News & Media

Roush Fenway drivers look over their shoulders

June 04, 2012, Viv Bernstein, Special to NASCAR.COM,

DOVER, Del. -- Biffle, Kenseth still top standings but feel heat from Hendrick Motorsports teams

The top of the Sprint Cup standings didn't change with Sunday's FedEx 400. But the tenor of the points race has shifted.

Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth arrived at Dover International Speedway first and second in the standings and leave in the same positions. And yet is there any doubt about which is the No. 1 team in NASCAR right now?

"I'm feeling good that we're leading the points, but not feeling so hot about that run right there."


Jimmie Johnson cruised to victory, his second win in three races and third in four if you include the non-points Sprint All-Star Race. Add Kasey Kahne's victory in the Coca-Cola 600, and Hendrick Motorsports has four consecutive wins.

Roush Fenway Racing has two victories the entire season. All of which means the Roush Fenway drivers are going to have to step up to maintain their place.

"Certainly we know we have got some work to do,'' Kenseth said after finishing third on Sunday. "I don't think anyone could run with the 24 [Jeff Gordon] and the 48 [Johnson Sunday]. They seemed to me, anyway, that they were just in a league of their own, and we had some work to do."

Gordon might have had the strongest car in the field -- he was one of the few to pass Johnson on a green-flag run before a loose wheel cost him track position and he finished 13th. The other Hendrick drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kahne, were fourth and ninth, respectively.

By comparison, Kenseth finished third, Biffle 11th and Carl Edwards 26th for Roush Fenway. Edwards crashed into the wall midway through the race when his right front tire went flat and dropped from 10th to 12th in the standings, falling out of the Chase field for now. (Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman would get the wild-card spots based on wins if the Chase began today).

Meanwhile, Biffle's showing was hardly what he expected. He had qualified seventh at a track where he has two career victories.

"Struggled with the car all day,'' he said. "We made some changes overnight from Saturday to Sunday. Maybe we shouldn't have done that. But we're learning, and we're going to have days like this. We finished 11th. We'll keep digging and come back next week."

Despite the finish, Biffle maintained his points lead for an 11th consecutive week. He took over first after a third-place finish in March at Las Vegas.

"I'm feeling good that we're leading the points, but not feeling so hot about that run right there,'' he said. "We got better cars that that. We run better than that here. That kind of hurts a little bit. We'll see what we did wrong and try and be better next time."

Biffle won in April at Texas but since then has had three top-five performances and three finishes outside the top 10. Compare that to Johnson, who is making it clear he will be the favorite to take home a sixth career championship.

Not that Johnson is celebrating just yet.

"The last month, if you take the points and look at who is doing what, we have got to be the top guy, if not top two guys in collecting points,'' said Johnson, who is fifth in the standings behind Biffle, Kenseth, Earnhardt and Denny Hamlin. "So we can look at that mark through the regular season and move it around and work up the case to say anybody is the favorite. But none of that matters until we go to Chicago, the first race [of the Chase]. ... We need to be in the top 10 or the wild-card spot, and then all that matters is the final 10."

Hard to imagine Johnson falling out of the top 10 the way the team is performing lately. Even if it did, Johnson might have secured the wild-card spot with his second victory of the season.

Biffle found it mildly amusing that Johnson was somehow portrayed in the pre-race broadcast as struggling after his 11th place finish May 27 at Charlotte. Remember, Johnson had one of the dominant cars in the Coca-Cola 600 and might have won if not for a pit-road miscue late in the race. Kahne won instead.

"What I think was kind of humorous when I watched the pre-race broadcast and it was like, 'The 48, they had such a terrible race, are they ever going to be able to rebound after what happened to 'em in Charlotte?''' Biffle said. "They finished 11th in Charlotte. It was kind of funny, they made a big deal about it and he comes here and wins. You know, we'll work on our stuff and see if we can catch up."

Because as Biffle knows, the driver in fifth place in the standings is the one to beat.