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Erwin feeling pressure in first race with Biffle at HMS

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« on: November 13, 2007, 04:19:28 pm »

Erwin feeling pressure in first race with Biffle at HMS
No. 16 team has won last three Cup races at Homestead

By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
November 13, 2007
10:23 AM EST
If there's an odds-on favorite to win the final race of the 2007 season, it has to be Greg Biffle. It doesn't seem to matter whether he starts up front or in the middle of the pack, in the last three seasons, Biffle has been the first driver across the finish line at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Crew chief Greg Erwin, hired in May to take over for Pat Tryson, will be paired with Biffle at Homestead for the first time -- and shares his thoughts on why Biffle's so good there, the last race of the conventional chassis and the team's struggles with intermediate tracks.

Q: What is it that makes Greg Biffle so good at Homestead?
Erwin: I think it's just one of those places that must fit his driving style, whether it's the way the banking is or the way the corners are laid out. I think you see that throughout the garage area, how there's guys that just tend to always dominate at certain places -- the Rusty Wallaces at Bristol and Martinsville. You look at how well Kevin Harvick's historically run [at Phoenix], and Richmond and Loudon over the years. On the big mile-and-a-half tracks, Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte, for instance. More like Jimmie Johnson, everywhere, right now.

I don't think there's anything about the cars or the setups. As much information as I can get my hands on over the last couple of races there for him, he's won there with a couple of different setups. So I think it's something that must just fit his comfort level and his driving style.

Q: It has to be nice to have that confidence from your driver heading into a race.

Erwin: It is. There's the pressure that you have going there, certainly what you put on yourself. He's 3-for-3 there so everybody will be looking at you as a guy that will potentially get the job done over the weekend. Honestly, I wish I could sit here and say that we were a little bit more on a roll with our mile-and-a-half program. But other than how that Kansas race shook out for us, I've been less than impressed with our mile-and-a-half performance at Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta.

I don't know really what to expect except we're going to go into Homestead with something a little bit different than what we've been trying to run the past two weeks, because I've not been happy with the outcome of those races.

Q: Last time to run the conventional chassis. Is it bittersweet?

Erwin: I think it is. This COT has got its plusses and minuses, but I think it's just human nature. We've been working with [the current car] for so long that it's like your favorite sweatshirt, you know. To have it go away, quite honestly, it's going to make things easier for us. We're seeing that already, during the course of the offseason and heading into next year. We're not having to bounce back and forth between the cars.

There's no doubt that getting on one common platform will be the best answer for everyone. But certainly, we miss seeing those cars go around the racetrack and all the little oddities that go along with racing cars of that style. So, yeah, we're going to miss it.

Q: What's the most critical thing about the setup at Homestead?

Erwin: What's happened to our cars over the last few weeks, we tend to start off pretty strong at the start of the race. It seems that we get our setups really good when the tracks are a little cooler, when the cars tend to be fast. When they're by themselves, they tend to qualify really well. But it seems as if we have any pitroad miscues or problems on pit road or mechanical issues that set us back in traffic, our car loses grip a little bit.

We're going to work really hard on making a good long run or half a fuel run in Happy Hour to make sure that as the tires go away, the car stays drivable for him. We've struggled with that a little bit.

Q: Is it a dirty air issue or a handling issue?

Erwin: I think it's one masking the other. Greg likes to drive a pretty free racecar on those mile-and-a-half tracks, so we tend to focus more of our effort on making the front end turn, through practice sessions on Saturday. And we don't seem to have any rear grip issues until we get to that spot in the race where we're either jammed up two-wide or three-wide or five rows deep, or what have you. So that's something I've been missing as crew chief, working with him, is understanding how tight we really need to be to run in those races.

Yeah, it's a dirty air issue. And you can look at all these racetracks, even Phoenix. Everywhere you go, you just know track position is going to be key.

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