Greg Biffle closing in on new contract with Roush Fenway Racing — or will we have to ‘wait and see’?

Leave a comment

Jeff Burton left. Kurt Busch left. Mark Martin left. Jamie McMurray left. David Ragan left (well, not by choice but due to lack of sponsorship and downsizing from a four- to a three-car operation).

And then came the biggest defection of all when Matt Kenseth left at the end of 2012.

Although Roush Fenway Racing has been one of the more stable organizations in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, it has still lost a number of top-level drivers over the last decade.

Without question, the biggest one – and the one that hurt the most – was Kenseth leaving after the 2012 season and moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, which fields Toyotas, Jack Roush’s avowed No. 1 enemy.

While Kenseth won seven races and almost captured the Sprint Cup championship last season in his first year with JGR, Ford-powered RFR cars floundered. Greg Biffle finished a distant ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Carl Edwards was dead last in the expanded 13-driver Chase field and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t even make the Chase, finishing 19th.

Given what Kenseth achieved at JGR, you’d think that Biffle and Edwards, both in contract years in 2014, might be looking for greener pastures – if not for more money, then perhaps for better performing race cars and teams. Let’s face it, Ford just hasn’t had the same kind of power in the last couple of years to challenge Chevrolet and Toyota.

Because he likes to play things close to the vest, Edwards has said little about negotiations to extend his current deal with RFR, but that’s also what he did in 2011, when he had his last round of contract talks.

Back then, there was plenty of frenzied chatter of Edwards going elsewhere – ironically enough, the most often talked about team was indeed JGR – but he chose to remain at RFR for another three years.

Will it be the same this year? Will Edwards remain in the RFR fold? That remains to be seen.

But unless contract talks break down or he becomes unhappy with their progress or direction and threatens to take a hike like he did in 2008, Biffle will likely continue wearing RFR colors for the next three years.

“We’ve been in that for about the last half of last year and over the winter talking with (primary sponsor) 3M, and it’s kind of a mutual negotiation,” Biffle said during Thursday’s Daytona 500 Media Day. “So we’re well on our way to probably announcing something, I would think in the first quarter, but we’ll wait and see.”

You always have to wonder when an athlete involved in contract negotiations adds the “we’ll wait and see” disclaimer, but Biffle then gave a disclaimer to his disclaimer.

When asked if he’s confident he’ll be back at RFR in 2015, Biffle said simply, “Oh yeah.”

Guess we’ll wait and see – unless Kenseth lures The Biff or Cousin Carl, for that matter — over to JGR for that long-rumored fourth Sprint Cup team in 2015.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

1 Comment

With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.