No. 16 3M Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Crew Chief: Matt Puccia
Average Start: 15.0
Average Finish: 16.8
Races Led: 15
Laps Led: 351
% Laps Completed: 98.3%
Points Finish: 16th
2011 in a Nutshell
Looking back, I guess you could say the early part of Greg Biffle’s 2011 season was a microcosm for his year as a whole. Fast cars, several races where he should have finished better and perhaps won, but in the end, nothing but disappointing results to round out the year. Eventually as the season wore on, and the frustration continued to mount, it was clear a change was needed with the 16 team. That change came in July when crew chief Greg Erwin was reassigned and Matt Puccia was named as his replacement. Although the middling performances continued and Biffle missed the Chase for the first time in four years, there were some glimmers of hope near the end of the year that he and Puccia were close to returning the No. 16 Ford to the once lofty heights the team experienced annually.
Reasons to Believe
16 Sprint Cup victories and four appearances in the Chase speak volumes about Biffle’s ability behind the wheel … Unlike teammate Matt Kenseth, Biffle doesn’t have any sponsorship concerns … Last year the fleet of Roush Fords were as fast as any cars on the track and there is no reason to think that’s going to change this year … His best tracks are of the intermediate variety which bode well for him, as nearly half the schedule consists of one-and-a-half- to two-mile ovals … A constant near the front of the field and typically leads a lot of laps … Tends to win in bunches … A slimmed down version of Roush Fenway Racing should strengthen an organization which often seemed stretched beyond its means … When not expected to do much, Biffle often performs his best work.
Reasons to Doubt
Biffle often drives harder than he needs to and the result is a lot of mechanical problems and a car that is used up by the last 50 laps … He has gone winless two of the last three years … In 2011, his pit crew was the very definition of horrific and continually cost him numerous positions on the track as well as a potential victory at Las Vegas … Matt Puccia is winless as a Cup crew chief … In the last four seasons, Biffle’s average finish has continually gotten worse and worse … His three top-five finishes last year were his lowest total since his rookie year … He is still looking for his first victory on a short track in 55 starts.
Area of Strength: Intermediate Tracks
Of Greg Biffle’s 16 Sprint Cup victories, nine have come on an oval that can be classified as an intermediate track, which makes sense considering the team Biffle drives for, Roush Fenway Racing, has always buttered its bread one mile-and-a-half- to two-mile tracks. Once again in 2012, this should be an area where Biffle excels in and it would be of no surprise if he found himself celebrating win number 17 early in the season at either Las Vegas of Fontana.
Area of Weakness: Short tracks
It’s not that Greg Biffle is bad on all three short tracks. He actually runs quite well at Bristol, where he’s posted 11 top-10s in 18 starts, and has come close to victory on a couple of occasions. But the fact he hasn’t yet won a race on a track less than mile does give cause for concern. Also troublesome is his track-record at Martinsville, where he has just two top-10s and an average finish of 22.4.
Best-case Scenario For 2012
A return to the norm would be ideal for Greg Biffle in 2012. And the norm includes two victories, a return to the Chase, and if everything goes right, once again being in contention for the Sprint Cup as he’s done in years past.
Worst-case Scenario For 2012
When the speed is there, the consistency isn’t. When the consistency is there, the speed is absent. And all 2012 ends up being is a repeat of ’11, when Biffle was shutout of the winner’s circle and missed the Chase while his two teammates battled for the championship.
In Their Words
“Last year, we had the crappiest luck that I’ve ever seen in my life. Ever. Luck, coincidence, whatever it was, it just happened. It was like we couldn’t do anything right.”
Predicted Number of Wins: 3
The Racing Geek’s Final Thought
Greg Biffle is too good of a driver and he’s driving for too good of a team not to be in the Chase for a second consecutive year. Now does that mean he’s going to contend for the championship like his two teammates, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, did a year ago? We’ll see. It’s possible, as he’s shown in the past. But at the very least, a Chase appearance should be in the cards for Biffle in 2012.