Caution stops Greg Biffle from chance at a win, but still has best finish of 2014 and at Talladega

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Greg Biffle has been rather quiet thus far this season. But he sure made a lot of noise with a career-best second-place finish in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Biffle earned just his second top-five finish of the season, as well. But at the same time, it also added to the success he’s had in recent races, having finished sixth at Texas and fifth at Darlington.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of bittersweet for us,” Biffle said. “We’ve run a little bit better in the last couple weeks, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to run here. I was extremely happy with the speed my car had on Friday and then today all day, really happy with it.

“Our restrictor plate program is in decent shape. We’ve still got some work to do, but it sure would have been nice to get a win toward the Chase, but we’ve got some great racetracks coming up, as well. It would have been nice.”

Prior to Sunday, Biffle had just two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 22 starts at the massive 2.66-mile high-banked tri-oval, the largest oval on the Sprint Cup schedule.

Biffle led all drivers by leading 58 of the 188 laps in Sunday’s race. He hoped to have one more shot at eventual race winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap, but the caution flag dropped and Biffle was forced to settle for second.

“That final restart, Clint (Bowyer) gave us a huge, huge push, and we had a huge run at (Hamlin),” Biffle said. “I looked in the mirror and I saw the smoke behind me, and I wasn’t really sure whether the caution was going to come out and I didn’t know what to do and I thought about making my move on the 11 right then because I had a huge run and I … and then off of Turn 2 I could have passed him again, got beside him and sucked by him.

“But I just didn’t want to pass too early. I was going to be the lone soldier on the outside lane, and I was going to be 15th by the time we got back around to the start-finish line. So I was just waiting. I was backing up off of him quite a bit on the backstretch, and I got probably two and a half, three cars away from him, and then they said caution’s out. I was setting up to go by him but just never had the chance.

“I wish I would have known we weren’t going to race all the way back, but it was a good day for us. The car was really fast, a lot of speed, and just happy to come out of here with a clean car.”

While Biffle couldn’t catch Hamlin due to the race finishing under caution, it gave him confidence that the first win of 2014 could very well be right around the corner, perhaps as early as this Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

Biffle is one of just five drivers who have two prior wins at the 1.5-mile track in Kansas, which further elevates his optimism.

“I’d be super excited to win there to start with, but to be (the) first guy to win three there would be pretty neat,” Biffle said. “I love that racetrack. It’s a lot of fun to race on and puts on a good race.”

All in all, Biffle is glad to put Talladega in his rearview mirror, and more glad that it continued the roll he’s been on – one that he hopes continues in Kansas.

“I was extremely happy to finish second,” he said. “We’ve been moving up a little bit in points. I know it doesn’t mean all that much this day and time, or it’s (qualifying for the revised format in the Chase for the Sprint Cup) not really a points race, it’s the wins or whatever, but it’ll help us kind of keep trudging toward the front a little bit.”

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IndyCar: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expands mentoring program for tech school students

Photos: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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IndyCar team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that it is extending and widening a unique sponsorship and mentoring program that began last season with students from Lincoln Technical Institute.

The program began last year, with students from several Lincoln Tech branches attending select IndyCar events for an entire weekend.

The students, primarily from auto and diesel training programs, got an insiders experience with the team, taking part in team meetings, watching team workers prepare and service the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe, sat on pit boxes during practices, qualifying and, of course races.

The overall experience was to get students more interested and involved in potential careers in the IndyCar field.

“We said at the beginning of last season that we knew our students would benefit and learn from the professionalism and drive of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team,” Lincoln Tech President and CEO Scott Shaw said. “But the experience they received working with the entire pit crew team and in particular crew member Cole Jagger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – went beyond even our own expectations.

“We were grateful for the time they spent mentoring our students, and we are thrilled to once again be part of the racing legacy of team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.”

Lincoln Tech will once again serve as an associate sponsor on Hinchcliffe’s car for the entire 2018 IndyCar season. In addition, it is expanding its Mentor Program to select students to attend a minimum of nine IndyCar races from six last season.

Students are selected based upon their grade point average, attendance, conduct and overall commitment to becoming outstanding automotive technicians. An interest in IndyCar and a desire to work in the industry is also considered.

One student that took part last season, Tyler Crist of Lincoln Tech’s Denver campus, joined the team at the IndyCar race in Long Beach last April, watching as Hinchcliffe won the event.

“It was the best weekend of my life,” Crist said after the event. “It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams.”

Jagger will oversee the expanded mentoring program this season. For Jagger, being involved especially hits home, as he is a graduate of Lincoln Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

“I totally enjoyed working with the Lincoln Tech students that participated in the Mentor Program last year and look forward to meeting this year’s group,” Jagger said. “Being a Lincoln Tech grad, I hope the students realize that if you have a passion for cars, a career in racing is something that’s not out of reach. If I can be an example for them to follow, that makes it even more rewarding.”

In addition to the at-track activities of the mentoring program, several Lincoln Tech branches across the country will utilize CNC computerized machining and manufacturing tools to assist in creating car parts for SPM.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to hopefully find the next class of talent that could one day be part of our organization,” SPM president Jon Flack said. “We’re looking forward to another year of the mentorship program and having their students be ‘boots on the ground’ gaining real-life experience with our team.”

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