Bad memories for Roush Fenway Racing
Those pit road foibles at Texas Motor Speedway for Carl Edwards were a little like his going to his favorite restaurant and leaving with food poisoning.
Not only did he miss out on the usual high level of enjoyment, he also had a sick feeling looking back on it.
That could sum up things not only for Edwards, but for all of Roush Fenway Racing this season.
Things haven't gone according to plan for the Jack Roush Five so far in 2009. Now the RFR quintet needs to race well at four upcoming tracks where it hasn't been so hot.
Matt Kenseth is the only current RFR driver who has won at four of the next five tracks on the schedule -- Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond and Charlotte. And that was seven years ago. The only exception is Darlington, where Greg Biffle won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006.
First up is Phoenix, where the last RFR victory was 2005, but that was former Roush driver Kurt Busch. Kenseth won at Phoenix in 2002.
Next up is Talladega, a house of horrors for the Roush crew. None of the five RFR drivers has won on the giant Alabama oval, and no Roush car has gone to Victory Lane at Dega since Mark Martin in 1997.
The third stop of this weak-link quad is Richmond, Va., where RFR hasn't won since 2005. Again, that was Busch. Kenseth's 2002 Richmond victory is it for the current RFR drivers.
Last is Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., where a Roush car hasn't won in seven years (Martin in 2002). But Kenseth is the only current RFR driver with a victory there; he won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2000.
Judging by those stats, RFR needs to buck history over the next month of races.
The 2009 season started as high as it gets, with Kenseth's winning the Daytona 500 and following up with a victory at Auto Club Speedway one week later in California.
Then came the 180-degree turn.
"Every week since [California] has been a punch in the stomach," Kenseth said before a fifth-place showing at Texas. "It's been problem after problem, really. Every week seems like a different circumstance we certainly try to learn from."
The Roush boys are winless in the last five races. Winless would be OK if RFR were running well.
That wasn't true until Texas when Biffle, Kenseth and Edwards all finished in the top 10. But all three drivers left TMS feeling they could have done better if not for mistakes on pit road.
Every week since [California] has been a punch in the stomach. It's been problem after problem, really.” -- Matt Kenseth
TMS has been a personal paradise for Edwards, who won both Fort Worth races last year and three of the previous seven TMS events before the Samsung 500 on April 5.
But a miscue in the pits probably cost Edwards his third consecutive TMS victory. The No. 99 Ford team has a new front-tire changer for Phoenix, so the team hopes to strengthen the pit-road performance.
Kenseth is the only Roush driver in a better position today than he was one year ago. He's ninth in the standings, 245 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. Kenseth was 13th a year ago, 290 points behind.
Edwards is one spot higher than a year ago (eighth instead of ninth), but he's 81 points further back from the leader. And that's misleadingly close.
Edwards had to eat a 100-point penalty for a loose oil-tank lead at Las Vegas last year, so in actual performance, he's really 181 points worse off now than he was after seven events last season.
McMurray was expecting much better in the No. 26 Ford after ending the 2008 season with three consecutive third-place finishes. But the team changed crew chiefs and things haven't clicked so far with Donnie Wingo.
One always can look on the bright side. Roush drivers have the same number of victories this season as Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing, and two mores wins than Richard Childress Racing.
But each of those three teams has at least one driver who ranks higher in the standings than anyone at RFR. Each also has a driver who won at one of the four upcoming tracks in 2008, so the Roush clan has some work to do.
Before the Texas race, Kenseth's crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, explained the pep talk he gives his guys, but it really summed things up well for everyone at RFR.
"Right now it's really important that we stress to the team that our cars are much better than where we have finished lately," he said. "Monday through Saturday, we are doing the right things. We just need to complete it on Sunday to have a chance to win more races."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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