Commentary

Frustrated Biffle might not be so entrenched at Roush Fenway after all

Greg Biffle has said he is just a crossed "t" and dotted "i" from working out a new deal with Roush Fenway Racing. But after Saturday night's team breakdown at Darlington, the Biff might not be so quick to sign, writes Terry Blount.

Updated: May 13, 2008, 2:08 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Greg BiffleAP Photo/Brett FlashnickDoes Greg Biffle's rant about the Darlington failure signal he's ready to test the free-agent market?

If you're a Sprint Cup team owner looking for a quality driver, this might be the time to give Greg Biffle a call.

Biffle hasn't signed a new contract with Roush Fenway Racing. He has said repeatedly that he plans to stay at RFR and only needs to work out the details of a new deal.

But you might catch Biffle at the right moment if you make him an enticing offer this week. Biffle was furious about the problems his team had Saturday night at Darlington.

Greg Biffle

Biffle

He had engine failure in the end, which can happen to any team, but problems before that (vibrations from loose wheels) show a continuing trend of bad breaks that has Biff a little, well, miffed.

Saturday night was the first time this season Biffle failed to finish a race in the No. 16 Ford, but it was the fourth time in the past five races he failed to finish in the top 15.

Biffle finished 15th or better, with three consecutive top-5s, in the first five races of 2008. He felt he had the car to beat at Darlington, leading seven times for 95 laps.

But wheel vibrations and the later engine problem added up to a 43rd-place showing. Biffle found the entire situation unacceptable, saying self-induced mistakes are hard to swallow.

"We had wheels loose twice tonight," Biffle said. "I know everybody is trying their hardest, but the fact of the matter is you cannot leave the wheels loose."

Maybe Biffle's words were nothing more than a moment of frustration. Or maybe Biffle is thinking, "I deserve better."

Biffle can wheel a race car. He won six races in 2005 and came within 35 points of catching Tony Stewart for the championship. But he failed to make the Chase the past two seasons while the team underwent some changes.

Things have improved this year, but here's the real question for Biffle: "What's out there that might be better?" That's a bit of a gray area.

Casey Mears says he's good through next season at Hendrick Motorsports, but does he actually have a contract that says it? Dale Earnhardt Inc. picked up the option of Martin Truex Jr.'s contract, but Truex doesn't seem to think it's a binding agreement.

Then there's the new fourth car coming at Richard Childress Racing next year. Sounds like a nice opportunity, but Biffle isn't taking a ride that doesn't have a guaranteed spot in the field.

And what's the situation at Penske Racing? That team has steadily declined since the 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500. Will Ryan Newman stay? Could Biffle fit into Roger Penske's future plans?

The real wild card in this silly early-season talk is Stewart. If he gets out of this 2009 commitment to Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR officials say that isn't an option), the No. 20 Toyota will become the best ride on the market.

Other than the 20 car, none of the cars listed above is racing better than Biffle so far this season. He's still inside the Chase cutoff at 11th and ranks No. 2 in the standings among the five RFR drivers, although David Ragan is closing fast.

The grass doesn't look so green when Biffle starts checking his options. All these guys could end up staying right where they are.

However, each time the No. 16 car fails to live up to Biffle's expectations, another team owner might see an opening to keep Biffle from re-upping with RFR.

If only …
IRL founder Tony George believes the driver lineup for the 2008 Indy 500 might look a lot different if the open-wheel merger had taken place a couple of years ago.

"We want this to be a destination and not a stop-off to somewhere else," George said. "If we could have put this together two or three years ago, I suspect you wouldn't have seen [Juan Pablo] Montoya, [Dario] Franchitti or [Sam] Hornish going to NASCAR.

"It is what it is. We have to look forward now and not look back. We have to do our best, with a great cornerstone event like the Indianapolis 500, to create a series where drivers want to be."

NHRA pressure cooker
NHRA Top Fuel rookie Antron Brown and veteran Funny Car driver Ron Capps were in Indianapolis on Saturday to watch Pole Day qualifying for the Indy 500.

It had its exciting moments but was nothing like what NHRA drivers experience at every event. Even the best racers can miss the 16-car show these days because competition is so tight.

"There's so much pressure," Capps said. "It used to be you just showed up for qualifying and tried to put your car in the top half of the field so you'd have lane choice on Sunday. That was your goal.

"Now your goal is to do everything you can just to get in. If you make one tiny mistake, you may not make the show. Great teams fail to do it. You can win the week before and not even make it to Sunday the next week."

The last NHRA event at Madison, Ill., was a prime example.

Pro Stock drivers Tom Hammonds and John Nobile had identical qualifying runs of 6.641 seconds, so Nobile made the Sunday eliminations with a better speed at 208.39 mph to Hammonds' 206.95 mph.

Tony Bartone edged Jack Beckman for the final Funny Car spot by one-hundredth of a second (4.824 to 4.834). Now that's pressure.

And the difference between the top qualifier and the first car that didn't make the show was less than a tenth of second in both categories.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter