The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has by all accounts been a challenging one for Roush Fenway Racing.
However, after all three RFR drivers finished in the top 10 in Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the organization clearly has something on which to build.
In fact, Saturday night’s race at the .533-mile oval marked the first time all season that that the entire Roush trio of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (sixth), Carl Edwards (seventh) and Greg Biffle (10th) has finished in the top 10.
"It was an OK night," RFR co-owner and founder Jack Roush told FOXSports.com. "We didn’t quite have the speed we had the first time we were here (in March). We were off just a tick. It was not a bad night for us. We certainly were lucky with what happened on the racetrack."
Luckiest of the bunch was Biffle, who appeared to be in big trouble after a collision with Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard on Lap 372 of 500 left the back end of his No. 16 Ford dangling loose. But instead of having to make a green-flag pit stop and losing multiple laps, Biffle was able to hit pit road and get the bumper repaired when the caution flag waved on Lap 375 for a Marcos Ambrose wreck on the frontstretch. Back up to 11th by lap 425, Biffle eventually moved up one more spot to join his teammates in the top 10.
More importantly, however, Biffle held onto the 16th and final Chase for the Sprint Cup spot and stretched his lead over his closest pursuer, who had been Kasey Kahne but is now Kyle Larson.
While Kahne trailed Biffle by just nine points entering Bristol, Larson is 26 points in arrears of the Roush Fenway driver with just two races remaining before the championship field is set. Roush is therefore understandably encouraged about Biffle’s Chase hopes.
"It feels good," he said.
Then, the two-time Sprint Cup champion team owner took on a more cautious tone.
"A lot can happen in the next two races," Roush said. "We’re hoping to win a race with both him (Biffle) and Ricky."
While Biffle — the last of four non-race winners in position to make the Chase based on points — can leave Bristol feeling confident about his Chase prospects, teammates Stenhouse and Edwards can be thankful just to have a good a finish.
Edwards, a lame-duck driver who this past week announced plans to join Joe Gibbs Racing next season, had recorded only one top-10 finish in his previous seven outings.
Stenhouse, a two-time Nationwide Series champion in his second Cup season for RFR, had netted only four top-10 finishes all season prior to Saturday night’s outcome.
Coincidentally, Stenhouse’s best finish of the year — a second-place finish — came in the spring race at Bristol.
"Bristol is a lot of fun," Stenhouse said. "When you’re able to turn your car all over the place, I was able to run it on the top, turn, drive across the bottom and make up a lot of ground and pass some cars. That felt really good to pass some cars. It was a great night. We needed it."