Impact Analysis: Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing

by C.J. Radune on April 23, 2008 @ 15:13:41 PDT

 


Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle sits 10th in Cup points heading into the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, April 27. Compared to the three wins of teammate Carl Edwards, the remaining Roush Fenway drivers have been relatively quiet. Even still, Biffle is just two points behind Edwards in the standings. While the lack of wins is not something Biffle is happy with, his ability to be so high in the points without the wins is a nice, if not slightly disappointing, achievement.

The RFR cars were among the favorites to win the Sprint Cup heading into the season. Matt Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle were touted as having great chances to pick up wins. Remarkably, only two RFR drivers currently lie in positions that would qualify for the season-ending Chase for the Championship. The team simply has not done enough to close the gap on Hendrick Motorsports. Worse yet, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing have been outperforming them as well.

While the wins and speed have been there for RFR cars, the consistency has not. Biffle has suffered the same consistency issues as the rest of his teammates. The team has the resources and the talent to overcome the challenges they currently face, but what exactly are the obstacles? Has Biffle lost his edge or is the team just sputtering out of the gate?

Past seasons

Biffle finished last season 14th in points, with no wins and only five top-fives and 11 top-10s through the season's 36 races. In 2008, he is close to eclipsing 2007's top-five mark by scoring three top-fives, and going into the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Biffle was second in Cup points. He is certainly off to a better start this season, but how does it compare to 2005, when he finished second in the points? Looking at the numbers, he is short two wins and over 500 laps led.

Table: First eight starts (2005-08)

Year
Poles
Wins
Top 5
Top 10
Laps Led
Rank
2005
0
2
3
5
561
2
2006
1
0
0
2
555
13
2007
0
0
1
2
2
14
2008
0
0
3
5
17
10*

* After eight races

The current season is a contract year for Biffle, and initially he had it started on the proper foot. Martinsville, where he finished 20th, continues to be a rough place for Biffle to visit. Another poor result at Texas Motor Speedway (39th) one week later assisted his tumble down the standings. He has stated that Martinsville and Talladega Superspeedway were his team's two wild-card races where poor results were somewhat expected. Biffle will need to keep the car out of trouble in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega, or he may continue to slide in the standings.

Team dynamic

Roush Fenway has been behind the leading teams with the new car since last season. While Edwards won twice with the new car in 2007, the remainder of the drivers struggled. A lack of preseason testing did not help the RFR teams climb the hill any faster. Eight races into the season, the teams have begun to find the sweet spots in the car setups and have started to put together respectable streaks. Biffle was on a three-race top-five finish streak until Martinsville came along.

It was a terrific start to the season for Biffle, but two bad results starting in Martinsville have seen him fall from grace, if only slightly. Owner Jack Roush has also been creating a bit of turbulence in the garage. His attacks on Toyota joining the series began as soon as the announcement of their participation was made in 2006, but the recent scandal involving a stolen Roush sway bar took the battle to a new level.

Reportedly a sway bar, or Roush propriety equipment, was stolen from the garage. Eventually Michael Waltrip Racing came forward and said that they had the item in question after inadvertently packing it up with their equipment when the two teams were parked next to each other. The part and the scandal are not issues for Biffle, but the media attention it has brought to the team was. Is it a coincidence that the peak of "Sway Bar-Gate" coincided with the weekend of Biffle's first poor result of the season? Maybe not, but the extra attention was certainly not welcome.

Fantasy outlook

While Biffle hasn't led nearly as many laps as fantasy owners would like, he still isn't running poorly. The Aaron's 499 may be a tough race for Biffle to get through, but he should return to his early season form regardless of that race. While the Ford teams are the only ones without a fresh engine evolution, they have proved their competitiveness on multiple occasions this season and are second in the manufacturer standings. Biffle's worst finish this season - at Texas - was the result of an engine failure.

Roush Fenway has been successful in fielding multiple cars in the Chase, but this year there is only one that has truly stolen the show. The crews and drivers need to share information. Biffle and Edwards are the two drivers in the best position to do so. A rising tide will lift all ships, and RFR was riding a rising tide early in the season. Given the team history and resources, there is no reason to believe that RFR will not overcome their struggles, but the extraneous bickering needs to die down so that the organization can focus on being competitive on the track, winning races.

Once those things happen, and the series moves past Talladega, Biffle has every chance to return to his early season form and begin climbing back up the point standings. Fantasy owners can't help but feel that when his first win of '08 arrives, the flood gates will open, and there could be many more visits to Victory Lane.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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