Greg Biffle is searching for his first victory this season. Only drivers with a win are guaranteed entry into Sprint Cup’s Chase. ASSOCIATED PRESS
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Carl Edwards has all but locked up a spot in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, and he’s now focused on innovation and improvement through the second half of the Sprint Cup season.
Greg Biffle, meanwhile, knows the stakes he faces in order to become the second Roush Fenway Racing driver to earn a spot in the Chase.
Edwards, Biffle, and teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., tested Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 17 at MIS.
“Out of the places to come to test, I’d prefer here,” Biffle said. “We’ve learned some stuff and picked up some speed. We were further off in the spring than Ricky and some other guys were, we were probably closer to half a second off the pace of the fast cars, and I think since we’ve shown up here. We’ve found three to four-tenths the speed, so I feel pretty good about that. There’s a little bit more to be had.”
Now in the heart of the Sprint Cup schedule, Biffle looks for any advantage he can get, while Edwards has some wiggle room. He’s currently sixth in the driver points standings and has two wins, which puts him in contention for the championship.
The Chase for the Championship — the final 10 races of the Sprint Cup season — begins Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
NASCAR overhauled its Chase guidelines, and 16 drivers now qualify for the elimination-format Chase, including drivers who earn one win in the first 26 races. If there are less than 16 race winners in the first 26 races, the field would be filled out with winless drivers with the most points following the first 26 races.
“We’re not running good enough to be high enough in points,” said Biffle, who is 16th in the points standings and has not won a race this season.
“I don’t think we’re going to get there by the time the Chase comes. We’re going to have to have a win to get in, as well.”
Biffle’s struggles were also Roush Fenway’s struggles. Edwards earned his first win in March at Bristol Motor Speedway, but between then and his second win at Sonoma Raceway in June, Roush Fenway’s three Sprint Cup drivers had only five combined top-five finishes. Roush Fenway’s drivers finished no higher than 20th in June at MIS.
“That was the low point for us in a number of ways,” Edwards said. “We didn’t expect to come here and to perform that poorly. This was going to be a track where we could turn things around. It showed us a couple things.
”We have some things to work on, and you can’t rely on past performance. We have to keep innovating and moving forward. From that performance, everyone at the shop has worked very hard. That’s why we’re here today. We’re working to be better specifically at this track, and hopefully it will carry over to others.”
Both Edwards and Biffle are in their contract years with Roush Fenway, and while Edwards declined to publicly comment on the status of his contract, Biffle was realistic about his performance up to this point in the season.
“I want to stay at Roush Fenway,” Biffle said. “That’s where I want to stay and drive. I want to get these cars competitive and win races again. We know it’s going to be hard work, and that’s part of it.
“Nothing in life comes easy. We know it’s going to be hard work, and we know the sponsors are looking for results. They don’t want us to show up and be 32nd, or qualify 29th and be 25th in the final practice and finish 14th. That was our last race. And that’s just not going to cut it.”