Struggling Roush trio showing signs of rebound
Last year, all five Roush Racing cars made the Chase for the Nextel Cup playoffs. This year, three of the five teams aren't even within shouting distance.
While Matt Kenseth has continued his upward trend from late last season and Mark Martin remains a fixture among the top 10, Carl Edwards, last year's sensation, Greg Biffle, runner-up to the title, and Jamie McMurray, the new addition, all toil outside the top 20.
Last week, team owner Jack Roush announced a crew chief shakeup in hopes of spurring a resurgence. McMurray and the No. 26 team will take on Edwards' crew chief, Bob Osborne, while his former crew chief, longtime Roush chief Jimmy Fennig, will move to head up the Busch programs. Edwards and the No. 99 team will be chiefed by Wally Brown.
The move takes Fennig out of the Cup garage, though.
"Losing Jimmy is going to be a little bit of a distraction, probably for all the teams, because he's been here a long time and he has a lot of information," Biffle said.
Still, Roush vet Martin is comfortable following Roush's lead.
"I've learned from experience that whenever I don't completely understand something, if I ever have a chance to sit down and listen to Jack's rationalization of what has taken place, it makes a lot more sense," Martin said. "I know that things are going to work out very well at the 99 [Edwards}. I know that things will work out very well at the 26 [McMurray]."
To a man, McMurray (ranked 21st), Edwards (22nd) and Biffle (23rd) blame bad luck over substantial breakdowns within the teams.
"Everywhere we've been we've run well," Biffle said. "We ran well at Martinsville, you know, and I made a mistake and got us in trouble. We've run well at California. We've run well at Texas. We've run well everywhere. So, our cars are fast, we're doing things right on pit road, we're calling the race like we need to, we feel like we're doing everything right. So we know a few things have happened.
"We focused on what our few mistakes have been and try not to make those mistakes and try and be better about ourselves and what we're doing. I think we're going to be OK. We're on track; we just need to get to the end of the race. We've had this trouble before in the past, and we know what to do."
Though the season is still young, battling out of a hole like the Roush trio are in is not fun when the season hits its halfway mark. So the pressure is on to continue running well but, most important, to be there at the end to take a checkered flag -- even if they're not the first one to take it.
"We're talking about that now, and we were talking about that at Texas," Biffle said. "We felt like that was going to be our day to get ourselves back into 15th in points, maybe 14th, and really gain on the leaders, and unfortunately we didn't, in a big way. We think we can do it here [in Phoenix]. We think we can come here and run in the top five, and that's what we need to do. We need to focus on that, and we feel like we can do that."
That feeling is somewhat bolstered by pole-qualifying positions. Biffle will start on the outside of the first row. Edwards will start fifth. McMurray is farther back at 26th.
"We need anything we can get, man," Edwards said. "Our Office Depot team has just had terrible luck. If we can just be running at the end of this race, we're going to be in the top 10 and that'll be a great day."
Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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