CONCORD, N.C. — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle combined to win 189 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races through last year.
This season kicked off at Daytona Int’l Speedway at the end of February with none of the four drivers, who combined to make 2,378 starts in NASCAR’s premier series, competing.
Gordon and Stewart, who are both 45 years old, retired with well-publicized dog-and-pony shows the past two seasons, while Edwards, 37, shocked everyone when he stepped away from the sport in very public fashion earlier this year.
Biffle, meanwhile, left Roush Fenway Racing after 19 years with the team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, XFINITY Series and Cup Series.
It’s no secret Roush Fenway Racing’s performance has plummeted in recent years and Biffle’s frustration grew as he saw many of his teammates, including Edwards and Matt Kenseth, leave the team and prosper with other organizations.
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When Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing announced they were parting ways, we all believed Biffle would turn up somewhere else and continue to do what he’s always done — compete with the best NASCAR has to offer.
But as teams rolled into Daytona to start the season, Biffle was nowhere to be seen and seemed to be slipping quietly into the history books.
We all may have missed the opportunity to read between the lines, though, with the statement Biffle issued when the news broke of his departure from Roush Fenway Racing.
“We’ve had an incredible run and I am so appreciative for the opportunity to be a part of Roush Fenway,” Biffle said. “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.”
“Inside and outside of NASCAR” and “radio and television” were the portions of the statement that stood out when we reread the statement in mid-February.
And, indeed, Biffle was working in radio as a co-host of a NASCAR-related program on SiriusXM radio, and checking out the 47-year-old Washington native’s Twitter account revealed lots of pictures of fish and family, but very little about racing.
Biffle wouldn’t be the first prominent racer to just fade away from the spotlight, but it would be surprising in that Biffle seemed like one of those guys who would race as long as he could.
Biffle got a late start in NASCAR national series competition after being “discovered” by 1973 Cup Series champion Benny Parsons during the Winter Heat television series in 1995 and ’96.
He joined Roush Fenway Racing in 1998 and was named rookie of the year in the Camping World Truck Series that season. Two years later, he claimed the series championship and earned a promotion to the XFINITY Series.
Biffle won the rookie-of-the-year award in that series in 2001 and claimed the XFINITY Series championship the following season.
He moved up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2003 with Roush Fenway Racing and won 19 Cup Series races in 510 starts over 13 years aboard the No. 16 Ford.
Biffle finished second to Stewart in the battle for the Cup Series title in 2005 and through his tenure with Roush Fenway Racing went from young gun to wily veteran on a team that included drivers such as Kenseth, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Edwards.
Biffle was the elder statesman on the team during his final seasons, and last year he was the oldest full-time driver in the Cup Series.
“I never thought I’d be that,” Biffle said early last season. “When I started there, Mark (Martin) was that guy. I never considered the possibility that I’d ever be the oldest guy on the team.”
His last victory came in 2013 at Michigan Int’l Speedway, but no Roush Fenway Racing driver has won in the Cup Series since then.
Biffle wasn’t always popular with the fans or his competitors, many called him a whiner, or a crybaby, but he could wheel a stock car with the best of them.
And like Gordon, Stewart and Edwards, Cup Series racing was more interesting because he was there.