For Greg Biffle, New Hampshire was the
It was July, and in practice for the 17th
race of the 2007 season and the eighth using
the new race car being introduced in
NASCAR's top series, Biffle was baffled.
"We were the slowest car there," Biffle said.
"We were 49th on the (speed) sheet. Obviously,
somebody's got to be the slowest car, but it was
frustrating for me. It's a racetrack I almost won
at and got in the top five nearly every time I'd
been there ... it was frustrating. To go there as a
driver and I was the worst car and slowest car
there, I've never felt like that in my life."
Weeks earlier, after similarly frustrating
results in races with the new car earlier in the
season, drivers and crew chiefs on Ford's flag-
ship Sprint Cup Series team went to car owner
Jack Roush and said something had to change.
"We got blindsided and didn't do as much
testing with the Car of Tomorrow," Roush
admitted late in the 2007 season. He said he
thought NASCAR would impose stricter limits
on the testing teams could do with the new cars,
but eventually realized that other teams - most
specifically Hendrick Motorsports - weren't
balking at that.
"We had four or five really bad races with
that early on just because we didn't have as
much information as some of the other teams
did," Roush said. "I misjudged that. That was
The impact of that miscalculation is clear.
Even with improved performance in COT races
by the season's second half, punctuated by COT
wins at Bristol and Dover by Carl Edwards,
Roush Fenway Racing's top three teams aver-
aged 1,992 points in the 16 COT races run in
2007. Jeff Gordon had 2,482 and eventual
champion Jimmie Johnson had 2,406.
That new car will be used in all 36 races in
2008, so it is clearly imperative for Roush's
teams to keep erasing whatever gap existed as a
result of Roush's miscalculations.
"At the beginning of the season we were hor-
rible," said Biffle, who missed the Chase last
year while teammates Matt Kenseth and
Edwards made it. "I think we'll all admit it. We
weren't even close. At the end of the season we
weren't where we needed to be, but we were
certainly a heck of a lot better. I look forward to
starting off this season, hopefully, with where
we left off last year."
While Biffle looks to get his No. 16 Fords
back up to where he was in winning six times
and joining Edwards in finishing just 35 points
behind 2005 champion Tony Stewart, it's
Kenseth who has the most momentum from late
last year to try to carry over.
The driver of the No. 17 Fords won the
finale to cap off a late run that carried him from
last in the 12-driver Chase five races in up to
fourth in the final standings just five races
later. Kenseth finished in the top
five in each of the season's
final races and actually gained 17 points on
eventual champion Jimmie Johnson even though
Johnson won four of those five races.
Kenseth has made the Chase in each of the
four seasons it's been used to pick a champion
- since the 2003 season when Kenseth's con-
sistency carried him to the final title under the
There is something new for Kenseth this
year, though. After working with crew chief
Robbie Reiser throughout his NASCAR career,
Kenseth now has Chip Bolin in that job after
Reiser moved up to a manager's position with
the entire Roush Fenway operation in the Cup
"Chip has been there a long time and we
know each other well," Kenseth said. "We did-
n't really make too many other changes on the
road crew, so it's really not - so far anyway -
that different than what I'm used to.
"It's different. Chip has always been kind of
the technical side of the team or Robbie's brain
or my brain or however you want to say it. He's
always been the engineer holed up in the back
and looking through numbers and testing stuff.
... Robbie was more the organizer
and hands-on guy and all that
kind of stuff, where
Chip is still trying
to do the engineer-
ing and trying to
figure out how to
make the cars go
fast as well as try-
ing to take over a lot
of the duties Robbie did
day-to-day, so it's a little
Edwards rebounded from
a lackluster second full season
to win three times and get back
into the Chase last year after
being reunited with his
crew chief from
Edwards also won the Busch Series champi-
onships in 2007 and, despite a late-season flare-
up of intramural tensions between himself and
Kenseth, re-emerged as one of the sport's poten-
tial stars a year ago.
Jamie McMurray got his second career win
and his first since joining the Roush camp at
Daytona in July, but there weren't enough high-
lights to go along with that. David Ragan had
top-10 finishes in the first and last races of his
rookie season, but only one other top-10 all
Robert Yates sold his interests in his team to
his son, Doug, and the team moved its opera-
tions onto the same "campus" with the Roush
teams. The younger Yates has been a key player
in the Roush-Yates engine cooperative all along,
and now his drivers will use Roush-built cars to
try to show improvement. David Gilliland
returns in the No. 38 Fords, with Travis Kvapil
moving into the team's other car replacing the
retired Ricky Rudd. Kvapil is using the No. 28
after Robert Yates let the No. 88 pass to Dale
Earnhardt Jr. in his new deal at Hendrick
Another team with a long Ford history, the
Wood Bros., will start the season with Bill
Elliott in the No. 21 for Daytona Speedweeks.
Jon Wood and Marcos Ambrose will each
drive that car in portions of the Sprint
Cup schedule, too.
Driver Robby Gordon is back with
the No. 7 team he also owns, with
Frank Kerr as his crew chief for 2008.
"This is my third time with Frank,"
Gordon said. "I was looking for what
made our program competitive in the
past. We won Busch races with him
and ran really well."