Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roush Rewind: FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks

The Roush Fords of Kenseth and Ragan at Dover
Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
After their date with the Lady in Black, the Sprint Cup Series drivers headed to Dover International Speedway to tackle the Monster Mile. Rain fell on Saturday, which had NASCAR canceling qualifying. The field was set according to practice speeds. The track lived up to its name on Sunday as some drivers dealt with engine failures, electrical issues and bad luck.

Dover is usually a strong track for Roush Fenway Racing. Over the weekend, it really became evident as Carl Edwards won the 5-Hour Energy 200 on Saturday and pit strategy sent Matt Kenseth to victory lane on Sunday during the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. David Ragan’s good run came to an end after a mishap on pit road. Mechanical issues kept Greg Biffle from ever contending for the win and Carl Edwards led 117 laps but pit strategy didn’t work out in his favor in the end.

David Ragan: Started 14th, Finished 31st.

Last fall, Dover was the track where David Ragan had his first chance to work with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. During that race, a flat tire relegated Ragan to a 24th place finish. The team was hoping to have better luck this time around. Unfortunately, the Monster Mile lived up to its reputation once again for Ragan.

The No. 6 UPS Ford took the green flag from the 14th position on Sunday afternoon. Within the first eight laps, Ragan had cracked the top-10 and was making slow progress when the competition caution came out on Lap 40. Ragan reported that his car was loose through the center of the turns and tight off. He pitted for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment. Once the race restarted, Ragan informed crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that the car needed more grip.

A long green flag run followed and Ragan headed for pit road on Lap 109. While attempting to get to pit road, the rear brakes of the No. 6 Ford locked up causing Ragan to spin and hit the inside retaining wall. Only the right-side hit the wall and Ragan quickly got the car turned around to get down pit road. Ragan went a lap down and soon lost another lap down due to racing with a steering wheel that was no longer straight.

When the caution flag waved again on Lap 163, Ragan pitted three times for repairs, but on the third stop, he lost another lap as he couldn’t beat the pace car. The long green flag runs that followed left Ragan struggling even more. The team made adjustments when they could but Ragan was left battling an ill-handling car. Ultimately, he finished 28th and dropped two positions to 21st in the standings.

Greg Biffle: Started 12th, Finished 19th.

Greg Biffle posted the third fastest time in final practice on Friday, but started 12th on Sunday due to qualifying being rained out. In the opening laps of the race, Biffle reported that the No. 16 3M Ford was loose. The handling issue didn’t seem to be too big of a problem as Biffle worked his way inside the top-10. Just before the competition caution came out on Lap 40, he had informed crew chief Greg Erwin that the throttle was sticking. Biffle hit pit road under the caution and the team took a look under the hood and began to fix the problem. He made a second stop under the caution so the team could continue to fix the throttle issue but the repairs took longer than expected, which meant for the restart Biffle was one lap down in the 41st position.

From that point on, it was really an uphill battle for the team. Multiple times, Biffle came close to being in the Lucky Dog position when the caution came out. Unfortunately for Biffle, the caution flag never waved when he needed it to. Under the last caution of the day on Lap 362, Biffle was the only driver one lap down. He pitted for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. When the race restarted, Biffle had hopes there would be another caution. The race went green to the end. Biffle never got his lap back and finished 19th. He remained 12th in the standings.

Carl Edwards: Started 13th, Finished 7th.

Contrary to popular belief - the fastest, most dominant car of a race doesn’t always end up in victory lane. The No. 99 Aflac Ford was out front multiple times throughout the race and looked to be the car everyone else would have to beat. Carl Edwards won the Nationwide Series race on Saturday and led 117 laps on Sunday, but a four-tire stop under the final caution on Sunday left him finishing seventh.

After starting 13th, Edwards quickly made his way through the field. In the first 25 laps, he had moved up to second. When the competition caution came out on Lap 40, Edwards took the lead coming off pit road. Following the restart, it became mostly a two-man show as Edwards and the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson battled for the lead.

In the last 100 laps, the No. 33 of Clint Bowyer began to catch up with the two drivers out front to make it a three-way battle for the lead. The three of them continued to battle for the top spot until the caution came out on Lap 362. The caution would shake things up for the remaining laps.

Matt Kenseth: Started 24th, Finished 1st.
Last weekend, Wiley X Sunglasses made its first of two appearances on the No. 17 Ford of Matt Kenseth. That race left Kenseth and his team looking to rebound after finishing 25th at Darlington when a blown tire cost them a good finish. Kenseth more than just rebounded at Dover as he conquered the Monster Mile to earn his second win of the season.

Kenseth took the green flag from the 24th position and was 21st when the first caution of the day came out on Lap 21. He took the chance to inform his team that the car had become loose. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig opted to stay out since the competition caution was scheduled for Lap 40. When the caution flag waved, Kenseth hit pit road for four tires, fuel, air pressure adjustments and a track bar adjustment. Kenseth restarted 15th and soon cracked the top-5.

Kenseth stayed out to lead Lap 108 during green-flag stops before heading for pit road for four tires, fuel and more adjustments. Kenseth was up to third by Lap 160 and continued to run inside the top-10 over the next few runs. The team continued to make adjustments when they could and Kenseth was fourth when the caution came out on Lap 362. He pitted and at the last minute, Fennig made the decision to take just two tires and fuel.

It was a call that would become the game changer for Kenseth as he restarted second. Two laps after the restart, he took the lead and set sail. Kenseth took the checkered flag for the second time this year, giving Roush Fenway Racing their third Cup Series win in 2011. The win boosted Kenseth from tenth to sixth in the standings.

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


NEXT UP:


Sprint Showdown & Sprint All-Star Race

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Saturday, May 21, 2011

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