Roush Fenway drivers have shown early resurgence

It didn’t take Carl Edwards but a few minutes following his win

at Las Vegas to assess how far Roush Fenway Racing has come in the

last year.

”The Fords are back, and we’re strong,” he declared.

His teammates are in full agreement.

After five races this season, the Roush organization is far

ahead of where it was this time last year. Edwards earned his first

win this month and goes to Martinsville Speedway this weekend as

the Sprint Cup Series points leader.

Matt Kenseth is 10th in the standings with fourth-place finishes

the last two weeks, Greg Biffle has overcome early problems to jump

11 spots in the standings to 20th, and David Ragan has run much

better than his 22nd-place ranking reflects.

”You look at our car, you look at Matt’s car, you look at

David’s car, look at all four of us,” says Biffle. ”Damn, we’ve

been right there. Really. That says something about our company,

right?”

It certainly does considering how badly Roush and the Ford teams

struggled through the first part of last season. The first victory

didn’t come until Biffle’s win at Pocono in August, and although

Edwards, Biffle and Kenseth all made the Chase for the Sprint Cup

championship, they were never really considered title

contenders.

But Biffle won the Chase race at Kansas, and Edwards closed the

year with victories in the final two races. Edwards, Kenseth and

Biffle finished the season ranked fourth, fifth and sixth – out of

the three-man title race between Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and

Kevin Harvick, but close enough to let everyone know they’ll be a

factor this year.

Edwards has been the most dominant of the Roush drivers so far,

but the others feel they aren’t too far behind. Biffle was plagued

by fuel issues at Las Vegas, but firmly believes ”truth be known,

I think I could have beat Carl that day.”

Kenseth doesn’t think his No. 17 team is quite at that level,

but he knows the Roush Yates engines are strong – his pole at Las

Vegas was just the fifth of his career – and knows his cars are a

lot better than they were a year ago.

”We’re not running quite to (Edwards’) level, but it seems like

we’re getting closer,” Kenseth said. ”It seems like, as a group,

all of our equipment seems to be faster and our cars seem to be

quicker.”

Kenseth believes the team got too far behind last year early

because it was adjusting to building cars for both Roush Fenway and

Richard Petty Motorsports, making the organization run ”somewhat

like a factory.”

”It was hard to build really nice cars because we were building

to get everybody cars first,” Kenseth said.

Plus, Doug Yates has had an entire year to work on Ford’s FR9

engine, which was used only sporadically through the first part of

last season as the engine shop continued development.

”I feel like them having a whole year to work with the FR9 and

a whole offseason, I think they’ve picked the engines up a lot,”

Kenseth said. ”I think we’re a lot more competitive on power than

probably what we were at the beginning of last year.”

That was evident at the season-opening Daytona 500 when Ragan,

winless through his first four full seasons, was racing for the

victory at the end of the race. He restarted as the leader late,

but was penalized for pulling out of his lane too soon.

It’s been about how his season has gone, as Ragan doesn’t have

the finishes to show for how well he’s been running.

”I think we’re two good runs away from being in the top 15,”

Ragan said. ”We’ve just got to do our jobs a little bit better all

the way through the weekend, and that’s from me giving better

information on Saturday, making better changes to start the race on

Sunday. We’ve had fast cars in all five races we’ve run, so I think

it’s there and we’ve just got to do a better job with what we’ve

got.

”That’s on my shoulders. The guys that win races are just about

perfect throughout the weekend, so we’ve got to cut back on the

mistakes. We’ve got fast race cars.”

Biffle said Ragan has been plagued by bad luck.

”He’s definitely running better, and some people say you create

your own luck, but I don’t know if I believe in all that. David had

a good car in Phoenix and blew a right front tire out. Is that

David’s fault?” Biffle said. ”Sometimes those things happen that

aren’t really in your control and make you look bad. David’s a good

driver, and I think this year, David is going to run better and be

pushing for wins.”