Motor Mouth: Roush Rising

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
When Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag Saturday night at Texas, it not only marked the end of his 76-race winless streak, but offered the latest proof of just how strong Roush Fenway Racing has grown within that time.

Roush Fenway, one of the top teams in all of NASCAR, has had its ups and downs the last few years. The highs were gratifying: the organization boasted 11 wins in 2008, with a whopping nine of them coming from Carl Edwards, the runner-up to champion Jimmie Johnson. 2009 started off strong, with Matt Kenseth’s back-to-back wins in the Daytona 500 and Auto Club 500.

But the lows were tough to swallow. Roush would only record one more win that year, with soon-to-be-leaving Jamie McMurray at Talladega in the fall. After his standout season, Edwards went winless and became a non-factor. And for the first time in his career, Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The struggles continued into 2010, as the organization had yet to win a race during the first half of the season. Roush was battling kinks in the new Ford FR9 engine, as well as faulty simulation software that put the team behind its rivals Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing.

The turnaround for Roush came at Pocono in August, when Greg Biffle won the Sunoco Red Cross 500. The win not only showed the progress being made within the organization, but it was a triumph in the face of tragedy. The week leading up to the race, team owner Jack Roush was injured after the plane he was piloting crashed. A fixture in the garage, he was unable to make the trip to Pocono, but the team owner was never far from his employees’ minds. “This one’s for Jack!” Biffle said when he crossed the finish line. It was an emotional victory and a much-needed boost for the organization.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Roush continued its climb during the Chase, as Biffle, Edwards and Kenseth made the field. Biffle scored his second win of the season at Kansas and Edwards finally broke his winless streak, putting together back-to-back wins at Phoenix and the season finale at Homestead. After the trials and tribulations of the last two seasons, Roush was back in the mix.

In 2011, the organization has taken off, capitalizing on its successes from last year and silencing doubts. Three of its four drivers – Edwards, Kenseth and David Ragan (his first career pole) – have claimed four poles in the first seven races this season, the most of any team. With two wins, Edwards at Las Vegas and now Kenseth at Texas, Roush joins Richard Childress Racing as the only two organizations to claim multiple race wins so far this season. Roush hit its stride at Texas, where all four of its drivers not only started in the top 10, but finished there as well.

Edwards and Kenseth are off to solid starts. Edwards has five top-10s, including four finishes in the top-3. It’s up to six top-3 finishes in the last nine races if you include his two wins from the end of last season. Kenseth has four straight top 10s, including three finishes of 4th or better. After going through three crew chiefs last season, Kenseth has struck gold with veteran Jimmy Fennig.

Edwards currently commands the points standings as Kenseth sits comfortably in third. Yes, it’s still early in the season, but it's not too early to point out that both are showing the consistency needed to run for a championship.

As for their teammates, Biffle and Ragan have had a rockier start to the season, but there is promise. Biffle has five finishes outside the top 20, but his 4th-place run at Texas helped lift him to 18th in points. If he can keep the momentum going, he could find himself in the top-12 within just a few more races. Ragan, who has struggled since reaching a career-high 13th in points in 2008, was impressive at Martinsville and Texas, recording back-to-back top 10s. Ragan was in position to win the Daytona 500 until his mistake of changing lanes on the final restart took him out of contention. He’s had the speed this year and is showing he is someone to keep an eye on.

Roush has more wins and poles at this point of the season than juggernaut Hendrick Motorsports. Could this set the stage for a season-long battle between iconic brands Ford vs. Chevrolet?

We can only hope.


The History Channel reality series "American Pickers" took on a mission from NASCAR in this week's episode. Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz scour the country looking for forgotten relics to turn into treasures, and this time they found themselves in NASCAR country. The curators at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, based in Charlotte, N.C., commissioned the two to search for items that tell the story of the sport's origins, innovations and people.

In their journey, Wolfe and Fritz meet some of NASCAR's most colorful characters: veteran racer Tiger Tom Pistone, former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler and Billy Biscoe, who worked on Richard Petty's pit crew and also worked for Bobby Allison.

I was in awe as Wolfe and Fritz made some incredible finds - a bumper off Cale Yarborough's 1978 racecar and a door from Petty's classic No. 43 racecar, to name a few. But the stories that Pistone, Wheeler and Biscoe share are priceless. "American Pickers" sought to find relics of the sport, but the history we as viewers learn along the way is equally as fascinating.

We even get to see Wolfe and Fritz have some fun racing each other in vintage racecars. For Earnhardt fans, the No. 8 car you see belonged to Ralph Earnhardt, father of Dale Sr. and grandfather of Dale Jr.

This isn't "American Pickers" first brush with NASCAR. Ryan Newman appeared in the season 2 premiere last summer.

If you missed the Hall of Fame episode, you can catch it when it reruns on the History Channel on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

Motor Mouth is a weekly column in which Skirts and Scuffs lead editor Rebecca Kivak spouts off about the latest NASCAR happenings. Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Motor Mouth: Roush Rising Motor Mouth: Roush Rising Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 Rating: 5