Sunday, September 9, 2012

Roush Fenway Rewind: Biffle and Kenseth head to the Chase, Edwards on sideline

Roush Fenway Racing has two chances to win the Sprint Cup championship this year. Anticipation is high but mixed with a feeling of disappointment as well. Disappointment because Matt Kenseth, the 12-year team veteran is leaving and ending a chapter in RFR history. Disappointment because Carl Edwards is sitting on the bench during NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

Instead of focusing on the disappointment, though, we need to look to the positives. Greg Biffle could be the first driver to win a championship in all three NASCAR series. Matt Kenseth could win his second championship for Jack Roush. Carl Edwards could very well spoil the Chasers' parade in the final 10 races.

Biffle at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
Greg Biffle, No. 16 3M
Started: 23rd 
Finished: 9th
Points: 5th (-6)

Greg Biffle and the 3M Pit Bulls were relatively unnoticed at Richmond, for the good and bad of it. That means they were not spectacular but not terrible either.

After qualifying in 23rd, Biffle had a lot of ground to make up. After the Lap 45 competition caution, he restarted in 10th thanks to the Pit Bulls.

During the almost hour-long red flag for rain, Biffle and crew chief Matt Puccia used their time wisely, discussing the car and their handling issues. As green flag racing resumed, Biffle was able to make gains and maintain his tires while other drivers were struggling. Short on fuel, Puccia left Biffle out as long as possible as they hoped for another caution. Losing track position, they pitted with 33 to go. Crossing the finish line in ninth, Biffle now enters the Chase as the fifth seed.

"We actually ran really good here tonight," Biffle said of his night at Richmond. "We haven’t been that great in the past. To finish ninth and we really stayed out way too long on that one run trying to catch a caution so we were just experimenting and gambling. We would have been in the top five. We are excited about that. We learned a bit I think and it should help us at Loudon."

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Best Buy
Started: 17th
Finished: 5th
Points: 8th (-9)

Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Best Buy Ford started the race in 17th, making early gains despite lacking grip. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig got the car dialed in during the competition caution at Lap 45 and Kenseth restarted in eighth.
After falling back on the restart, battling loose conditions and like all the drivers, fighting the rain, Kenseth brought the Best Buy ride home in fifth place. Now seeded eighth as we head into the Chase, Matt Kenseth looks to win one more championship for Jack Roush before joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.

"I think the team is good in shape, we have been having great, great days on pit road, pretty good adjustments, made something out of, I don’t want to say nothing but we didn’t have a great car and Jimmie and them guys did a great job on pit road, strategy and adjustments and got us a top five," Kenseth said. "So we’ve had a couple decent weeks. I can’t wait to go to Chicago and race there. We definitely know we need to win some races to have a shot at this thing so hopefully we can have a shot next week.”

Carl Edwards at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Kellogg's
Started: 16th
Finished: 17th
Points: 14th (-1265

The chances of Carl Edwards making the Chase were about as thin as a Cheez-It, Nevertheless, there was still some hope in the realm of the "what if" scenarios.

Fastest in final practice on Friday, Edwards qualified in 16th, but the rain messed with the setup that the team had previously dialed in.

Trying to race the rain, crew chief Chad Norris called Edwards to pit road at Lap 132 while the leaders stayed out. That put the team a lap down and from there the night went south. Unable to get back on the lead lap, Edwards finished in 17th and out of the Chase. This is the second time in his career that Edwards missed the Chase, the first one way back in 2006 when he finished 12th in the points.

"Yeah, this isn’t about one race. It is 26 races and we just let too many points get away for a bunch of different reasons," Edwards said on the disappointment of not making the Chase. "There was a lot of luck involved and everyone tried really hard. This is the fastest we have been the last six weeks all year and I am proud of everyone for rallying around Chad (Norris) and Bob (Osborne) included for making the best effort we could. We will just go try to build the best team we can for next year and try to make sure a Ford wins this championship."


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