By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona International Speedway dealt a great hand for Greg Biffle during Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race No. 2.
On a race that was intense from start to finish, Biffle had to race his way into the Daytona 500 — something he hasn’t dealt with in nearly two decades. Fortunately, Jacques Villeneuve’s woes throughout the night gave the 2000 Truck Series champion a one-way ticket to leading the open cars.
The only way for Biffle to make the race was stay in front of Timmy Hill and he’ll race this Sunday. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for “The Biff” as a slow pit stop mid-race nearly dashed his dreams of making the 500 for the first time in six years.
Fortunately, the slow stop didn’t affect his race as Hill wasn’t anywhere close of rivaling Biffle’s No. 44 Grambling State University Chevrolet. As the race ended under caution for an incident involving Joey Logano and Chris Buescher, Biffle crossed the line a lap down in 13th. That’s all he needed as Hill finished a further three laps behind in 20th.
After getting out of his car, NY Racing, friends, family and fans congratulated him on making his 15th Daytona 500. Proving that even if a startup team just assembled a crew and barely made it to the track a few days ago, never count them out. That’s exactly what happened for the entire No. 44 camp.
“I’ve been nervous about this race because there’s so many things that can happen and so many ways it can go,” said Biffle.
“We’ve talked the scenarios all the way, and I watched the first race and I saw (Noah Gragson) was in the lead of the cars, and I thought, well, if he finishes in front of those guys and (Kaz Grala) actually runs in the second race, we’ll be in on time.
“Just figuring all those scenarios. But the car drove really, really good. We ran up in the top 10 there, 12th or whatever, ended up finishing 14th. We had a little bit of a hiccup trying to put fuel in on pit road and lost the draft, so we were able to kind of work our way back in there,” Biffle continued.
“Maybe that was good for us because we missed that wreck towards the end, so we might have been in the middle of that. Really excited for Grambling University, and this Childress-Hendrick combination really worked for us. We’re excited about it.”
Being away from the NASCAR Cup Series since 2016, Biffle said his drive to be competitive is what fires him up. If there wasn’t a chance for him to prove his worth at 52-years-old, he wouldn’t be interested in racing. That’s what led to him leaving Jack Roush’s organization that year.
“I was tired of running in the position we were running. I didn’t want to try and stay on the lead lap. It wasn’t my goal in racing was show up at each race and try and be on the lead lap at the end of it. I didn’t want to do that anymore,” Biffle explained.
“I want to win, and if I don’t feel like I have the opportunity, if that truck inside that trailer going to the racetrack I don’t think I can win with it, then — we knew we were beat before we left the shop, and I’d had enough of that.
“Unfortunately that’s when I decided to walk away. I always said with the right opportunity I’d come back, or a situation like this where a guy needs a hand up and they want to start a new team, and if I feel like I can help them, I would come back and see if I can.”
Fast forward to now, Biffle felt that if there’s a track to come back in the sport’s highest level where he finished runner-up in points back in 2005, Daytona would be it.
“Probably any track you’re going to come back to and have to get in the saddle,” said Biffle. “This was probably a little bit easier racetrack because it’s a little more of a chess game than elbows up like at a Darlington where it’s really tough or at a Bristol or some racetrack like that, Martinsville where you’ve got to come and jump in the fire. This was a little bit easier. It’s a little more precise, executed. Car has a lot to do with it.
“Of any places to come back after a four- or five-year stint, it’s probably — this has been an easier transition than a lot of other places.”
With Biffle now in “The Great American Race,” he hopes what went down Thursday can continue this Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX). More so how the Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports collaborative effort have worked out in the pack.
“It did feel good to get in the car and run good tonight and just pick the right lanes and stayed in lanes,” said Biffle. “Everybody did a great job; spotter did a good job, Jay gave me a good car to drive, did his research and figured out where to put the rounds and tire pressure. I think we have a great opportunity. That’s all a driver can ask for.
“Now it’s up to me on Sunday to take care of the car and get it in position at the end.”