Soon Greg Biffle will begin work on the 2011 NASCAR season, one he hopes will produce the Sprint Cup championship that has been within his reach several times.
First things first, though. This week Biffle is wandering the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation and Wilderness Area in southeastern California, enjoying some time off – far off – from the pressures of weekly Cup racing.
It’s become an annual tradition of sorts for Biffle and a truckload of his friends. They ride dune buggies and assorted other vehicles up, down and across the sweeping dunes, then sit around at night and solve most of the world’s major problems.
“It’s all the guys I went to high school with and some other friends,” Biffle said. “We go out there and camp for a week and act stupid. Fire up a campfire and tell stories.”
One Biffle would be happy to repeat is the tale of the second half of the season for Roush Fenway Racing. Although the team didn’t get a victory until Biffle scored at Pocono in the 21st race of the season, the year ended with Biffle winning twice, including once during the Chase. Teammate Carl Edwards won twice during the Chase, providing a significant surge of confidence for the new year.
The upswing started in mid-season at Chicagoland Speedway, Biffle said, when Roush Fenway’s experimentation with front-suspension changes – aided by input from Richard Petty Motorsports mechanics – began paying dividends.
“Carl finished second (to David Reutimann) there, and I ran up front before we blew an engine,” Biffle said. “That was the start of it, and we had success right from there.
“If we could start the clock from there – go with the second half of the season, especially the last third, all that was really good. I think we’re going to start off the same way. I feel totally confident in that.”
Despite the fact that every Ford team struggled to find its footing through the first half of the season, the closing months reignited the fire and gave Roush Fenway a solid base to build on for next year.
Biffle finished in the top 10 in five of the season’s final eight races, and he, Edwards and Matt Kenseth finished fourth, fifth and sixth in the final point standings, respectively.
“It was a great season for us,” Biffle said. “Now, there’s really not a lot of time after this week to sit around and wait until next year starts. It’s really only four or five weeks until we’re on the race track, so we really have to work on our race cars and get ready for that. I have to stay in shape. And we have to get ready for the test in Daytona.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.