Roush Rewind: Coke Zero 400

Fourth of July weekend is a big weekend for NASCAR drivers and fans alike. It marks the mid-point of the season and the return to Daytona International Speedway for the running of the Coke Zero 400. With Goodyear’s new Support Our Troops program kicking off during the holiday weekend, all 43 teams in the race ran a special tire from Goodyear that had “Support Our Troops” printed on the sidewalls. While Daytona is known for wild and crazy racing, Saturday night’s race was no exception. The Roush Fenway Racing drivers returned to the track in hopes of getting to victory lane, but it seemed it just wasn’t in the cards for them to win, or have any luck other than bad luck for the night.

David Ragan seems to have become bad luck personified over the season. No matter what the youngest Roush Fenway Racing drivers does, it seems that it never wants to work out for him. During practice on Thursday, Ragan got loose, but wasn’t able to get the No. 6 UPS Ford straightened out after contact from Kyle Busch. Ragan spun down the turn and the transition from the turn’s banking to the flat surface of the apron caused major damage to his racecar before he slid back up and was hit by Kasey Kahne. The damage was too severe for Ragan’s team to even try to fix so they unloaded the backup car—the same car he finished 6th in at Talladega earlier in the season. On Friday, just as luck would have it, qualifying was rained out, forcing Ragan to start 25th for Saturday night’s race. A rain delay caused the green flag to wave nearly an hour and a half after the scheduled start time. Shortly after the race started, Ragan reported his car was way too tight and that he was wearing out the right side tires. A competition caution came out on lap 15, and Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. He restarted 21st on lap 20 and was making his way through the field. However, he soon dropped back after telling crew chief Donnie Wingo the car was still a bit too tight. Around lap 56, green flag stops began to cycle through, and Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. Three laps later, the caution came out for debris. Since he was in 34th, Ragan pitted since he had nothing to lose. The team put 4 new tires on the car and added a spring rubber to the right rear. The changes helped, and Ragan began to charge through the field. Ragan pitted under caution on lap 105 for four tires, fuel, and another wedge adjustment, but unfortunately for him, it would be his last pit stop of the night. He restarted 11th n lap 111, and was up to 7th when his luck went from bad to worse on lap 117. Ragan got loose in turn three and tried to save it, but couldn’t as Jamie McMurray tagged him on the driver’s side. The wreck also collected Martin Truex, Jr. Ragan’s car slid back up the track and the nose slammed the wall. The damage was done, and Ragan’s hopes of getting a great finish were crushed. He ended the night with a disappointing 38th place, putting him 26th in the standings.

Greg Biffle seemed to be starting the weekend off in a pretty good way. He was seventh fastest in practice on Thursday in the No. 16 Scotch-Brite Ford and posted the 2nd fastest time in final practice. Biffle took the green flag in the 10th position on Saturday, and by lap 14 had taken the lead. He was 2nd when the competition caution came out on lap 15. Biffle said his car was a little too tight, and crew chief Greg Erwin called him down pit road for right-side tires and a trackbar adjustments. The Pit Bulls made a flawless stop, and Biffle was still 2nd on the restart. It soon became apparent the changes the team made to the car didn’t help the handling. Biffle reported the car was way too tight and began to drop back through the field. He hung around the 30th position until the caution came out on lap 67 when A.J. Allmendinger spun out. Biffle pitted for four tires and fuel, and soon charged through the field. He was up to 15th when green-flag stops began on lap 98. The caution came out before the field had cycled through, and Biffle had yet to pit. He was in the 10th position when he pitted for four tires, fuel, and wedge and air pressure adjustments. He restarted 13th and was 14th when teammate David Ragan spun. Biffle pitted under the caution brought out due to Ragan’s spin. He took four tires and fuel and gained three positions in the pits to restart 11th. The handling on Biffle’s racecar began to get loose, resulting in him dropping back to run around the 25th. Biffle got into the back of Elliott Sadler when Mark Martin wrecked in front of them to bring out the caution. The resulting damage didn’t look that bad, the team noticed that oil seemed to be leaking from the No. 16 as Biffle exited the pits. He restarted 28th and managed to make it through the “big one” that left 19 cars with damage on lap 48. Luckily for Biffle, he made it through the melee relatively unscathed. The red flag flew and once the yellow came out and pit road opened, Biffle pitted so his team could assess the damage. The team worked diligently to fix the oil leak, but NASCAR officials are required to make the car stay in the pits until the officials are satisfied with the repairs. Biffle lose 3 laps in the pits, and was 22nd on the restart. With 2 laps to go, the caution came out again as Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish, Jr. got together. Biffle picked up those two positions before the attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Being three laps down, Biffle couldn’t advance his position any further and was 20th to take the checkered flag. He remains 10th in the standings.

Daytona seemed to throw anything and everything at the 2009 Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth. Kenseth and his team focused on the handling of the No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Southern Style Sweet Tea Vodka ford during the practice sessions. Since qualifying was rained out on Friday, Kenseth started in the 7th position on Saturday night. Kenseth held onto the 7th position through the early going, but soon radioed to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the No. 17 Ford’s handling was way too tight and that he was having to let off the gas coming off the turns because the car was too loose on exit. He pitted under the competition caution on lap 15 for four tires, fuel, and wedge and air pressure adjustments. The adjustments didn’t help as Kenseth continued to fight his ill-handling machine. Around lap 50, Kenseth reported he thought he had a tire going down. He pitted just to be safe, and the team put four new tires on the racecar and sent him on his way. The team inspected the tires and discovered the right-side tires had significant wear. They were lucky Kenseth had pitted when he did. The caution for debris on lap 59 allowed Kenseth’s pit crew to make more adjustments to improve the handling. The adjustments seemed to work as Kenseth informed his crew that the car was much more controllable. He drove all the way up to the 2nd position until the fresh tires began to wear. Kenseth reported that the longer the run went on, the tighter his car became. The team made adjustments over the next few pit stops, and on lap 115, Kenseth made what could be called the save of the season. Kenseth got loose, but was able to get the car pointed back in the right direction without bringing out the caution. He immediately pitted for right-side tires, fearing he had a tire going down. The team didn’t see anything wrong with the tire. A few laps later, Kenseth’s teammate David Ragan had an eerily familiar incident, but unlike Kenseth, couldn’t get his car straightened out. So Kenseth pitted under the resulting caution so his crew could check to see if there were any broken axles or sway bars. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the car. Kenseth restarted 26th, and was making his way back to the front when he was involved in the accident involving Elliott Sadler and Mark Martin. Kenseth tagged the wall, causing considerable damage to the right side of his car. Kenseth’s team made repairs under the caution, but it was clear Kenseth would not be competitive any more with the badly damaged car. Kenseth avoided the “big one” on lap 148. Kenseth would ultimately end up 15th once the checkered flag waved and remains 7th in the standings.

Carl Edwards seemed to be the only Roush Fenway Racing driver who might have had any good luck at all at Daytona this weekend. Edwards started 12th in the No. 99 Subway Ford. The early report was that the No. 99 Ford was a little bit tight. Edwards pitted under the competition caution on lap 15 for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He restarted 15th on lap 20, and ten laps later was up to 7th. The caution came out again on lap 59 for debris, and despite having made a green-flag stop 5 laps before, Edwards pitted again. He restarted 25th, despite a flawless 12.6 second pit stop by his crew. By lap 75, Edwards was up to 6th and continued to run around the 6th and 7th positions for the next 25 laps. Caution came out on lap 105 when Kyle Busch got into Juan Pablo Montoya, resulting in Busch crashing into the wall. Edwards pitted under the caution for tires, fuel, and another wedge adjustment. Edwards’s crew gained him two positions on pit road, but Edwards restarted 7th due to some teams staying out. On lap 137, Edwards made what the team had through would be the final pit stop of the night. Edwards’s racecar was lacking front grip so crew chief Bob Osborne called for an air pressure adjustment. However, Edwards slid through his pit stall and his crew had to push him back. It resulted in him restarting 13th. Edwards avoided the multi-car incident on lap 148 and once the red flag was lifted, he pitted for right-side tires. He restarted 2nd with 8 laps to go. With 2 laps remaining, Edwards dove for pit road to avoid the crash involving Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish, Jr. He restarted 6th and would hold onto that position to take the checkered flag. He remains 12th in the standings.

The Roush Fenway Racing drivers were once again left watching another team bring home the win after one of the wildest races of the season. Kevin Harvick, one of the most dominant drivers the whole night, was able to avoid all the trouble at Daytona International Speedway and hold of Kasey Kahne during the green-white-checkered finish. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team!

Next up: 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
Roush Rewind: Coke Zero 400 Roush Rewind: Coke Zero 400 Reviewed by Whitney R. on Monday, July 05, 2010 Rating: 5