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Greg Biffle isn‘t letting the grass grow under his feet in semi-retirement from NASCAR racing. But having sand in his shoes — well, that‘s an entirely different story.
And while you‘re at it, throw in a few lemons (more on that in a minute).
The two-time NASCAR champion is still racing these days, but not on pavement or even dirt. Rather, he‘s getting ready to kick up a bunch of sand competing in the six-race Sand Outlaws Series that starts next weekend, May 15, and runs until mid-November.
Biffle is one of the founders of the series, which holds races in remote — and obviously very sandy — places such as Sand Mountain, Utah; Glamis, California; Anthony Dunes, Idaho and Oregon Dunes in Oregon. The events are either NHRA-style straight-line drag races or hill climbs that often have the sand buggies flying through the air.
“I‘m building some of those side by sides and off-road cars, and I really enjoy doing that,” Biffle told NASCAR.com. “It‘s the same mentality. Racing is racing. It‘s that adrenaline, you want to be better than the competition, you want to build a better piece and have a faster car. I just enjoy the competition.”
There‘s another type of competition for the man nicknamed “The Biff.” After driving cars that cost $100,000 or more in 510 Cup races in his career, in recent years since retiring from Cup he‘s gotten some of the greatest fun in his life racing “lemons,” which are essentially beater cars that can‘t cost more than $500 and in-race repairs must be minimal.
“I‘ll tell you, the most fun I had in probably 10 years was two years after I quit running Cup full-time, I ran a lemons race,” Biffle said. “We built this car, went to Pittsburgh and I’m running this thing like a race team, right? You know, from the spirit of the rules, the car has got 218,000 miles on it and we‘re doing everything we can to prevent it from failing on the track.
“I wanted to run a 24-hour race at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. That was my target. Well, we needed to test. We can’t go there the first time to the race track with a car and hope it‘s going to make it 24 hours.
“So I’ve got this bright idea, we’re going to run the race two weeks prior to that in Pittsburgh, so that we can get an understanding and a feel for the car and how the tech process works and all that. So we went to Pittsburgh and raced this race. I mean, an absolutely beautiful race track in the middle of nowhere. A great road course. I mean, we had a ball. We finished second there, three laps down.
“I’m telling you, running a 24-hour race with just backyard parts and five gallon plastic fuel cans, that‘s hard. You’re not allowed to have any fancy stuff. The thing burns a quart of oil about every three hours. So four hours into the race, we had to put four quarts of oil in. I’m telling you, organizing that as sort of being the crew chief and the team owner and the driver, was tough.”
And when he won that race?
“It’s like I won the championship or the Daytona 500,” Biffle said.
Biffle had to skip this weekend‘s season-opening lemons race at Sebring, Florida, but has plans to compete in several other races this year. He has high hopes, including swapping out the original Ford Mustang motor for a newer — but used — higher horsepower Mustang under the hood.
“The cool thing about lemons is they run all these iconic tracks, places like Sebring, the road courses at places like Daytona, New Hampshire, at Sonoma, which I love, and Road Atlanta,” Biffle said. “We‘re planning on running some more of them. I want to keep it fun.”
While racing lemons, sand buggies and competing in this summer‘s six-race Ray Evernham‘s and Tony Stewart‘s Superstar Racing Experience are occupying much of Biffle‘s time, he isn‘t ruling out a return to the NASCAR world.
Biffle‘s last NASCAR Cup race was in 2016. With each passing day, month and year, it continues to surprise him that he‘s been out of NASCAR‘s top series for so long.
“I‘m telling you, yes it does,” Biffle said. “And the more years that go by, I think my gosh it’s been more days and more days and more days. But yeah, it’s amazing that it’s been that long.”
Biffle never officially retired. He didn‘t have a going away or goodbye tour. He just kind of stopped following the final race of 2016 at Homestead.
But he was lured out of retirement twice in the last two years, competing in the Camping World Truck Series both times, once for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2019 and then GMS Racing in 2020.
His one-off start for KBM was his first race in a Truck since 2004, but it was quite evident he hadn‘t lost a step, winning the race at the challenging Texas Motor Speedway.
And don‘t forget Biffle is one of just three drivers who have won championships in both the Truck Series (2000) and Xfinity Series (2002). He came close to being the first driver in history to win a crown in all three of NASCAR‘s premier series in 2005, winning the Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but came up short by 35 points to Tony Stewart for the championship, tied for second with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards.
Now 51, Biffle isn‘t ruling out returning to race in a truck again this season if he gets a call.
“I want to run (more) races for Kyle. … It’s certainly not out of the question,” Biffle said. “We‘ve had more casual conversations, nothing serious. Kyle‘s bugged me about running full-time, but not necessarily this year. … To be honest with you, I love it, it’s what I grew up doing and I love it so much. But at the same time, I just don’t think I want to run full time again.
“I‘m obviously a huge fan of the sport. Unfortunately, this COVID thing has driven a lot of people away. We haven‘t been able to do some of the things we want to do. I was scheduled to drive three races for Kyle in 2020, and talked to some other teams about doing some things, and then the world got turned upside down.
“Then it‘s just show up, get in the car and drive. I certainly watch all the races, but this was the first year in like 21 years that I wasn‘t in Daytona this year in February for Speedweeks. I‘d go to the track every day, hang out, it’s good to see everyone. Last year, I drove the pace car, gave rides for NASCAR, all that stuff.
“So this is the first year that I haven‘t gone to a race so far. It’ll be nice to get this behind us.”
When Biffle looks back on his career, he has a lot of high points. Most notable are his Truck and Xfinity championships, as well as a career-high six wins and finishing oh-so-close for the Cup championship in 2005 — the one that got away.
“(I think about it) all the time,” Biffle said. “I mean, you just can’t escape that we left a wheel loose and I was running third at Texas. I‘m not saying I would have won the race but probably you know we‘d won there a lot. We had a great car. We were running third, we had a loose wheel and we finished 20th.
“And then I was leading Homestead in the last race and I was ready to put Tony (Stewart) a lap down and the caution came out. There are coincidences for sure, but boy, two of the last three races — Texas and Homestead — there were a lot of close calls that kept me from winning the title. But you know what, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I didn’t win a title and it’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes.”
As for other career high points, Biffle added:
“It’s so hard for me to put my finger on one thing, so many great things happened. I think back to my first truck win in Memphis (1999), I think back to winning nine races in a single season in the trucks (also 1999), my first win in a Cup car in Daytona (2003 Pepsi 400). As for individual seasons, probably 2005, winning more races than anyone in the series. That tells you how competitive it was.”
As if sand and lemons racing aren‘t enough to keep the native of Washington state busy these days, Biffle also owns a fully operational mine and rock quarry in Virginia, operates heavy equipment there, and is also a real estate investor (oftentimes doing his own repair work on properties to make them more appealing for sale), including buildings used by some Cup teams in the Charlotte area. He also enjoys traveling (he just came back from a vacation in Aruba), has a boat in Florida, or can be found fishing.
And then there‘s his biggest non-racing passion of all, the Lake Norman Humane animal shelter and rescue in suburban Charlotte.
“We raised money for a long period of time and then we finally were able to build a facility,” Biffle said. “We’re fortunate enough to be able to do that. It’s going very well. It’s a constant battle to raise money and keep all the pets in our care, keep them fed and cared for and then get them to a new home.
“We’ve had some months where we’re adopting out 100 animals per month. We’re having some big days and big success and I feel good about it. You know, I’m an animal lover from way back and it’s just a passion of mine.”
For a guy who doesn‘t like to use the “R word” (retired), Biffle is as busy these days as when he was racing full-time in the Cup Series. But he‘s doing things on his time and on his schedule. And he wouldn‘t want it any other way.
“I’m just enjoying life,” Biffle said. “I really, really miss the sport, being behind the wheel. I feel like I could still get in there tomorrow and win a championship. I don’t know that I want to go to the track every week, but I’d like to be involved to some degree.
“Let’s get back to normal, you know? I was even in discussion with a few teams about potentially helping in some manner. It’d be nice to still be involved at some level. I just really enjoy it and like the sport.”
The Greg Biffle file:
* Age: 51
* Hometown: Vancouver, Wash. Has lived in suburban Charlotte for more than 20 years.
* Rookie of the year: 1998 Craftsman Truck Series, 2001 Busch Series
* NASCAR Cup career: 510 starts, 19 wins, 92 top-five and 175 top-10 finishes. Also 13 poles.
* NASCAR Xfinity Series career: 244 starts, 20 wins, 93 top-five and 149 top-10 finishes. Also 14 poles. Won 2002 championship.
* NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career: 83 starts, 17 wins, 43 top-five and 55 top-10 finishes. Also 12 poles. Won 2000 championship.
* Best NASCAR Cup season finish: 2005 (tied for second in the standings with teammate Carl Edwards, 35 points behind champion Tony Stewart) with 36 starts, 6 wins, 15 top-five, 21 top-10 finishes)
* Best overall NASCAR season statistically: 1999 Truck Series (9 wins, 14 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes)
Veteran motorsports writer Jerry Bonkowski is writing a number of Where Are They Now? stories this year for NASCAR.com. Check out stories he‘s already done on Ricky Rudd, Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya. Also, follow Jerry on Twitter @JerryBonkowski, his @TheRacingBeat podcast and his email newsletter, TheRacingBeat.substack.com.