Roush seeking another first at Indy
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jack Roush can hardly wait until Sunday.
Heading into the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, the owner of Roush Racing's five-car Nextel Cup juggernaut likes his chances of winning the event he considers second only to the Daytona 500 in prestige.
"I would think the odds of our winning at Indy are bigger than they were at Pocono, and we won both races at Pocono," Roush said Friday as his teams prepared for the start of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Those victories, by Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, were Roush's first at the track in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. They gave the elite team, winner of the last two series championships, nine victories in 20 races this season -- more than any other team.
Now, reigning Cup champion Busch, Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and longtime Roush star Mark Martin have the opportunity to give the boss another team first with a victory at the famed Brickyard.
It would be another coup for Roush, who waited 16 years for his first Cup title and has gone 11 years without winning at Indy.
"The race in front of you always looks the biggest, and it needs to be," Roush said. "But, when you stand back from it, you realize this is the second-biggest event of the year, after Daytona. Everything after Indy pales in comparison.
"A win here would be huge for us. This place is all about history. You can't step through those hallowed gates without feeling a sense of history and the names that have won here. There's a real presence when you get here."
Friday turned into a lost day for the Roush team and the rest of the Cup competitors when rain washed out both scheduled practices. The revised schedule for Saturday has the teams practicing for two hours in the morning, with qualifying moved from 10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
Roush's team has had some chances to win since NASCAR's top series came to Indy in 1994.
Martin has finished in the top 10 in seven of his 11 Indy starts with a best of second to four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon in 1998. Kenseth ran second to Kevin Harvick in 2003. Busch has finished in the top 10 in three of his four starts here. Biffle, the series leader this year with five victories, finished sixth last year in his second Indy race.
Edwards, in his first full season in Cup, has no Brickyard history, but he had never seen Pocono before winning there in June and already has two victories this year.
This is supposed to be Martin's final season in Cup. Roush has signed Jamie McMurray to drive the No. 6 Ford in 2007, but McMurray can't get out of his contract with Chip Ganassi for next season. So, Roush has pleaded with Martin to put off his retirement for a year if McMurray is not freed up.
But, knowing it might be his last chance, Martin, who came to NASCAR with Roush in 1988, would love to give his longtime friend and boss that first Indy win.
"That would be pretty special," Martin said. "Indianapolis is a racetrack with a lot of history, and we'd love to go win one there this weekend and add another first to Jack's record."
More important, though, Martin would like another strong run to solidify his position in the top 10 with only six races remaining until the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship begins. Only the top 10 drivers and anyone else within 400 points of the leader after the 26th race of the season will be eligible to run for the championship over the final 10 races.
"We've had some pretty good runs lately and we've finally put some breathing room between us and 10th place, which is something that we wanted to do," said Martin, seventh in the standings. "We would prefer to be locked into that top 10 down the stretch, rather than having to fight our way in tooth and nail like we did last year.
"Hopefully, that way we can put all our emphasis on those last 10 races and going after that championship."
It appears neither Biffle nor Busch needs to worry about remaining in the top 10, with Biffle third in the points and Busch fifth. Edwards is on the cusp in 12th, trailing series leader Jimmie Johnson by 439 points, but only 12 behind 10th-place Dale Jarrett.
Kenseth is the only Roush driver who appears to be out the running for the Chase. The 2003 series champion is 17th, 640 points behind Johnson and 213 out of 10th.
What Kenseth -- like Martin seeking his first win of the season -- is looking for now is a strong finish to gain some momentum heading into 2006.
"Indy is a special place, for sure," Kenseth said. "It has so much history that it's really cool to be able to race there. We've had some good finishes there in the last few years."
That all adds up to a lot of incentives for the Roush drivers to win at the speedway.
"I like our chances,'' Roush said. "Legitimately, we've got five opportunities to win on Sunday."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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