KANSAS CITY, MO.
Over the years, as one teammate after another left Roush Fenway Racing for driving positions elsewhere, Greg Biffle remained loyal to Jack Roush, who first hired Biffle in 1998 to race in the Camping World Truck Series.
Last week, that unusually long run came to an end as Biffle and Roush Fenway announced in a team release that they’d be parting ways.
In the years since Biffle and Roush first hooked up, Biffle won 16 truck races and the series championship in 2000. He also won 20 Xfinity Series races and the 2002 title, then moved to the elite Cup Series full time in 2003, driving Roush’s No. 16 Ford with 19 victories to his credit.
But Biffle’s last Cup win came in 2013, and the recently concluded 2016 season produced the most disappointing results of his career. He had just one top-five finish, two other top-10s and finished a career-worst 23rd in the final points standings.
But for Biffle, unlike his former teammates who left Roush and found success elsewhere, it might be too late to regain the glory of his earlier days. He’ll turn 47 on Dec. 23, and in today’s NASCAR world, that essentially makes him a senior citizen.
Unless there are some unexpected developments in the next couple of months, all the seats at the top-performing multi-car teams are filled. The opportunities that existed for his former teammates simply aren’t there this time.
Former Roush drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards both landed at Joe Gibbs Racing, where they’ve become regular contenders to both win races and the championship.
After he left Roush and before he retired, Mark Martin won five races and finished second in the standings in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2009, and Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in 2010 driving for Chip Ganassi.
Although Biffle has expressed frustration over the declining performance at Roush Fenway, he was focusing on the positives of his career in his comments announcing his departure from the team.
“We’ve had an incredible run, and I am so appreciative for the opportunity to be a part of Roush Fenway,” Biffle said in a team release. “For a kid that grew up Washington, I’m extremely proud of everything we have been able to accomplish over the last 19 years – both on and off the track. I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’m excited about the next chapter of my life, and I look forward to exploring other opportunities – particularly in radio and television – both inside and outside of NASCAR. I’m thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunity to have driven his race cars for all these years. It’s very rare in this sport to have been able to stay with one team this many years, and to have been as successful as we have been.”
Roush also had good things to say about Biffle.
“I don’t have the words to say what Greg has meant to this organization,” veteran team owner Roush said. “He is a true racer who has always exhibited a will to win and an intense passion for speed. For almost two decades Greg has given us an opportunity to run up front and compete for wins. Greg exemplifies what every owner hopes for in a driver, and I’m extremely thankful for having him as part of our organization. I know that Greg and I will maintain a strong friendship, and I look forward to leaning on him on occasion as we continue to work on improving our performance.”
Officials from Ford Motor Co., which has backed Roush and Biffle for years, also thanked Biffle for his contributions.
“Greg Biffle has done so much for Ford during his NASCAR career, and all we can do is thank him for being such a hard-charging competitor and loyal ambassador to our brand,” Global Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak said in a statement. “Greg has achieved many milestones with us and no matter where his career path takes him from here, he’ll always be a welcome member of the Ford family.”
Biffle’s exit leaves Roush with two drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 and Trevor Bayne in the No. 6. There was no immediate word on what would become of Biffle’s No. 16 team, which has a charter that either needs to be used by Roush, leased to another team or surrendered.
Also last week, Motorsport.com reported that Robbie Reiser, the general manager and a longtime leader at Roush Fenway, has been relieved of his duties. And Zest soap, one of the sponsors of Stenhouse’s No. 17, announced that it would not return in 2017.