Atlanta, Bristol and Martinsville this spring, he finished 34th, 39th and 28th respectively, forcing himself to dig out of a hole and back into playoff contention in early summer. Then, after hanging on to sneak into the Chase, Biffle finished 20th at Fontana, 16th at Charlotte and 25th at Martinsville through the middle section of the 10-race playoff. That just wasn’t going to get the job done.
Summary: Biffle entered the season with high hopes after finishing third in the standings in 2008, but the wheels clearly fell off his little red wagon early and often in 2009. It was a tough season for the entire Roush Fenway organization, as Rick Hendrick and Associates ran roughshod over them for most of the season. In fact, it was a pretty tough year for Ford pilots in general after Matt Kenseth kicked off the season with two wins in his Fusion.
After that, the only other Ford victory was Jamie McMurray at Talladega, with the team struggling to simply stay relevant amidst an onslaught of wins from Chevrolet. Biffle had won at least one Cup race every year since 2003, but came up short of victory lane for the first time in his full-time Cup career.
Still, there were some bright spots as the team looks to build toward the future. Biffle led 551 laps this year and failed to finish just two races (Atlanta and Bristol in the spring). That allowed him to earn about $4.7 million in purse money, which – coupled with his low grooming costs thanks to Biffle’s use of the Flow-bee home haircutting system – left him rolling in dough.
If you’re looking for a scapegoat, pit road hurt Biffle early and often throughout a season filled with “what ifs.” Strategy robbed him of a Darlington win, while penalties held him back at Texas and poor stops cost him countless positions at other races. But perhaps the most deflating of all his near-misses was running out of fuel on the last lap at Michigan in June. That race wound up in former teammate Mark Martin‘s hands instead, handing him the momentum Biffle never seemed to generate for the rest of the 2009 season after that.
Team Ranking: Biffle was the highest-ranking driver within the five-man Roush stable this season, outshining even Carl Edwards in nearly every category en route to his second straight top-10 finish in points.
2010 Outlook: Jack Roush is a proud man, and he doesn’t like losing. Roush is also a great engineer, and you know he and his teams are going to be burning the midnight oil during the offseason to find a way to come back and kick some Hendrick butt next year. As their efforts fare, so will Biffle’s. For most of this season, racing a Ford in the Cup Series was like entering a Honda Mini-Trail 50 in a demolition derby: it was likely to raise some bruises.
So Biffle needs to push RFR to step it up in 2010, for only if they master the Ford CoT will he have a shot to regain the sort of status he had in 2005 – when he finished second in the standings, a mere 35 points behind Tony Stewart. Of course, that year all five Roush teams made the Chase. In 2009, just two made the cut.
As Roush’s fortunes fare, foul or fair, in 2010 so will Biffle’s.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: C
2008 Grade: A-
2009 Grade: B
About the author
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.
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