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Busch champion lowers goals for Winston Cup

Greg Biffle will be a Winston Cup rookie next season, but he already holds a place of honor at Roush Racing.

He is the only driver to deliver a NASCAR title to owner Jack Roush.

Actually, two.

Biffle, the 2002 Busch Grand National champion, was in Tampa on Tuesday as part of week-long festivities leading to the series banquet Friday in Orlando. He also won the Craftsman Truck title in 2000 and is the only driver to win both series.

"I'm really honored," Biffle said. "I think Jack has more talented drivers than me in his stables. But I've just been in the right place at the right time and lucky enough to have the people around me to win championships for him.

"Now if I was the first guy to win him a Winston Cup title, that would be something else."

Biffle, who drove the No. 60 Ford for two years in the Busch series, will be a teammate of Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch. Biffle will drive the No. 16 Ford.

Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman raised the bar this year for rookie expectations, finishing fifth and sixth in the standings, respectively. Biffle's goals, however, are more realistic, he said.

"I don't think I'll have the same results as they did," said Biffle, 32, a native of Vancouver, Wash. "The majority of our team will not have Winston Cup experience. We're developing a new team and putting together new cars. For us to go out and achieve what they did would be unrealistic at first.

"My hopes are to win Rookie of the Year, and I'd like to win a race next year. That's a lot to ask for, but I think we're capable of it. I think top 20 in points is realistic."

Biffle was the model of consistency during the 2002 Busch series with four victories and a series-high 20 top-fives in 34 races. He led 22 races for 1,058 laps, both series highs. He clinched the title at Phoenix with one race to spare.

Barely half of Biffle's crew will move with him to Winston Cup, including crew chief Randy Goss. The rest will stay with the No. 60 and new driver Stanton Barrett.

Though Biffle said he expects the chemistry on his team to be good, the series' intense competition makes it harder to succeed.

"When you have a bad day in the truck series, you finish 12th," Biffle said. "When you have a bad day in Busch, you finish 17th. If you have a bad day in Winston Cup, you're 40th, in qualifying or anything else. The competition is tremendous."

Roush runs one of the largest operations in NASCAR: two truck teams, two Busch teams and soon-to-be five Cup teams. His near-death experience in a small plane crash in Alabama on April 19, his 60th birthday, changed his outlook on life, Biffle said.

"I think he's more appreciative of what he has or what people do for him," Biffle said. "He recognizes his people a little bit better, so I think it has changed him as a person. But he's still what he needs to be.

"We needed him this year when we were running for a championship, and he pulled through for us, helping our engine program along and doing special projects for us. We wouldn't have won the championship without his help."

Though Biffle has risen through the ranks of NASCAR in just five years, he said he does not believe he is the strongest candidate to deliver a Cup title to Roush. Any of his future teammates, he said, has a better chance.

But he will try.

"Everybody has that personal goal to win a title," he said. "Everybody wants to win a championship as bad as the next guy. I'll try as hard as I can."