Roush Rewind: Samsung Mobile 500

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Coming into the weekend, all eyes were on the Roush Fenway Racing drivers at Texas Motor Speedway as the Sprint Cup Series geared up for the first night race ever held at the track. Many thought Roush Fenway had a shot to dominate the weekend. Not only did they dominate the weekend, the organization swept the weekend, winning both races and both poles. Carl Edwards won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday night, and Matt Kenseth won the Samsung Mobile 500 on Saturday.

Once the race started, it became evident that if any driver wanted to win, they were going to have to get past Matt Kenseth to do it. However, long green flag runs coupled with a stellar pit crew ensured that Kenseth never had that much of a challenge as he dominated the race to take the checkered flag. His three teammates weren’t too far behind as all four finished inside the top seven.

David Ragan: Started 1st. Finished 7th.
With the silver UPS Freight Paint Scheme on the No. 6 Ford for the first time this season, David Ragan wanted to build on the momentum he’d gained after a top-10 finish at Martinsville last weekend. For the third consecutive week, Ragan topped the speed charts in practice. Only this time, he backed it up in qualifying as well. With a lap of 28.448 seconds, Ragan earned his first Sprint Cup Series pole.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Ragan led the first 10 laps on Saturday night until the caution came out on lap 11 for fluid on the track. The No. 6 Ford was a bit free entering the turns and loose off. Ragan made a two-tire stop, but restarted 3rd due to two drivers staying out. Once the green flag waved again, Ragan informed crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that the car was still too loose.

Under the next caution, Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. The adjustments seemed to help some, but the No. 6 Ford was still loose off the turns. Long green-flag runs left the team little opportunity to make more adjustments. Under one stop, Ragan took only fuel and tires and asked that the grille be cleaned off. A lot of drivers were getting debris stuck to the grilles of their cars, and Ragan didn’t want to take chances. He knows from experience just how quickly debris can cause an engine to overheat since he had an engine failure due to that very reason in 2009.

Multiple times, debris was an issue, but for Ragan it was a minor one. Toward the end of the race, the No. 6 Ford was running lap times as fast as the leader’s. However, the long green-flag runs had the field so spread out that Ragan never had a chance to get back out front. He finished 7th  and gained one position to 17th in the standings.

Greg Biffle: Started  9th. Finished 4th.
Saturday’s race was like a roller coaster for Greg Biffle. After taking the green flag from the 9th position, Biffle slowly began to climb toward the front. He reported the No. 16 3M Ford was tight. Under the first caution on lap 11, he pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. On the next stop, similar adjustments were made.

The handling issues continued on the No. 16 Ford, but Biffle was able to take the lead on lap 52 and led until lap 58. The car had become too loose, and Biffle fell to 2nd as teammate Kenseth took the lead again. Biffle made a green-flag stop on lap 95 for four tires, fuel, and an adjustment to the spring rubber.  He had come in 4th, but once stops cycled through he had lost one position to 5th. Over the next run, crew chief Greg Erwin called for more adjustments to the No. 16 Ford. Biffle ran inside the top 15, but he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the car. A pit stop on lap 256 saw the team making major adjustments. 

Immediately after that, Biffle told his team that the car was running the best it had run all night. He had driven up to the 6th position by the time he made his last stop on lap 295. Biffle picked up two more positions before the race ended to finish 4th. He gained two positions to 18th in the standings.

Carl Edwards: Started 2nd. Finished 3rd.
Coming off a win in the Nationwide race Friday night, Carl Edwards hoped to sweep the weekend. Teammate David Ragan edged him from the pole position by a narrow margin, and Edwards took the green flag from the 2nd position. A few laps after the race started, the No. 99 Scotts Ford was too loose. As if battling an ill-handling racecar wasn’t enough, Edwards also wasn’t feeling well. During a pit stop, one of Edwards’ crew members was able to give him some medicine which helped. As the race progressed, Edwards began to feel better.

Just like every other team, Edwards and his crew found themselves trying to keep up with the changing track conditions once the sun went down. Under the first caution of the night, the team made adjustments, but handling problems continued. Edwards was running 5th with just over 100 laps remaining, and by then, some teams were scrambling to figure out pit strategy when it seemed like fuel mileage would become a factor.
Edwards made his final pit stop on lap 295, and was 5th once the stops cycled back through. In the closing laps, Edwards moved to 4th as the No. 22 of Kurt Busch had to pit for fuel. On the last lap of the race,  the No. 14 of Tony Stewart ran out of fuel. Edwards passed him to finish 3rd. With the top five finish, he reclaimed the points lead.

Matt Kenseth: Started 4th. Finished 1st.
Matt Kenseth is no stranger to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway, but his last win at the track came in 2002. After dominating much of the race, Kenseth snapped a 76-race winless streak. His last win had been at Auto Club Speedway in February 2009.

Just like his teammates, Kenseth was faced with handling issues, but he seemed to overcome them easily. The No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford started 4th and immediately began to move to the front. The caution on lap 11 gave Kenseth the chance to pit. The car had become tight through the center of the turns a bit loose off, but the team only made a two-tire stop. Kenseth restarted 6th and soon moved up to 2nd. Kenseth pitted under the second caution of the day for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment, and an air pressure adjustment. After that stop, Kenseth took the lead and ever really looked back.

Green-flag pit stops can sometimes be deal breakers for teams, but for Kenseth’s Killer Bees, the stops gave the crew a chance to prove they really are some of the best in the business. Kenseth continued to battle handling issues and the crew made adjustments when they could. Two drivers tried to stay out front and make it to the end on fuel, but they just couldn’t do it. Kenseth reclaimed the lead on lap 312 and set sail to take the checkered flag. The win vaulted Kenseth from 9th to 3rd in the standings.

Congratulations to Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 team on their victory!

Next up:
Aaron’s 499
Talladega Superspeedway
April 17, 2011

Roush Rewind: Samsung Mobile 500 Roush Rewind: Samsung Mobile 500 Reviewed by Whitney R. on Monday, April 11, 2011 Rating: 5