Commentary

Roush team demonstrated fine line

Updated: March 8, 2011, 3:20 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Carl Edwards admits his car wasn't as fast as Tony Stewart's machine on Sunday at Las Vegas, but it's possible Edwards didn't even have the fastest car in the Roush Fenway Racing stable.

It takes more than a fast car to win Sprint Cup races, which is no secret. But Edwards' victory clearly illustrated the fine line between winning a race and having a bad day, even among teammates.

Ask team owner Jack Roush. He watched Matt Kenseth run up front before cutting a tire and falling to the back of the field. Kenseth recovered to finish 11th.

And Roush thought Greg Biffle and the No. 16 Ford had a car capable of winning.

[+] EnlargeGreg Biffle & Matt Kenseth
HHP ImagesGreg Biffle, left, and Matt Kenseth both had to fight back from problems encountered at Las Vegas.

"Early in the race, it looked like the 16 was every bit the measure of [Edwards' car]," Roush said after Edwards won.

Biffle led twice early in the race for a total of 11 laps, but he became the most visible victim so far of the new fueling system implemented this season.

Getting all the fuel in the tank in a timely fashion is a challenge for all the teams, but Biffle didn't see it that way after a slow stop Sunday.

"We can't have this all season," Biffle said on his radio. "We've gotta get a better fuel can. We can't be waiting for fuel like this. None of the other cars are."

It only got worse from there. All the fuel wasn't in the tank and Biffle ran dry on Lap 147.

"Nice one guys, nice," Biffle said. "Everybody is beating us on pit road and we're not getting it full. Nice."

Biffle finished 28th with a fast car, so it's easy to understand his frustration.

"I didn't hear what Greg said," Roush said Sunday. "We'll have plenty of time to talk about it. We'll get all that calmed down. And we'll look at what happened and try to put it all together.''

Biffle won't be the last victim on the fueling woes with the new cans, which eliminated the catch-can man.

"This new fuel system is really a problem,'' Roush said. "It doesn't fill consistently from the bottom of the tank. We can get the first gallon or two out of the cans -- two gallons a second. I'm not sure, but it's probably twice that long to get the last two gallons out.

"As the gas man, the crew chief, the jack man, everyone that's got to have a finger in this thing, there's a learning curve that's not perfect. It takes us longer to exchange the cans and we weren't as slick as we should have been."

Pit practice will be busy for all the teams during the off week, but maybe a little busier for Biffle's crew.


Speaking of the off week, what's the big deal? Some people on Twitter were complaining about it Monday, saying NASCAR will lose the momentum it gained after three strong races with some surprising results.

Chill out, folks. One off week won't kill the momentum. It's not a month. NASCAR needs more off weekends, not fewer. Cup races take place 38 of 41 weekends from February through November. Also, the Camping World Truck Series gets the spotlight this weekend with a race at Darlington.

And NASCAR won't have an off weekend this early in the year next season. The Daytona 500 is moving one week later in February.

One reason NASCAR has scheduled an off weekend in March is weather concerns, unless Cup spent three consecutive weekends on the West Coast. Racing in early March in places like Bristol or Martinsville can be dicey, and one extra week can make a difference.

But NASCAR's booming start to 2011 won't suffer by taking a week off. If anything, it will make fans hungrier to see what the next race brings.


You have to feel for Brian Keselowski. Two weeks in a row, only 44 cars showed up to attempt to qualify for the Cup race, and two weeks in a row Brian was the one driver who failed to make the show.

Brian and his dad, Bob, could have pocketed the money their team made from the Daytona 500 ($273,663) and stayed back East, waiting a few weeks before attempting to qualify at Bristol.

But the Keselowskis are racers. They worked 24 hours a day after Daytona to repair the car in time to make the long trip to Phoenix. After failing to qualify there, they tried again in Vegas, but came up short.

Brian and Bob deserved better. And if they had made it in either race, I'm betting they would have done all they could to run as many laps as possible.


Things are getting a little scary for Jeff Burton. The No. 31 Chevy is 34th in owner points. After the next two races -- Bristol and Fontana -- any team outside the top 35 has to qualify based on time.

If only 44 or 45 cars continue to show up at each event, missing the race isn't a big risk. But no team wants to use extra practice time in qualifying trim. And there's always the fear of a spinout in qualifying.

Terry Blount is a senior writer 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 terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter