NASCAR: Roush Fenway brings on Ortho to back Greg Biffle, No. 16 car

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Home, lawn, and garden pest control brand Ortho will become an “anchor partner” of Greg Biffle and the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion in 2015.

The partnership marks a return to RFR for Ortho’s parent group, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which backed the team from 2005 to 2011.

Ortho will make its debut on the No. 16 car next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and will appear in two more 2014 Sprint Cup events before beginning its 2015 duties with RFR.

In a press conference today at Bristol Motor Speedway, RFR president Steve Newmark did not give an exact number of 2015 races that Ortho would have on the No. 16, but said that the total would be around “roughly half” of next year’s Cup schedule.

Biffle’s current sponsor, 3M, recently announced a move to Hendrick Motorsports, where they will serve as a primary sponsor over the next three seasons for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 car.

But today at Bristol, Biffle said that he’s excited to get a fresh start with Ortho. He also noted that he was already using their products himself, which apparently come in handy when it’s time to pull into the track for the weekend.

“It’s funny – I keep the product on my bus, because when we park in the motorhome lots, you can’t just choose your spots,” he noted with amusement. “So, sometimes, you park there and ‘By the way, right outside your front door is a fire ant pile.'”

But fire ants are the least of Biffle’s worries this weekend at Bristol.

With three regular season races left, Biffle has moved into the 16th and final position on the Chase Grid. But he remains winless and only has a nine-point advantage on 17th-place Kasey Kahne.

So what will he and the No. 16 team’s strategy be this weekend? Defending that final Chase Grid spot with a good points day or attacking in hopes of a victory that can put them into the post-season?

“You take chances, make passes, do all the things you can do,” Biffle said. “But at the same time, we know we’re on the bubble in points. I feel it’s going to take a win still to get in this thing, and that’s what we’re going for.”

Biffle has never won at Bristol in his Sprint Cup career (best finish of third in 2005). He finished 12th there this past spring in a race that RFR teammate Carl Edwards won.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “