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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Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.