Biffle among those who see beauty of part-time driver schedule
Updated: October 21, 2007, 1:03 AM ETBy Marty Smith | ESPN.com
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- If Greg Biffle could choreograph his preferred exit strategy from the NASCAR Nextel Cup ranks, he'd race for six more years. Possibly seven. He'd like to sign a three-year contract now and ink another three-year deal down the line.That would get him to 43 years old, a Busch and Truck series champion, a seasoned vet with 16 full-time years in NASCAR's three major divisions.But say he were offered a part-time mentorship gig like the one Mark Martin has at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Would he consider it? "To be totally honest, if I could sign a three-year deal that I ran 15 to 17 races [a year], I'd strongly consider ending the full-time thing sooner," Biffle said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. "It gives you a life."If you could do it for a few years to start to develop a different life outside of this -- this is all we've known for 10 years. To try and start weaning yourself off of it, if you will, versus just saying, 'See ya later guys, I'm finished.' That's attractive."Points leader Jeff Gordon said Friday that Martin's 2007 schedule has opened many eyes throughout the garage as to how good a part-time gig can be -- including his. "Mark Martin has changed the outlook for many drivers," Gordon said. "I just love racing. I love it and I've been doing it for so long I can't imagine not doing it. The difference is, when you're in the Cup Series, going for the championship, anything less than the championship is a disappointment. "If you go out there and you know you're going to run half a schedule and you know that in those races you have a shot at being competitive and are competitive, to me there's a lot of rewards that come along with that. And I could see that being a fantastic schedule. "I could see that as being something that could be really fun and cool. I don't know if that's what I'll do or not. Haven't even thought about it, not that much."Biffle has. "That's a great role for a driver that's retiring because he still has income, he's got a lot of weeks off and spends time with his family and goes to the baseball games his kids are in, and go on vacation or fishing or stay at home and sit on the couch, like Mark Martin," Biffle said. "[The media] was like, 'What are you gonna do? You're gonna miss Bristol and you're leading the points!' [And Martin said,] 'I'm going to sit on my couch!' He said he had the best time of his life! And that's me. People ask me, 'Where you going on vacation?' I'm like, 'My front room. I'm never there!'"Biffle's immediate future means driving for Roush Fenway Racing in 2008. Beyond that, he's not sure. He expects he'll be back at Roush Fenway in the long term, based largely on the improved performance of the organization's Car of Tomorrow program. That Kansas win? It means nothing. "That doesn't count anymore," Biffle said, alluding to performances in the old-style car and what bearing they have on his decision. "We need to be competitive in the COT. It looks like we're making headway on the dominance of these guys [that are winning in the COT]. "You ask any 43 drivers in the garage, all they want is a chance to win."
People ask me, 'Where you going on vacation?' I'm like, 'My front room. I'm never there!'Biffle's chance to win in 2007 took a hit before the year ever started. During a Goodyear tire test in December at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a tire deflated between Turns 1 and 2, sending Biffle hard into the wall. He suffered a shoulder injury. But worse yet, in his mind, the wreck killed the best race car in his fleet. "That was a major setback for us," Biffle said. "Eight of my 12 career wins came in that car. That car, we won everything in sight with. That was a huge blow to us. Now [after the wreck], we've taken the only chemistry between 16 [team] and the 6 and thrown it away. And, oh by the way, it was the fastest thing on the face of the Earth."Biffle said that car was four-tenths quicker than any other car at the Vegas test and two-tenths faster than Martin's favorite No. 6 car from last season when he was at Roush Fenway. Suddenly, a key linchpin between the teams was gone. It has taken all year to return to form, leading some to wonder whether Biffle was injured worse than he let on."I hurt my shoulder -- that was really about it," Biffle said. "We've all gotten knocked out in a race car. Unfortunately, that's the name of the game. That's going to happen. That's not the first time it's happened, either. That Nazareth [Busch Series] wreck was pretty severe, too, when Jeff Purvis broke his neck. That was a pretty nasty crash. "But a lot of people questioned, is there something wrong, when we weren't out of the gates strong, running good. We didn't really finish, if you look back at 2006, we weren't running really strong then, either. Yeah, we won Homestead, just like we just won Kansas. We won six races in '05 and only two in '06. We're not as competitive as we need to be."
-- Greg Biffle
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.