Best medicine for Jack Roush? Victory
LONG POND, Pa. -- You can't help but wonder what it was like in Jack Roush's room at the Mayo Clinic on Sunday afternoon.
Yelling at nurses to stop poking at him.
Barking at the television for four tires instead of two.
The range of emotions Roush must have felt as the final laps of this seemingly endless drama unfolded must have been awesome to witness, what with a spectacular crash, a near-30-minute red-flag stoppage, tense conversation between crew chiefs and drivers and repeated rain delays at Pocono Raceway.
The adrenaline rush Roush must have felt as Greg Biffle crossed the finish line, putting Ford back in Victory Lane for the first time since Jamie McMurray won at Talladega with four races remaining in the 2009 season -- and with the FR9 engine Roush helped design -- must have been exhilarating.
It had to be a welcome distraction for Roush, who suffered severe facial injuries during an emergency crash landing of his private airplane Tuesday in Wisconsin.
Winning is the best medicine for a lot of things, particularly after you've watched five of your Nationwide Series cars get totaled over the weekend at Iowa the day before.
And while Sunday won't heal Roush's injuries or get him back to the track any quicker, it had to make him feel better talking to Biffle over the phone in Victory Lane than to general manager Robbie Reiser about what went wrong -- again.
"Oh, yeah, he's excited," Biffle said after talking to his boss.
So was Biffle. He hadn't won since Dover in 2008, a string of 64 races. He was and still is on the bubble to make the Chase, in 11th place despite the victory.
But with five laps remaining, the person he thought of first was Roush.
"I started thinking this race is meant to be," Biffle said. "It's for Jack. Then I thought about spending all the time I've spent with the Ford people and how desperate they are to prove they've got great products. They've got great cars and trucks, but they want to improve on the racetrack, they want to win.
"But mostly Jack."
Maybe it was meant to be. Biffle hit the wall on the opening lap and thought he was in for a long day. He wasn't really a factor until gambles with two-tire stops around all the other craziness put him in position to win -- second behind Sam Hornish Jr. -- on the final restart with 21 laps to go.
But once Biffle took the lead with 19 laps remaining, nobody could touch him. It was as if somebody back in a hospital room was willing him to win.
"I just thought, 'This is going to be a great day if I can complete this,'" Biffle said.
He did, beating pole-sitter Tony Stewart by about five seconds.
But nothing topped the day more than the conversation with Roush, who watched the race with his daughter.
"In Victory Lane he told me he had never met somebody that had the will to win like I do," Biffle said. "He didn't say that because I drive for him. He said he feels that out of any drivers. That kind of put goose bumps on my arms."
The win had to put goose bumps on the arms of everybody at Roush Fenway Racing. This has been an unbelievably stressful year in which the organization has fallen out of the top three in the garage.
It has spent tireless hours trying to fix whatever was putting it so far behind. As Biffle reminded, this was about the 12th different suspension package it's tried in the past two years "to figure out why these guys are beating our butts."
"And it finally paid off," he said.
Nobody deserves more credit than Roush, who has given Reiser and company all the tools and resources to fix the problem. And unlike most owners, he's been rubbing elbows with engineers and mechanics to help.
Roush deserved Sunday's win even if he didn't have the dominant car most of the day.
"He's been through a lot this last week," said Carl Edwards, who made Roush's day even more complete with a third-place finish. "He needed that race today. He really needed that victory. That's pretty cool.
"I'm sure he's hard to handle for all those nurses right now in that hospital."
He's been through a lot this last week. He needed that race today. He really needed that victory. That's pretty cool.” -- Carl Edwards on Jack Roush
Those who spoke to the 68-year-old owner known as the "Cat in the Hat" because of his trademark fedoras could hear the excitement in his voice. They could feel through the phone what the win meant.
But Roush, as he told Reiser earlier this weekend, didn't want the focus on him. He wanted the focus on the team and whatever it took to move forward.
Sunday was a giant step forward.
"Typical Jack," Reiser said. "He's more worried about what we're doing than [we're worried about] what we're doing."
But one can only imagine what it was like being in Roush's hospital clothes, how he was able to sit relatively still in a bed instead of pacing pit road and barking out instructions from the pit box.
It was tough enough to watch the emotional ups and downs in person with nothing at stake.
It's hard to imagine a more nail-biting five-plus hours even with long stretches of sometimes boring green-flag runs. The strategy as crew chiefs and drivers tried to outthink Mother Nature was crazier than anything we've seen all season.
Jeff Gordon sounded more like a weatherman than a four-time champion as rain sprinkled on his car parked in the corner of Turn 2 during a red-flag situation that had nothing to do with the weather with 35 laps remaining.
You could hear how bad he wanted to end his winless streak as he radioed crew chief Steve Letarte that he didn't care whether he got a rain-shortened win.
Juan Pablo Montoya and crew chief Brian Pattie, who lost the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis a week ago on late-race tire strategy, sparred verbally over the radio.
"Screw you," Montoya told Pattie after his crew chief suggested he needed to go to Charlotte to practice pit stops.
At one point it seemed as though Hornish, who at one point was two laps down, might win because of pit strategy and weather.
Yes, it was a crazy day.
But when the wet dust settled, the person left with the biggest smile had to be Roush -- and Biffle put it there.
"It's been a helluva day," Biffle said.
Perhaps this will be what turns the organization around and makes RFR a contender in the Chase. The organization definitely pulled together in 2002, when Roush defied death after his plane landed upside down in a lake near Talladega Superspeedway.
Or maybe the corner already was turned and this simply was verification. As Biffle reminded, he could be looking at his second or third straight win with a little luck. Edwards is coming on strong, too, with four straight top-10s.
"As a team, we're on the right track," Biffle said.
That has to make Roush smile.
It's just too bad none of us got to see it.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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