News & Media


Roush Fenway drivers upbeat after Bristol rallies

March 21, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Considering what transpired between the start of Sunday's Jeff Byrd 500 and the finish, the stable of Roush Fenway Racing drivers could not have left Bristol Motor Speedway a whole lot more pleased.

A little more pleased perhaps, if Carl Edwards, who finished second, could have managed to get past eventual race winner Kyle Busch in the closing laps.

"When you're running poorly, you'll take anything you can get. I guess we're just so greedy that when you're running well, you want to win every race, you want to lead the most laps, you want to sit on every pole."

--CARL EDWARDS

But all in all, with three drivers finishing in the top eight, it was a good day for Roush Fenway. Edwards was the best of the bunch again, backing up his win two weeks ago in Las Vegas with a runner-up finish that moved him into second overall in the points standings, just one behind leader Kurt Busch.

"It's no fun to run second," said Edwards, who also finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500. "But when I look at the big picture, the fact that I'm sitting here frustrated about a second-place run, being one point out of the lead, that's a huge jump from a year ago. When you're running poorly, you'll take anything you can get. I guess we're just so greedy that when you're running well, you want to win every race, you want to lead the most laps, you want to sit on every pole.

"But our performance has been great. It's just been amazing. It's been a huge turnaround from last year [at this point in the season], so I've got to keep this in perspective. By the time Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolls around and we're gearing up for [next Sunday's race in] California, I'm sure I'll be all right."

Edwards started on the pole Sunday, but faded to 12th by Lap 75. It took him another 100 laps before he returned to the top 10, where he then remained for the rest of the day.

Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, started 11th and spent a large portion of the day running between 15th and 17th before making a charge toward the front over the final 50 laps. Greg Biffle started second, fell to 13th by Lap 75, dropped to 17th at one point and then got as high as third over the final 150 laps before finishing eighth. David Ragan started fifth and dropped as low as 20th before settling for 16th.

"My car actually took off way better than I expected," said Kenseth, who jumped three spots in the points standings to 13th. "We had been terrible all weekend really, except for one lap of qualifying that was pretty good. But we had been awful. My car started off closer than what I expected, and then we just kept making small adjustments all day."

Both Edwards and Kenseth said their troubles early to mid-race were not necessarily related to the NASCAR-mandated switch to a new right-front tire after qualifying.

"Actually, all of my tires that were on the car were really consistent and we didn't have any issues," Kenseth said. "But it's true we didn't really know what we had going in. In [Saturday's] final practice, some guys had old tires on at times and some guys had new ones. You would see some guys go blowing by you that you didn't figure on blowing by you, but you just had to figure that it was going to be different in the race when we were all on the same tires."

Edwards did say that adjustments to his No. 99 Ford made necessary by the new tire were at least partly related to why he fell back briefly Sunday before finishing strong.

"We never ran the old tire in that second [Saturday] practice, so I think that's why we were 33rd or 34th on the board," Edwards said. "So it looked bad, but I thought we were pretty good. Once we made two or three runs on that tire, I felt like we were pretty competitive.

"At the beginning of the race, though, we weren't very good. We went backward pretty quick and [crew chief] Bob [Osborne] made some pretty large changes with the car. We didn't think we were going to be struggling as much as we did when the race started and it was a little bit more of a curveball than we thought."

In the end, though, Edwards was right there with a shot at hitting a fat fastball out of the park. When it came time to swing the bat, however, he hesitated and in that instant, though he didn't realize it at the time, his chance to win was gone.

That chance came during the first few laps following what turned out to be the final restart of the race after a caution that commenced on Lap 459 because of debris on the track. Edwards raced in close quarters with Busch for a few laps on the restart, but then fell back, figuring on getting another chance on a subsequent restart following yet another caution.

That chance never came, leaving Edwards to wonder if he should have been more aggressive and nudged Busch's No. 18 Toyota out of the way when he was close enough to him to do it.

"I thought I'd be able to race with him harder for those last 15-20 laps, but he took off and I was a little loose and I couldn't get back to him to race," Edwards said. "But while we were racing for the first couple of laps after the restart, it was a blast. If I would have known that was the only shot I was going to have, I might have raced a little harder."

He also knew that might have unintended dire consequences. So he didn't push the issue.

"We were running so hard at that point in the run, I didn't know that you could really bump a guy and just move him," Edwards said. "I thought, 'You might cause a big wreck; you might wreck yourself.' Jimmie was right behind us. I thought maybe it would give him the win, so I figured we'd let it calm down and we'd just race. It ended up the fastest car at the end won the race."