Greg Biffle always approaches races at Martinsville Speedway with trepidation.
In his first nine starts on the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval, ¡§The Biff¡¨ had a best finish of 17th in the fall of 2004.
But a seventh-place run at the tiny Virginia track last October has Biffle excited, if still a bit nervous, heading into Sunday¡¦s Goody¡¦s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville.
¡§Martinsville over the years has not been my best track, but certainly the last couple of times I¡¦ve been there I¡¦ve gotten tremendously better,¡¨ Biffle said. ¡§I remember the last race there I was bumping on the back of the 48 car (of Jimmie Johnson) for the lead. So that was a highlight of my career, if you will. „mSo I¡¦m really looking forward to going back this week.¡¨
The Roush Fenway Racing driver is also fired up about getting off to a great start this season.
He is second in NASCAR Sprint Cup points after being inside the top 10 in all but one race so far. His lowest finish was a 15th in California, and his last three finishes have been third, fourth and fourth.
¡§I¡¦m just looking to continue that top-five streak,¡¨ he said. ¡§That¡¦s really our focus, and the reality is that if you put yourself in that top five, you¡¦re in a position to win, so it kind of goes hand in hand.¡¨
Biffle isn¡¦t willing to say that Martinsville owes him, but it was one of the tracks that cost him a title in 2005 when he finished just 35 points behind champion Tony Stewart.
In the last seven races of that year¡¦s Chase, Biffle had five finishes of seventh or better. But 20th-place finishes at Martinsville and Texas were his downfall.
¡§Yeah, certainly if I would have gotten a 10th at Martinsville I would have won the title,¡¨ Biffle said.
He blames at least some of his Martinsville problems on his team¡¦s inability to make brakes last ¡V a key to running well there.
¡§I think that particular race (in 2005) Matt (Kenseth) finished 18th, Mark (Martin) finished 19th and I finished 20th,¡¨ Biffle said, referring to other Roush drivers that year. ¡§All of us as a group were not that good at Martinsville, and I still think we have some work to do as a group.¡¨
After that second-place finish overall in 2005 ¡V a year in which he won six races ¡V Biffle went into a protracted slump, missing the Chase each of the past two seasons, falling to 13th and 14th in the standings.
Now, after finishing last season strong and a lot of hard work over the winter, it appears he is back in the thick of the championship battle. But Biffle isn¡¦t taking anything for granted.
¡§This sport is so humbling and so tough,¡¨ he said. ¡§One day you feel like you¡¦re pretty good and the next day you¡¦re way behind. It is hard to keep a level head and a level playing field and keep consistency.
¡§Our program is really, really running well, (but) I¡¦m really nervous about Martinsville this weekend,¡¨ Biffle said. ¡§Like I said, that place has not been my best race track in the past, but I¡¦m excited about it now because we ran so well there last time.
¡§Texas and Phoenix, I can¡¦t wait. I want to win a race bad. I¡¦m not saying I can¡¦t win at Martinsville, but it is more likely for me to win at Phoenix or Texas than Martinsville.¡¨