Edwards’ all-star win proves Roush, Ford rebound is complete
CONCORD, N.C. – When Carl Edwards’ car exploded like it hit a landmine during a celebratory slide through the infield last Saturday, the natural assumption was he also threw away any chance of winning Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
Edwards dominated last week’s Sprint All-Star race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and in the process became the favorite to win at the same track this Sunday in the longest race of the NASCAR season.
But nobody at Roush Fenway Racing seemed concern.
“Most people would look at the car and say that car had to go to the 600, but Bob (Osborne, crew chief) assures me he’s got a better car waiting back at the shop to go,” car owner Jack Roush said.
So does everyone else on the Roush roster.
A year ago the flagship team for Ford Racing came to the 600 without a win. In fact, Ford’s first victory didn’t come until Aug. 1 when Greg Biffle won at Pocono, Pa. More important, the Roush group wasn’t even close.
Now the organization is on the verge of domination.
Counting the 40-lap Sprint Showdown, Roush cars led 97 of 140 laps. All four of the team cars finished among the top eight in the main event. Edwards was unstoppable, especially in the final 10-lap sprint when he pulled away to an easy win.
“All the Roush cars to me roll in the middle of the corner better than we did,” Jeff Gordon said. “We made big gains and we’ve just got a little bit of work to do to get where they’re at.”
Much like life, the journey has been just as important to Roush Fenway Racing as the destination. A year ago the team was in disarray. David Ragan and Matt Kenseth all got new crew chiefs and Roush re-organized his entire race shop. Although the season doesn’t offer any breaks, the team essentially started over with their setups and their approach. It wasn’t until the final three months that things started to click.
“People ask me how did we get off last year? Well, from the winter of 2009-2010 we had some simulation help that we had consultants help us with that didn’t correlate,” Roush said. “The correlation, Ford stepped in and helped us with it. Things are correlating now and when an engineer tells the crew chief, which Bob is an engineer himself so he looks at things different than a lot of crew chiefs do, but when he gets the indication that the sensitivity is going to be track bar for this track or it’s going to be wedge or camber or whatever it’s going to be, he believes that and it works out that way. We would not have had the year that we’ve had to this point if our engineering didn’t stand as tall as the rest of it behind it.”
Translation: The Fords are fast.
Trevor Bayne got it going at the Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers Racing – the car and engine prepared by Roush. Edwards won at Las Vegas; Kenseth won at Texas and Dover. Ragan won the Sprint Showdown qualifying race and Edwards followed that up with the all-star win. All of Roush Fenway’s wins have come on tracks of a mile or more and 10 of the next 12 races are on similar tracks. The only exceptions are two road course races.
“I haven’t spent much time looking at the schedule, but yesterday we sat down and we started looking at the next month and I’m really excited about,” Edwards said. “We’ve got some tracks coming up that are really good for us. I feel like Jack and Doug (Yates) have got the engines to a point where we can run with and beat most of the guys on the race track going down the straightaways and Bob and the guys at the shop have got the cars really good.
“It’s going to be fun and it’s fun to have the points lead because it’s like a little insurance. You can take little gambles and you can race hard because you’ve got a little cushion, so, hopefully, we can keep that up.”
Another important part of the Ford rebound has been the new FR-9 engine. Not only does it have more power than last year’s engine, the design allows it to run cooler.
Edwards’ all-star car now is out of the rotation. As it slid through the infield, the front bumper appeared to catch a patch of grass, causing the entire front end to explode.
The team will replace it with a newer, faster car for this week’s race.
“The Ford guys have done their homework; they’ve done a nice job,” Kyle Busch said. “I’d certainly like to have a new engine. But, I don’t know that we’re going to be able to get one cause of fuel injection and everything coming. I certainly think it would help if we had more.”
A year ago Ford thought the same thing.