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ThatsRacin.com


Greg Biffle not quite ready to make Rallycross jump

THATSRACIN.COM OPINION

- tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, May. 16, 2012

Greg Biffle is in a Rallycross race car late Wednesday morning. This is his first time. But there is no learning curve.

Biffle speeds around curves, around five tight turns marked by orange cones, and through water sprayed onto the frontstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The car is compact with two seats and a roll bar. The 600-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive can deliver an experienced driver, or Biffle, from 0 to 60 mph in two seconds. Each lap Biffle runs is faster than the lap before.

How fast did you drive?

“As fast as it would go,” says Biffle, who leads the Sprint Cup championship points race.

Global Rallycross will come to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time May 26 and is scheduled to start 4 hours, 15 minutes after the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ History 300.

The Rallycross race will include dirt and water and 60-foot jumps. One of the favorites will be Brian Deegan, star of freestyle motocross at the X-Games.

The Ford Fiesta Biffle drives is the car in which Deegan competes. He takes Biffle through the course three times, and then slides to the passenger seat.

Even if you’re not a racer, you want to sit where Biffle is. The car is not imposing. It’s inviting.

“It’s like the most high powered go-kart you’ve ever ridden,” says Deegan, 32, whose race suit is black except for the patches of sponsors. “And you always have a good time going to the go-kart track.

“People ask, ‘What do you race?’ And I say ‘Ford Fiesta.’ And they’re like, and I say, ‘No, dude. This thing is gnarly.’ “

It’s possible that Deegan is the first driver to stand on the side of Charlotte Motor Speedway and say gnarly. Richard Petty never did.

Many NASCAR fans are old, or older. NASCAR might be the first sport to replace seats with Barcaloungers. How does the speedway attract the younger fans advertisers usually crave? With stars such as Deegan and with young sports in which, if a car is not skidding, it’s flying through the through air.

Biffle’s first lap in the Fiesta is interesting, as in first gear he skids through the water past the orange cone that denotes the last of the five turns.

Next lap he takes the turn, in a car with which he has a one lap relationship, in second gear. He comes in fast and skids through the water.

“Oh-oh,” a spectator says.

I believe Deegan’s words are bit stronger.

“I trust Biffle,” Deegan says. “He’s one of the best drivers in the world.”

So you weren’t nervous.

“Yeah,” Deegan says. “Yeah, I was nervous. All right, he has one wheel in the water and one up and what I’m scared of is acceleration or breaking and it’s going to hook right and go into the wall and I have to race this car in another week.”

But Biffle is predictable. A racer isn’t going to seek the right lane, search for cruise control and switch the radio to easy listening.

“I’m an adrenalin junkie,” says Biffle, 42. “I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was this tall.”

He puts his hand a few feet above the ground about where the Coca-Cola 600 trophy would reach.

The Rallycross car is nothing like the Ford in which Biffle makes his living. But if it has wheels, then he’s confident it will do what he tells it to.

What did you tell it to do when you reached the last turn?

“I was driving a buck twenty and pulled high gear and hit the water and started hydroplaning and he was grabbing for stuff,” Biffle says of Deegan. “I’m not going to put words in his mouth but he was scared …”

Biffle was not scared. He was relieved. He needed this. He had a frustrating run Saturday at Darlington, S.C., in a car he thought capable of winning but on tires that were not.

Darlington was work. Wednesday is recess. The only spectators are the media.

“I just want to drive 120 or 130 mph and not scare Brian and not wreck his car and not hit any orange cones,” says Biffle.

Three out of four isn’t bad.

Biffle plans to enjoy the All-Star festivities and return next week and try to put himself in position to win his first Sprint Cup championship.

“I can’t tell you how ready I am,” says Biffle, who has won championships in the Truck and what is now the Nationwide series. “How ready do you have to be? I’m so ready.”

And if it doesn’t work out, Rallycross awaits.

“I thought I was doing good,” says Biffle. “I’m driving, breaking, turning, sliding.”

Then he is told the race will include a 60-foot jump. Yeah, but could a guy go around it instead of over it? No, Biffle is told. A guy could not.

“I was doing good up until that point,” Biffle says.


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