Greg Biffle has been the most consistent driver so far in the 2012 season. Having finished 3rd in each of the first three races, the Roush Ford #16 car and driver have been showing their potential for a win each and every time they head out onto the race track. Biffle posted a lap at 125.215 mph (15.324 seconds) in Friday’s time trials and was forced to watch as the 10 drivers who followed him in the qualifying order, each tried to knock him out of the top spot. AJ Allmendinger came the closest but fell .001 seconds short, as Biffle claimed the 10th pole award of his career and his first here at Bristol.
“I’ve got to pinch myself right now — I think I’m dreaming,” said Biffle.
What was it that gave Biffle the advantage? He credits some last minute changes made by crew chief Matt Puccia.
“We were just going back and forth on some front geometry,” Biffle said. “We were switching a few things back and forth for a little more turn versus a little less turn. We were adjusting that balance so that the car front-to-rear grip was equal.”
Those changes gave Biffle a 15-second ride he would be hard pressed to duplicate.
“I got in the gas fairly early [through Turns 1 and 2] and was a little worried about making the rest of the corner,” Biffle said. “It got loose up off of both ends because I went in the gas so early in the middle of the corner, just pushing the envelope as much as I could.
“If you asked me to do it again, I probably can’t. I was on the edge, and like I said, one one-thousandth of a second over the No. 22 car [Allmendinger] — that’s not a lot.”
A.J. Allmendinger came the closest to knocking Biffle out of the top spot falling only .001 of a second behind Biffle’s time. Allmendinger’s season start so far has been a far cry from the consistency that Biffle has shown. The driver of the #22 Penske Dodge has had a rough start in the first 3 races, finishing back in the field leaving him sitting in 29th in points.
“As soon as we got back from Vegas on Monday morning, they were working hard on it,” Allmendinger said. “They figured out the problem, and they went to Nashville [for testing] with [driver] Parker Kligerman and just ran miles after miles, making sure we didn’t have any problems with it brought that here to Bristol.
“I guess we’ll find out after Sunday if it’s completely solved, but I have confidence that it is.”
Starting in the third spot on the grid is Ryan Newman followed by Jeff Gordon and Brad Kesolowski to round out the top 5. Kesolowski’s 5th place start means that both of the Penske cars are starting in the top 5, the best qualifying effort by the team so far.
NASCAR has also made some changes to the timing loops in the pits after seeing how drivers, Brad Kesolowski being the most obvious offender, managed to bypass the pit road speeds by racing from timing line to timing line without incurring a speeding penalty. The result was that while some drivers took advantage and others did not, there was a disparity that NASCAR felt needed to be addressed. Jeff Gordon agrees.
“You think back to the August race,” Gordon said Friday, “and how, just coming off pit road, if we were a couple of positions ahead of where we were what the outcome may have been.”
“It needed to be done,” he said. “There is no track that we should go to this day and age that there should be that big of an advantage in certain pit stalls. We all know track position is important, qualifying is important, and it still will be. We’re going to put a lot of effort into that. But it’s nice to know that no matter where we qualify, at least on pit road we should be able to have a much fairer pit stall location. We had such a great car here last time, and it truly was just lost coming off of pit road, and at no fault of my pit crew.”
“There’s nothing better than being captured on live television, and the announcers going ‘What is going on with pit road?'” Gordon said. “If I looked at Twitter and basically social media and every racing publication, every one of them was focused on it. I’m just surprised it took that long. It’s been happening here for a while. It’s just a shame it took that long. I’m glad that they finally did address it.”
Other drivers feel that it will address a safety issue that need to be fixed. When drivers are racing down pit road at twice the allowed speed limit, there is the potential for danger to
the pit crews of all the other teams. Denny Hamlin voiced his opinion on this issue.
“I think that there were a handful of boxes that had humungous advantages over others, and I think that that’s going to change that quite a bit,” Hamlin said. “I do think it is needed, because if you have a pit road speed — and Martinsville is another track where they need to add some lines — that speed is set at that mile-per-hour because that’s where they feel safe with those cars driving through pit road. Well, if we’re able to cheat it by 10 miles an hour, that’s cheating it 30-something percent. That’s beyond where they felt initially it was safe, so they need to keep us at that mile-per-hour they want us at and to do that, you need timing lines all over the place so people can’t cheat the line.”
Other names of note will be starting deep in the field. Dale Jr will start from the 18th position, Jimmie Johnson 22nd while Tony Stewart will start in 23rd.