RFR hopes for another big weekend at Charlotte
Things couldn't possibly have gone any better for Roush Fenway Racing last weekend, when the organization swept the three races it entered.
Now RFR heads back to Charlotte Motor Speedway, eager to return to the dominance it once showed in NASCAR's longest race of the year. It doesn't look like it will be a problem.
Carl Edwards goes into the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday with momentum from last weekend's victory in the $1 million All-Star race. He won three of the four segments, and outran Kyle Busch over the final 10-lap sprint to claim his first All-Star win.
Greg Biffle won the only other segment of the All-Star race that Edwards didn't claim, and David Ragan won the Sprint Showdown held for drivers not already qualified for the main event.
The final running order showed all four RFR cars in the top eight, and left team owner Jack Roush feeling good about his chances moving ahead.
''The guys worked hard,'' Roush said. ''I'm just proud to be part of their program.''
It's a program that obviously had turned a corner at the start of this season, when Edwards and Ragan contended for the Daytona 500 victory. Although the win went to Roush development driver Trevor Bayne, driving for the Wood Brothers in a car that's closely aligned to the RFR organization, the Roush cars were clearly at a pace to run up front again.
It's continued week after week, as Edwards won at Las Vegas and is the current Sprint Cup Series points leader. Matt Kenseth has two wins, Biffle has had dominant cars at points this season, and Ragan has shown clear improvement.
Toss in a win Sunday at Iowa by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the first series regular to win in the second-tier Nationwide Series, and RFR is clicking.
Roush credited everyone but himself for the turnaround, from competition director Robbie Reiser, to manufacturer Ford and engine builder Doug Yates.
''There's a lot of discussion about hard work in this business, but the Roush Fenway guys have really, really suited up for it in the winter,'' Roush said. ''They've got me really close to the door, so there's not as many tools I can get my hands on and not as many things I could screw up as I used to.
''The engine is good, the car is good, the engineering is just incredible.''
Maybe good enough to get Roush back to Victory Lane on Sunday.
His drivers once reeled off four consecutive wins in the Coca-Cola 600, starting with Jeff Burton's victory in 1999. Then came a win by Kenseth, another one by Burton, and finally Mark Martin's victory in 2002.
The dominance ended the next season with the emergence of Jimmie Johnson, who strung together five wins in six points races at Charlotte, including three-straight 600 victories.
RFR began to slide the other way, and Edwards himself admits Charlotte became a struggle. His average finish is 13.1 in 12 career Cup starts at Charlotte, and his 2006 victory in the Nationwide Series is his only win at the track.
But he credits crew chief Bob Osborne for helping him turn it around, and is confident he'll be good this weekend.
''It's fair to say that we have been not very good here, and sometimes terrible,'' Edwards said. ''I think that we figured some things out. Bob and the guys have done a really good job. I think it bodes well for the 600, for sure.
''I would hope we can come back here with as good or better a car and definitely a lot more confidence than we had before.''
He's the not the only one.
''I feel great about next week, I really do,'' Biffle said after his fifth-place run in the All-Star race. ''We'll run good for sure.''
And Kenseth, who finished sixth, will race Sunday in the car that led 169 laps earlier this season in a win at Texas. He knows making it to the final 100 miles is the key to winning the race, and is excited to use strategy to be in it at the end.
''I think you really want to be in at least the top 15 the whole race, especially at the beginning to make sure you don't get lapped or if you have a problem you get too far behind,'' Kenseth said. ''There have been times we've run really well, and then there have been times where we struggled, but the 600 is probably my favorite event of the season.''