Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roush Rewind: Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500

Martinsville Speedway isn’t exactly a track the Roush Fenway Racing drivers are known for performing well at, but that all changed during the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500, which had to be run on Monday after heavy rains forced NASCAR to postpone the race on Sunday. The Roush drivers performed better than expected on Monday, with all 4 finishing inside the top 20.

Matt Kenseth seemed to have the best car of all the Roush drivers on Monday. Kenseth started 2nd in the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford due to rain cancelling qualifying on Friday and the field being set according to the point standings. He remained in 2nd as Kevin Harvick began to pull away from the field for the first few laps. Around lap 20, Kenseth radioed to crew chief Todd Parrott that the car was tight in the center of the turns. The caution that came out on lap 42 allowed Kenseth to pit for four tires, fuel, and the adjustments his car needed. He restarted third after that stop, but the handling of his racecar still wasn’t to his liking. When the second caution of the day came out on lap 64, Parrott told Kenseth to stay out. When the third caution came out shortly afterward, Kenseth pitted, but many of the field had pitted under the previous caution. He would have to restart 33rd. Kenseth charged to the front and was 18th by lap 150. On lap 165, Kenseth made a two tire stop and went from 11th to 7th, putting him back into contention for the win. During the last caution of the race, Kenseth stayed out and restarted 3rd for the green-white-checkered finish attempt. Jeff Gordon led the field to green for the last time, and Kenseth dove underneath him and bumped him up the track to take the lead. Gordon, unhappy about the contact from Kenseth, bumped Kenseth back and sent him up the track. The contact from Gordon costed Kenseth the win, and he ultimately ended up 18th when all was said and done. Kenseth dropped from 2nd to 3rd in the point standings.

David Ragan was forced to start 27th in the No. 6 UPS Ford after qualifying was rained out. Ragan felt he had a car that was capable of qualifying well ahead of 27th, and his lap times in practice proved he did. However, Ragan had only managed to gain 4 spots by the time the first caution came out on lap 42. The handling on his car caused problems for Ragan, and he pitted for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. Ragan pitted again during the second caution of the day to once again let his crew take a swing at the car’s handling. Nearly every restart, it seemed that Ragan had to fight his car to get going. He would lose a few spots, then once the car came to him, he would start gaining the positions back. For the majority of the race Ragan was anywhere between 18th and 22nd position. It seemed like no matter what his crew did, his racecar’s handling would not improve. The handling issue could have been what caused Ragan to get into teammate Carl Edwards while attempting to pass him for position shortly before the race reached halfway. Despite all his struggles, Ragan had worked his way up to 12th on the final restart of the race. It’s typical for restarts at Martinsville to cause the field to get jumbled up, and the last restart was no exception. Ragan had to work around the traffic jam on the last restart and lost a few positions. He crossed the line in the 16th position. Despite getting a good finish, Ragan still didn’t climb in the point standings and is tied for 27th with Brad Keselowski.

Greg Biffle started 4th in the No. 16 Census 2010/3M Ford. Saturday’s practice had Biffle and his team confident the car would handle well during the race. However, when Monday rolled around, Biffle found himself driving a racecar that was hard to handle. By the time the first caution came out, Biffle had fallen from 4th to 27th. The 3M Pit Bulls made wedge and air pressure adjustments to Biffle’s car to try and improve the handling. Biffle had worked his way back inside the top 20 when he started saying the handling of his racecar was going away. On lap 162, Biffle made contact with Marcos Ambrose and spun out, bringing out the caution. With only minor damage to his racecar, Biffle restarted 25th after that. Biffle pitted under the caution that was brought out on lap 234. He was 17th when he pitted and was 16th off pit road, but a speeding penalty forced him to restart 26th. Biffle made his way through the field and was sitting in 15th position for the green-white-checkered attempt. He was able to gain five spots to finish 10th when the checkered flag waved. That was Biffle’s 6th consecutive top-ten finish this season. He is currently 2nd in the point standings behind Jimmie Johnson.

Carl Edwards started Monday’s race 13th in the No. 99 Aflac Ford. Edwards dealt with a tight racecar for the first of the race and pitted under the first caution of the day for four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted 11th and seemed to be mired between 11th and 14th for quite a while once the field was under green again. The tight condition of Edwards’s racecar continued to be an issue, but crew chief Bob Osborne kept telling Edwards to hit his marks and they would get back the positions they’d lost after Edwards had fallen to 20th after being caught up in traffic around lap 190. When teammate David Ragan got into him shortly afterward, Edwards got annoyed with his teammate and did return the favor when Ragan took the position from him. Osborne had to radio to his driver to “let it go. We’ll get that spot back. Just stay focused.” Edwards remained silent on the radio for a few laps and did as his crew chief said. He soon found himself getting around Ragan and making a charge for the top ten. Edwards was sitting in 9th position for the green-white-checkered attempt. He managed to gain one more position to finish 8th when the checkered flag waved. Despite the top ten finish, Edwards lost a spot in the standings and is currently 14th.

While the Roush Fenway Racing drivers performed well on Monday, it was a late-charging Denny Hamlin who took advantage of Gordon and Kenseth’s run-in with 2 laps remaining to take the checkered flag. It was a spectacular finish that left many people asking, “What just happened?”. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 crew!

Next up: Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix International Raceway

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