Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Roush Rewind: Auto Club 500

After great performances during last week's Daytona 500, many thought the Roush Fenway Racing drivers would be forces to be reckoned with during the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The last five spring races at Auto Club Speedway had been won by Roush Fenway Racing, but their winning streak was brought to an end on Sunday.

For the second week in a row, David Ragan was the highest qualifier for Roush Fenway Racing. He started 15th in his No. 6 UPS Ford. Ragan battled a loose racecar nearly the entire race, and due to long green flag runs, he had to "hang tough" as crew chief Donnie Wingo instructed him until they could pit. During a cycle of green flag stops, Ragan went a lap down but caught a break when the caution came out shortly after, allowing him to get back on the lead lap. For the most part, Ragan ran between 16th and 22nd place. He managed to get as high as 7th at one point, but had to pit shortly after cracking the top ten. Caution came out as soon as Ragan finished pitting, which put a damper on things for Ragan and his crew. On the last restart, Ragan was 12th, but contact from Scott Speed damaged the left-front fender. He dropped back after his car was damaged and ended up 23rd, which also means that for the second week in a row, Ragan started the highest of all the Roush drivers only to end up fininshing the worst of them all.

With a "You Don't Know Quack'' special Aflac paint scheme on his No. 99 Ford, Carl Edwards struggled in qualifying and started 31st on Sunday. He managed to gain 15 positions within the first 25 laps. However, Edwards lost positions on pit road during a stop when he let off the clutch, which allowed the tires to spin while the tire changers were working on the car. He fell to 19th position. Edwards' main complaint during the race was his car was tight in the center of the turns. During a three-wide battle, Edwards made contact with another driver and dropped to 22nd. He fought his way back throught the field and crossed the line in 13th place when the checkered flag waved.

Matt Kenseth started 20th in his No. 17 Crown Royal Ford, but unlike last week, Drew Blickensderfer was not calling the shots. Todd Parrott has taken over crew chief duties for Kenseth and his team. The defending race winner was a favorite to win, but Kenseth never led a lap on Sunday. While it is too soon to tell whether Parrott will bring the spark Kenseth said he and his team needed, it was evident on Sunday that things were clicking between Kenseth and his new crew chief. His pit crew had one bad stop, but made up for it the next time around when they gained Kenseth 3 positions on pit road. Kenseth is known as a front-runner at Fontana, but he never quite got there on Sunday. Kenseth brought his No. 17 Ford home in 7th position, the second top-ten finish for him this season.

Greg Biffle started 35th in his No. 16 3M Ford, but that didn't mean he had a bad racecar. Biffle powered his way through the field and was in the top ten by lap 60. The 3M Pit Bulls picked up right where they left off during last week's race, gaining Biffle positions nearly every stop. Around lap 132 when green flag stops were underway, Biffle headed down pit road reporting that the water temperature was a little high on his car. As his crew cleaned the grill of the No. 16 during that pit stop, they discovered that half of a $20 had been what caused the temperatures to rise. With that problem solved, Biffle headed back out on the track. When a late caution came out while Biffle was on pit road, he had a to restart 20th with 20 laps remaining. Biffle battled back through the field during the waning laps of the race to finish 10th.

Jimmie Johnson fought off a late-charging Kevin Harvick to take the win and end Roush Fenway Racing's domanince of the spring race at Auto Club Speedway. Congrats to Jimmie and his crew!

Roush Racing points standings:

Greg Biffle 3rd
Matt Kenseth 7th
Carl Edwards 10th
David Ragan 19th

Next up: Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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