Biffle downplays talk of feud with Edwards

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Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards have apparently toned down their post-race rhetoric against each other following Biffle’s win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

“We’re going to sit down and talk about it, just expectations, what can you do to help another competitor,” Biffle said during NASCAR’s weekly media teleconference call on Tuesday. “I’ve backed up to Carl before. He’s done the same for me.”

The Roush Fenway Racing teammates raised eyebrows within the organization and among fans when Edwards criticized Biffle, who had a dominating lead at that point with a three-second lead, for not slowing down to allow Edwards to close in on the rear of Biffle’s car to jar loose paper debris that was caught in the grill of Edwards’ Ford and was causing it to overheat.

“He ain’t our teammate,” Edwards bitterly said over his team radio after Biffle refused to fall back.

Biffle refused to slow down because Jimmie Johnson was closing in on him at the time and did not want to lose the lead to the five-time Sprint Cup champ.

When asked about Edwards’ comment afterward, Biffle replied, “It’s his (Edwards) job to help me.”

Biffle ultimately won for the fourth time at MIS, while Edwards fell from starting the race on the pole to finishing eighth.

According to several media reports, the two teammates discussed Sunday’s incident briefly during Monday’s weekly RFR organizational meeting and debriefing. They are expected to talk further on more of a one-on-one basis later this week, perhaps at Sonoma Raceway prior to this weekend’s race there.

“He was looking for every way we could work together as a team,” Biffle said Edwards told him during their brief talk on Monday.

Talk of a feud between the two drivers heated up after their verbal exchange at Michigan, but Biffle said Tuesday that their respective comments came in the heat of the moment and were taken out of context.

“We all have different reactions when we’re in the car or when we just get out of the car and our finish or result isn’t what we wanted because of a certain situation,” Biffle said. “I’ve done the same thing. In fact, there was something that I’ve been quoted saying as well that isn’t what I meant, but it’s what I said at the time.

“But I understand. I’ve been there. And sometimes things get taken out of context of what you actually meant and what you said. I understand that part of it.”

Biffle said Tuesday that he would have helped Edwards if he could, but there was too much to risk with Johnson hot on his tail.

“We want to work together at all costs, but we have to be reasonable about asking one another to do,” Biffle said. “When I got the message that Carl had paper on his grille — which I had paper on my grille too — I was looking for somebody as well. He was a long way behind us before we got the message to us and just didn’t feel that it was close enough to help him.”

Biffle isn’t the first Roush Fenway Racing teammate that Edwards has had a run-in with. He had several exchanges with now former teammate Matt Kenseth, including a near-fight between the two following a race in 2007.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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