HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Roush Racing fell just short of its attempt to three-peat as NASCAR Nextel Cup champions, and yet there was Roush driver Greg Biffle celebrating in Victory Lane again.
But team owner Jack Roush wasn't drowning his sorrows afterward. He was too busy counting the blessings that led to his 2003 championship with Matt Kenseth and his 2004 championship with Kurt Busch. Plus, there was also the small matter of how strong the future looked: Roush posted its first-ever 1-2-3-4 finish in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Following Biffle in his No. 16 Ford was Mark Martin, who finished second in his No. 6 Ford, Kenseth, who finished third in his No. 17 Ford, and Edwards, who finished fourth in his No. 99. Only Roush's No. 97 Ford failed to join the parade, but its primary driver, Busch, is on suspension.
"We've had a great year," Roush said. "The talent that's around and the ability that's around to make the decision of whether to take two tires or four -- nobody has got better minds working on their cars and nobody's got better drivers for our cars than we've got. It's awesome and I'm just glad to hang with them. No, I'm not disappointed."
Roush was elated when the 2005 Chase for the Nextel Cup began. The 10-driver field would be graced by all five of his racers and, as he liked to joke, that gave him a 50 percent shot to win.
Each of his drivers had difficulty along the way, though. Busch wrecked in the very first Chase race. Kenseth wrecked a couple of races into the playoffs. There was a lugnut issue Biffle experienced at Texas, which essentially ended his chances. Edwards and Martin were the more consistent of the Roush five, but their inability to match Stewart's torrid pace proved insufficient.
"Last year, surely the champion didn't score as many points as Tony did this year," Martin noted. "I don't know, but I'd have to say that 19 out of 21 races being in the top 10, you're not going to beat that. Those guys were unbelievable."
Still, Roush remains a force. If finishing in the top four spots doesn't convince you of that, just consider how young some of these overachieving teams are.
"This is a fairly young 16 team and a very young 99 team," Roush said. "The 17 team is still, by Mark's standards, fairly young. We've got a lot of time for a lot of championships and these guys are going to go get them as long as I can keep them in good cars."
The headliner of that youth movement, right now, is the youngest of them all. Edwards managed to finish tied for second in the points with Biffle in just his first full season of Cup racing. He also managed four victories.
"He's magic," Martin said of the young driver. "The guy is pretty incredible."
Martin, the senior member of the Roush stable, will stay on for one more season and then he, too, will make way for another infusion of youth. Also, Busch is leaving the No. 97 team to race for Penske with Jamie McMurray moving over from Ganassi Racing to fill his seat.
It's an all-star cast that Roush and Co. say is a good bet to reclaim the Nextel Cup next year.
"I think that once you get in, anything less than winning it is somewhat a disappointment," Kenseth said. " … A couple of races we didn't run that good, but overall we ran pretty good and that gives us some hope for next year."
Added Edwards: "I'm having a good time and that's what it's all about. We'll be back next year. If we can maintain the same amount of luck, we'll be all right. We're going to have a good time next year. I can't wait."
Rupen Fofaria is a freelance writer living in Chicago and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.