Sunday, July 1, 2012

Roush Fenway Rewind: Kenseth the talk of the garage


What a week! Roush Fenway Racing has been in the news since the announcement of Matt Kenseth's pending departure at the end of the 2012 season, striking a nerve among fans.

To recap Kenseth's departure, here is what we know. Kenseth has a deal in place for 2013, with the team and manufacturer to be announced at a later date. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the heir to the throne, getting the call to replace Kenseth in the No. 17, and while Stenhouse moves up, Trevor Bayne moves into full-time Nationwide status.

And for those stating that Kenseth was fired or Jack Roush shoved him out, etc., all those reports are just rumors. Roush said during Friday's media session, "I will say that I was as surprised as most of you must have been when I learned that he would not be signing with us to go forward. It was a surprise and I had no idea that we were at that point." Breaking it down, it was Kenseth's decision to leave. For further details, Rebecca Kivak covered Kenseth's and Roush's comments to the media.

Now onto the racing!

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Greg Biffle, No. 16 Red Cross/My Town Gives Ford
Started: 11th
Finished: 21st
Points: 4th (-25)

Sporting a new paint scheme honoring the small town blood drives, Greg Biffle returned to Kentucky Speedway with more experience than his competitors. Biffle won the debut NCWTS race in 2000. Across all three series, Biffle has raced at Kentucky nine times with four top-5 and six top-10 results.

Starting 11th on Saturday, Biffle held steady early on despite radioing to crew chief Matt Puccia that he had no grip. Throughout the race, Puccia and the Pit Bulls (the 3M pit crew) were hard at work trying to get the car to Biffle's liking.

When the caution flew at Lap 210, Biffle hit pit road for fuel only, knowing he could make it to the checkered flag at Lap 267. Unfortunately as he left pit road, Biffle radioed to the team that he clearly hit some debris but thought the car was OK. As racing resumed, Biffle then called into the team he had a tire going down. An extra pit stop put Biffle a lap down and in need of another caution, which never came. He finished the race in 21st, one lap down. Sliding back two positions, "The Biff" is now 4th in the points, 25 behind teammate Matt Kenseth.

“It was about like it was last year here,” said Biffle following the race. “We qualified a little better this year than we did last year but the end result is the same. We were off a little bit and just couldn’t get a handle on it. We were running 10th or 12th pretty much all night and that is about all we had.”

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford
Started: 20th
Finished: 7th
Points: 1st


From the usual nickname of "Mr. Consistency" to "Mr. Talk of the Garage," Kenseth's name has everyone abuzz. Where will he go in 2013? I don't know, but stay tuned, because when the news breaks, I will tell you! As for now, let's focus on the track and put rumors aside.

Heading into Kentucky as the points leader, Kenseth had a lot on the line. After starting mid-pack, Kenseth battled handling issues early in the runs. Hanging in or near the top 10 for most of the night, Kenseth was just happy to finish the race in 7th and maintain the points lead. This is the fourth consecutive week that Kenseth has now led the points as we head back to Daytona.

“It was a huge struggle for us tonight,” commented Kenseth following the race. “I am happy to finish seventh in our Fifth Third Ford for as big a struggle as it was. When we got in position every once in a while, I could put together some decent lap times, but our car was really bad in traffic and we kept putting ourselves behind. When the track was hot, I thought our handling was reasonable, but as it became cooled off later into the night, it seemed like all our problems got worse.”

Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR
Carl Edwards, No. 99 UPS Ford
Started: 25th
Finished: 20th
Points: 11 (-130)

Edwards needs a win - he knows it, his team and fans know it and he feels the pressure.

After starting in 25th, Edwards made gains throughout the Quaker State 400 and was looking like he could contend with Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for the win.

Crew chief Bob Osborne was encouraging Edwards as he made his way up the field. "Come on, let's go get the 29 and make more happiness," he told Edwards after he passed Ryan Newman around Lap 110.

Edwards and Osborne debated their pit strategy on the final caution as Edwards ran in third position. The options they were playing out: pit and fall to about 20th, stay out and hope for another caution, go like hell and come in for a splash and go late in the race? Edwards wanted to pit, Osborne said to stay out and go like hell until the fuel gauge came on. No problem - Carl is a master at saving fuel, but there was only so much to save when racing with the leaders. With three laps to go, the gauge came on and Edwards hit pit road for a splash and go. Finishing the race in 20th, Edwards held steady at 11th in the points, still in need of a win to grab the wild card Chase berth.

“We just, we have to stick together as a team,” Edwards said after the race. “That is what Bob (Osborne) and I talked about last week. ... We are having some bad luck and some bad communication here. We can do this together. We could divide right now or we could come together. I have the best crew chief in the business and he proved it at the end of the year last year.”

4 comments :

Amanda..........glad to see that you have taken over the coverage for Roush. I thought I noticed that no one seemed to cover them, since early in the season.

Thanks!

Nice story about the Roush drivers. It looks to me like, as the sponsorship problems mount, Roush and his teams are having more trouble keeping their focus on the cars and the racing. Only Kenseth seems focused. But he has not driving competitive equipment since the Talladega plate race. I expect him to have a great run in Daytona. But I think by the time the Chase comes Kenseth will be getting kept out of the critical team meetings and will consequently have one foot out the door. And, I will be wearing his colors wherever he goes. He is a class act in a sport which is now being lead by a third generation nincompoop, Brian France.

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