Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roush Rewind: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400

Michigan International Speedway is a favorite stop on the NASCAR circuit for the Roush Fenway Racing drivers. Not only is it a track that Fords, particularly those of Roush, are known for performing well at, Michigan is also the home of Roush Industries and Ford. With the new FR9 engine under the hoods of their racecars, the four Roush Fenway Racing drivers were looking forward to the running of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400. However, when the checkered flag waved on Sunday, none were able to bring home the win. Three finished inside the top fifteen, while one was left with a finish near the rear of the field after bad luck hit just before the halfway point of the race.

There was no denying that David Ragan was having one of the best weekends of the season leading up to Sunday’s race. With solid times in practice, Ragan proved he had a pretty good car when he qualified the No. 6 UPS Ford in the 14th position. Once the green flag waved on Sunday, Ragan hung around outside the top ten. Lap 18 saw the first caution as Marcos Ambrose spun. Ragan pitted for fuel, tires, and an air pressure adjustment to help tighten his racecar up. The second caution, for debris, came out on lap 48, and once again Ragan’s crew made an air pressure adjustment to try and correct the loose-handling issues. Ragan had worked his way inside the top ten after that stop. A long green-flag run followed, and Ragan continued to battle a loose racecar that wanted to slide off the turns. Ragan made a green-flag stop on lap 90 for tires, fuel, and a trackbar adjustment. Just nine laps later, the caution came out when Casey Mears, in the No. 83, got into teammate Scott Speed. Crew chief Donnie Wingo called Ragan down pit road for two tires and fuel in an effort to gain track position. Unfortunately for Ragan, that pit stop would be the turning point of the race for him. As Ragan was exiting his pit stall, Mears was entering his. The two made contact on pit road, resulting in damage to the right front fender of the No. 6 Ford. Ragan backed back into his pit stall, and his crew went to work repairing the damage. Ragan went back out so he wouldn’t go a lap down, then returned to pit road. The pit stop took longer than expected and left Ragan at the tail end of the lead-lap cars when the green flag waved. On lap 118, things only went from bad to worse for Ragan. He radioed to his crew to inform them that the right-rear tire was flat. He was forced to pit, but the damage had already been done. Pitting under green left his team hoping the cautions would fall in their favor. The long green-flag run that continued did nothing to help Ragan and his crew. Unable to make up those lost positions, Ragan finished a disappointing 34th on Sunday. He remains 25th in the standings.

Matt Kenseth struggled in practice on Friday and it carried over to qualifying later that evening when he qualified 39th in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford. However, during practice on Saturday, Kenseth posted the 6th fastest time. The Crown Royal had high hopes for a strong run on Sunday when the green flag waved. By lap 10, Kenseth had moved from 39th to 23rd in the field. Under the caution on lap 18, Kenseth informed crew chief Todd Parrott that the car was loose in and off the turns. He pitted for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustments. Kenseth worked his way inside the top 20 following the restart, but reported his car was even looser than it had been before the adjustments. Kenseth’s next pit stop came under the caution that came out on lap 48. His crew made track bar and air pressure adjustments, but even after those changes, Kenseth still wasn’t happy with the way his car was handling. Green-flag stops began around lap 88, and Kenseth pitted on lap 91 for even more track bar and air pressure adjustments. The adjustments seemed to help as Kenseth had ran in the 16th position, but the No. 17 Ford was still a little loose. The next pit stops saw the Crown Royal crew making more track bar and air pressure adjustments. Kenseth managed to lead two laps before making a green-flag stop around lap 135. Kenseth hovered around the top fifteen after that. The final caution of the race came out with 17 laps remaining, and Kenseth pitted for four tires and another series of adjustments. Restarting 14th, Kenseth got caught up in traffic on the restart and was unable to advance further up the field. Kenseth was 14th to take the checkered flag. He is now 5th in the standings, down one position from last week.

For Carl Edwards, it looked like Michigan would be his chance for a great finish. In his previous 11 starts, Edwards had only finished outside the top ten once. Edwards started the race in the 19th position in the No. 99 Aflac Ford. From the drop of the green flag, Edwards began to gain positions. He was up to tenth when the first caution came out on lap 18. Edwards pitted for tires, fuel, and a slight air pressure adjustment. A quick stop by the Aflac crew had Edwards sitting 10th for the restart. Edwards was up to 8th just a few laps later. He was 9th when the caution flag waved a second time and pitted for tires, fuel, and a trackbar adjustment. Edwards’ crew helped him gain three positions on pit road to restart 6th. It soon became clear that Edwards was good on the short runs when he made his way up to 4th, but the car was still loose in the turns. He dropped back to 6th and remained there even after making a green-flag stop around lap 90. Edwards pitted under the caution on lap 98, and crew chief Bob Osborne called for right-side tires only, putting Edwards 7th for the restart. Edwards maintained that position throughout the following green-flag run. A couple more pit stops under green had Edwards’ crew making adjustments to tighten up the No. 99 Ford. Just when it seemed Edwards would get another top ten finish at Michigan, a caution with 17 laps remaining put a stop to it. Edwards was shuffled back to 11th with 10 laps to go since some of the teams behind him had opted to pit under that final caution. He held on to finish 12th. Edwards is now 10th in the point standings, down one position from last week.

Having taken wrecked racecars back to the shop the last two races, Greg Biffle was hoping for a turnaround at Michigan. Biffle qualified the No. 16 3M Ford in the 16th position and from the drop of the green flag, began to move his way up through the field. He was up to 11th when the first caution of the day came out. The No. 16 Ford was loose and crew chief Greg Erwin called for a track bar adjustment when Biffle pitted. Biffle restarted 13th, but was 10th just a few laps later. More adjustments were made when Biffle pitted under the second caution. This time his car had become too tight. However, those adjustments made under the second caution made the car too loose. Biffle tried to hang on to the 10th position while fighting the loose-handling racecar. The 3M crew made more adjustments under the caution on lap 98. It was under that pit stop that the No. 16 team discovered damage had been done to the nose of the car. The damage was quickly repaired, and Biffle was back inside the top ten by lap 119. Green-flag stops began once again around lap 135, and Biffle pitted on lap 139 for four tires, fuel, and trackbar and air pressure adjustments. Once the stops cycled through, Biffle was up to 5th. He maintained that position until the final round of green-flag stops began. Biffle’s car had gotten too tight, and his crew made more adjustments when he pitted on lap 176. When the final caution came out, Biffle and his team had an important decision to make. To pit or not to pit, that was the question. Biffle opted to stay out, but some teams behind him pitted. With 14 laps remaining, the field took the green flag one last time. Biffle dropped back to 10th, but was able to pass Joey Logano on the last lap to get a ninth place finish. Biffle is 9th in the standings, up one position from last week.

While the Roush Fenway Racing drivers were decent on Sunday, none were able to show the dominance that Ford has been known for at Michigan International Speedway. It was Denny Hamlin who brought home yet another win for Joe Gibbs Racing. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 crew!

Next up: Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

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