Roush tests at Michigan after hitting 'low point'
July 23, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
It was the low point in the first half of the year for Roush Fenway Racing. In this year's June visit to Michigan International Speedway, the three-team organization failed to put a driver in the top-10 for the first time since the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
That's one of the reasons the team, with drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., made the trip back to the Irish Hills this week for a two-day test session at the 2-mile track.
Biffle finished 20th in the Quicken Loans 400, Edwards was 22nd and Stenhouse 27th. For an organization that has 13 Sprint Cup victories at the track, it was embarrassing.
"That was really the low point for us in a number of ways," Edwards said during a break in testing Tuesday. "We didn't expect to come here and perform that poorly."
"We truly believed we would come here and this was going to be a track where we could turn things around."
Instead, he said, the results showed the team two things: that there are areas where Roush Fenway is still behind, and that "you can't rely on past performance."
"My average finish might be great here, but that doesn’t matter now," he said.
Edwards is enjoying a solid season in spite of the organization's struggles, with wins at Bristol and Sonoma. He is sixth in points and could all but lock up a spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a solid finish this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Biffle currently resides right on the line for the Chase cutoff in 16th. A win in any of the next seven races would go a long way toward easing his team's Chase concerns.
The odds for Stenhouse Jr. are much longer. The former Nationwide Series champion has yet to win at the Cup level and his sophomore season has been less than memorable. His ninth-place finish two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was only his fourth top-10 of the season, and his first since finishing 10th at Talladega in early May. He heads to Indianapolis 28th in the points standings.
Although Ford teams have won the last four Sprint Cup races, only one -- Edwards' win at Sonoma -- has come from the Roush Fenway camp.
Brad Keselowski, driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Ford, has two of the wins, while Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports) won at Daytona earlier this month.
"You look at the Penske cars and they are beating the Chevrolets every week," Biffle said. "It's pretty obvious that we need to catch up. That is why we are here testing … and we are finding some of that speed.
"We just need to continue to work hard and narrow in on it and see if we can close that gap to the fast Penske cars."
While the Penske teams of Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano might be setting the standard for Ford at this point in the season, Edwards says their success is helpful to each of the Ford organizations.
"That is really a gift to us, I believe,” Edwards said of the rival group's success, "because it rules out some of the things we could blame our struggles on.
"It rules out the Ford Fusion body; it is obviously a great body and works well in the air. It rules out our engines, because we have the same engines. Those are two giant pieces we don't have to worry about.
"We have a few things we have to work on. Really, we have found a couple of things recently that are going to be good. We plan on coming back and being better."