Roush Rewind: Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400

Saturday night was perfect for the running of the Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The race was named in honor of Heath Calhoun, a soldier who lost both of his legs. Fans voted nationwide and Calhoun was the one selected to be honored for the race. As the sun went down and the lights went up, the Roush Fenway Racing drivers had a lot of work to do to even make their presence known once the green flag waved.

It seemed that David Ragan was just doomed from the start of the Richmond race weekend. Ragan’s crew worked all through practice on Friday on the setup of the No. 6 UPS Ford, which proved to be a handful in qualifying later that day. Ragan got loose during his run, resulting in a 35th starting position for Saturday. Ragan had worked his way up to 28th when the first caution came out on lap 45. He informed crew chief Donnie Wingo that the UPS Ford was tight in the center, loose off the turns, and just lacking the forward bite he needed to make passes. He pitted for fuel, four tires, and an air pressure adjustment, which was not enough to improve the car’s handling. By lap 105, Ragan was 25th but went a lap down to the leaders while he continued to fight his ill-handling racecar. When green-flag stops began during a long run, Ragan pitted for fuel, four tires, and wedge and air pressure adjustments. The caution came out shortly after the stops cycled through. With so few laps on his tires, Ragan stayed out to get the wave around so he could get back on the lead lap. Over the next stretch of the race, he pitted when he could so his crew could make adjustments to his racecar, but it seemed his crew’s work was to no avail. He went a lap down again as he continued to fight his loose-handling machine, and with just 20 laps remaining, Ragan spun and brought out the caution. He managed to keep it off the wall, but made slight contact with Sam Hornish, Jr. Ragan pitted for four tires and fuel. His crew went to work pulling the fenders out. He went back out on the track to do what he could to get a decent finish, but being a lap down he really couldn’t make up to many positions. Ragan was 24th to cross the line when the checkered flag waved.

Greg Biffle turned the 6th fastest lap in final practice on Friday, but his qualifying effort did not reflect that. Biffle qualified the No. 16 3M Ford in the 33rd position. After the green flag waved on Saturday, Biffle only managed to gain 3 positions by the time the caution came out on lap 45. He was very unhappy about the car’s handling. Biffle reported to crew chief Greg Erwin that the No. 16 was loose entering the turns and the tires were chattering. Biffle pitted for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. The 3M Pit Bulls picked up 3 positions for Biffle, which allowed him to restart 27th. The handling issues continued to be a challenge for Biffle, and he went a lap down on lap 108. During a round of green-flag stops on lap 142, Biffle’s crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments to improve the handling. They picked up two positions in the process. Biffle stayed out during the caution a few laps later to take the wave around and get his lap back. Biffle pitted under the next caution. His crew made a wedge adjustment along with a shim adjustment to try and tighten the handling on the No. 16. Biffle restarted 23rd, but the handling on his car did not improve. He went a lap down again on lap 250 when running 26th. Just before green-flag stops began again, Biffle radioed to the team that he wanted some significant adjustments for the next stop. The crew did what their driver asked, but once he was back on the track, Biffle said the changes actually made the car looser than it had been. He held on to drive the No. 16 to a 22nd place finish.

A patriotic purple camouflage Crown Royal paint scheme was on Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford for the weekend. Kenseth was 13th to roll off pit road for qualifying on Friday. His lap time was quick enough to earn him a 21st starting spot for Saturday. The green flag dropped and Kenseth held his own for the first few laps. By lap 25, Kenseth’s car had begun to get loose in and off the turns. The driver quickly radioed to crew chief Todd Parrott to inform him of the car’s handling. For Kenseth, fighting the loose-handling racecar the short track of Richmond was the biggest challenge he faced the whole night. The first caution came out on lap 45, and Kenseth headed down pit road, asking his crew to make whatever changes would be necessary to get some forward traction on the car. The pit crew went to work fueling the car, putting four new tires on, and making track bar and wedge adjustments. Kenseth battled his way up to 15th, but the car continued to have handling issues throughout the following run. Green flag stops began to cycle through around lap 140, and on lap 143, Kenseth pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. Despite the adjustment, Kenseth still had issues with the loose-handling car. Running 17th when the green flag stops cycled through again, Kenseth pitted and his crew made air pressure adjustments in an attempt to make the car tighter. It seemed that nothing the No. 17 crew did could fix the loose-handling condition of the racecar. Kenseth fought his ill-handling car for the remainder of the race. He was 12th and hoping to make it inside the top ten when a late caution came out, causing the race to restart with just 4 laps remaining. Kenseth jockeyed for position, but had to leave Richmond with a 13th place finish.

Carl Edwards qualified 27th in the No. 99 Scotts EZ-Seed Ford on Friday. Once the green flag dropped, Edwards began to move his way up. By lap 40, he had gained ten positions, up to 17th. He pitted under the caution on lap 45. Edwards’s pit crew went to work making the adjustments that would help the car turn. Edwards had said the car was tight in the center and loose off the turns. Lap 100 found Edwards running 13th, and his racecar had become loose in and off the turns. He managed to crack the top ten around lap 139, just when the field began to cycle through green-flag pit stops. Despite his team having a good stop, Edwards still found himself a lap down in 11th place when the caution came out on lap 156. Crew chief Bob Osborne told Edwards to stay out since they had pitted just a few laps before. Edwards stayed out to take the wave around and restarted 10th on lap 161. He was still running 10th when the race reached halfway. As green flag stops began to cycle through again, Edwards stayed out as the leaders pitted. This move allowed him to pick up the 5 bonus points for leading a lap before he hit pit road. With 100 laps remaining, Edwards was still 10th and fighting a loose racecar. He made another green-flag stop on lap 363 for fuel, four tires, and wedge and air pressure adjustments. The caution came out just six laps later, leaving Edwards in a position where he could pit again or stay out for track position. After talking it over with Osborne, it was decided Edwards would pit for tires. He restarted 10th on lap 378. The cautions were few and far between a majority of the race, but two cautions slowed the field during the last 20 laps. Edwards was 7th for the final restart on lap 395 and quickly jumped to 5th. He held on to take the checkered flag in the 5th position, which was his best finish of the season.

The end of the Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400 was anything but boring. Jeff Gordon once again looked like he was going to finally win, but Kyle Busch got around him and took the checkered flag. For the second year in a row, Busch won the spring Richmond race—last year on his birthday, this year on the day before his birthday. Congratulations to Kyle Busch and the No. 18 crew on a great victory!

Next up: Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Roush Rewind: Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400 Roush Rewind: Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400 Reviewed by Whitney R. on Tuesday, May 04, 2010 Rating: 5