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Jack Roush is suddenly the story of the weekend, and for all the good reasons...and not just the Biff's win

  Jack Roush, back in the saddle again, and back in victory lane....is there a championship now in his future? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Their backs were against the wall, and Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin pulled it off.
   "This was a go/no-go for us," Biffle said, moments after winning the Kansas 400, in dominating stretch charge. "Everyone's been asking us if we were out of it. But this team will never give up.
   "I still have a pain in my side about Dover. We had a sixth or seventh place car at Dover, not that good, but still...and then we got caught by that caution and wound up 19th.
   "If we hadn't gotten trapped by that caution, we'd be sitting here just 30 points out of the tour lead. We lost 50 points at Dover."
   Erwin knew this race would likely be a make-or-break for the team, which came into this race 140 points down just two races into the 10-race playoffs. Even Biffle, after Dover, seemed to be throwing in the towel.
   In fact this event, for Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth was also critical, to getting them back in the hunt.
   What helped all four teams was a weak run by Denny Hamlin, the tour leader at the start of the race, but not at the end. Hamlin struggled to finish 12th, and for much of the day it appeared he would finish even further back.
   Erwin said he and the team had been pointing toward this chase race for months, after making major improvements in their mid-track program. The team's struggles at Loudon, N.H. (17th) and Dover only made this 400 all the more important.
   The more poignant side to this whole story is of course team owner Jack Roush.
   Roush was finally back in victory lane too. When Biffle won at Pocono a few weeks back, Roush was in the hospital recovering from plane crash. "I was embarrassed not being at Pocono for Greg's win," Roush said. "But Greg went out of his way to bring that trophy up to the hospital."


  Greg Biffle raises a cloud of smoke in his victory burnout (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  This time, though, Roush was front and center.
   And so were all of his teams: "We had a whole bunch of cars that could have won the race. All of our Fords were good out there today."
   In fact the Roush operation itself might have been the big story of the weekend here. All the Roush drivers were impressive. At one point Roush had the top-four on the track, with Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.
   And at the end Roush had five of the top 10 finishers, with AJ Allmendinger taking 10th.
   The secret to the turnaround?
   Well, Roush's teams, particularly Biffle's and Edwards', have been steadily making progress at the tour's mid-size tracks, like this one, since early July, when they showed what they had at Chicagoland Speedway, where Biffle could easily have won.
    Is it the engine or the chassis? Or has NASCAR's rules crackdown lately made a difference?
   The new Ford engine certainly looks stout....though with all these motors cranking out close to 900 horsepower, just about everyone in the field has more motor than they can handle. So chassis tweaks are likely a big factor.
   The engine, though, has been a curious story. It was first okayed by NASCAR for Cup racing in January 2009; but Ford teams didn't really start putting it in their rotation full-time until this June.
   "This Ford FR9 engine has been an instant success for us," Roush said, noting "It's taken about 18 months to get all the parts and pieces that we were confident with.
   "This really just catches us up to date with what Chevrolet and Toyota and Dodge have had, in terms of cooling.
   "There hasn't been any great revelation the last few weeks with this engine.
   "We all turned a lot of RPM, and while some of the guys said the track would slow down and we'd drop some RPM, but Doug (Yates) and I both knew it wouldn't. So we were concerned how well it would hold up.
   "It did fine. But now I'm ready to take these engines back to the shop and do the 'death march' on them, run them until destruction."
   Biffle said he was confident early in the three-hour race that he could finish top-five here. "I just had to figure out how to win the race," he said.
   "Early on the car was good and I was afraid of them putting the wedge wrench in the car and change anything, because we might go the wrong way.
   "But eventually I said if we're going to win this thing, we've got to make a move.
   "Once we got our car adjusted we were off and set sail."
   Erwin said track position would be crucial down the stretch, even though this track has created an interesting, multi-groove personality as it has aged.
  "At the end, we knew it would be all about the guy who had the best air," Erwin said.
   And that meant it would be about who had the best pit stops. Erwin's crew came through on the final round of green flag stops, with about 40 miles to go.
  "The thing was really fast, and I didn't think even if there were more cautions that they would catch us," Biffle said.
     "I was even saving a little bit out there at the end too. I knew the caution was going to come out (actually it didn't), and that I would need some tire to race these guys.
    "So was Tony though. I think those guys were all saving for the end.
    "Thank goodness this one isn't a controversial win. Last time people were skeptical if I kept my speed up. I think I kept up plenty of speed this time."
    In fact Biffle's win here in the fall of 2008 was quite controversial. It was a gas mileage finish, and Biffle's car was running dry late, and he cut off the engine at the final caution, with just a couple of miles left, to make sure he had enough to finish.
   However rivals sped up under that yellow, passing Biffle, and for a while it appeared that Clint Bowyer might actually have been the winner, if NASCAR ruled that Biffle wasn't maintaining 'adequate' speed under the yellow.
   NASCAR let the win stand. But that didn't quiet the argument.
   In fact both Biffle and Erwin went to pains here Sunday evening to rehash their version of events that afternoon.

  Carl Edwards, Sunday stop, Kansas (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   For Edwards the day could have ended a little better than sixth. He had potentially winning car.
   "But we are (only) 53 points out of the lead now, and got some bonus points," Edwards said. "I was frustrated with sixth...but now I find out we are only 53 points out of the lead, so that is huge."
   Edwards, who considers this a home track, conceded "I had to be careful not to drive with my heart too much today. Seeing this crowd the size that it is, and how many came to support me, it is very difficult not to throw caution to the wind. But I knew I couldn't do that."
    Indeed the crowd was impressive, maybe 90,000, at a track that seats 82,000, and a crowd estimated by NASCAR at even 100,000.
   Of course next season this track will have two Sprint Cup weekends, and officials may have to worry about 'the California effect;' when that track added a second Cup weekend, attendance dropped precipitously.
   But of more immediate concern for Edwards and other championship contenders is that Jimmie Johnson has regained the tour points lead.
   "No, it doesn't bother me," Edwards insisted. "Those guys have run really well, and they deserve whatever they get.
    "There is nobody I would rather beat for the championship than Jimmie.
    "None of us want to see Jimmie win....but it sure would be cool to beat him.
    "I wish we were better off, but we have closed points on the leader, and all we have to do is go have a solid run in California and some luck at Martinsville and Talladega. 
    "Greg Biffle is in victory lane, and we had Fords running up front all day."
    Ford has taken it on the chin much of the season. Biffle's Pocono win August 1st broke a long winless streak.
   But now it looks like that marque has turned the corner.
    "Ford wanted us to step it up, and Greg did that today," Edwards said.
    And Kenseth was right there too all afternoon, in one of his best runs of the season. He wound up seventh, and still has an uphill battle to get back into the chase. He's 149 points down.
     "We were pretty good," Kenseth said. "We just didn't keep up with the track good enough at the end. I just couldn't keep up with them. I couldn't catch them, Jeff Gordon and Carl."
   The points? "I didn't even think about that," Kenseth said. "We are so far behind I haven't even thought of that, to be honest with you.
    "I am just happy we are more competitive."
    One of the big surprises of the weekend was Paul Menard, on the front row at the start, a contender all day, and eighth at the finish.  
    "Track position is important, and the further back you got, the worse your car handled," Menard said. "We got out front and were able to set sail."


  Another victory circle celebration for Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin. Maybe they're back on championship track (Photo:Getty Images for NASCAR)

Good for Ford & Roush-Fenway

Good for Ford & Roush-Fenway Racing to come out with a win with Greg Biffle. I'm feelin' Ford's Jamie Allison going public and pump up his Ford Chasers with an extra $100,000 incentive to win a race(s) during the Chase For The Cup. That was ballsy on Ford's part to Chevy, Toyota and Dodge. #48 team won the last 4 Cup Championship and seem like the only thing Chevy has done was create some slick Hollywood promo ads for the media, nada $$$ for the teams; publicly speaking.

Although, he's never been a favorite of mine, I was pulling for Paul Menard yesterday. That 2 tires pit strategy was working for a minute, put him in clean air and away he went. You wouldn't have noticed it by the ESPN bozos in the booth. When Menard took the lead and pulled away, it was nearly 5 laps later before Andy Petree noticed he was checking out. Impressive.

Also, NASCAR may not be as dumb as I think sometimes, at least with scheduling. Interesting that the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs had a bye this week with the Kansas race going on.

Next week, Fontana, but no NFL teams in the Southern California area and the San Diego Padres are out of the MLB playoffs.
Oct. 16, Carolina has a bye when everyone's coming "home".
Oct. 24, Martinsville not a NFL factor.
Oct. 31, Talladega has Alabama on a bye, Atlanta Falcons on a bye & Auburn is at Ole Miss.
Nov. 7, Dallas is at Green Bay.
Nov. 14, Arizona plays Seattle at home (Note: JJ will prolly take the Cup on this date anyway)
Nov. 21, Miami plays a Thursday night game against Chicago. Homestead is on Sunday.

So for a lot of the craziness I see with the 2011 Cup schedule, I'm sure there are some hidden agendas to get as many people in the seats as possible during race day.

good work! this is the kind

good work! this is the kind of program/counterprogramming analysis that i should be doing myself.
now, what about 2011? we need to check out next fall's scheduling. thanks for the prod.
oh, and paul and slugger have been a great package this season, and slugger has been just the right guy to get the best out of paul. wonder how the deal is going to work next season?
Re: ESPN Sunday. I was keeping track of the commercials, and i simply can't understand why they package them the way they do....now it may be bad luck that so much action/passing for the lead stuff happens while espn is in commercial break, but why can't espn snap right out of the 30-second ad it's in as quickly as possible if something happens? but no, they just keep rolling through the entire 3-minute ad deal. and why not at least a quarter-screen shot of the live action, when they're in commercial break. that's a no brainer....

Mike This is a little off


This is a little off subject, but I mentioned to you in a previous post about problems with Nascars appointment of 40 year General Motors Exe John Middlebrook! Now hear is an example of why!!!!!!

Here a 40 year General Motors Ex is going to make a key ruling on a 40 General Motors team owner that could decide who wins the Chase!

This is a total 'CONFLICT OF INTEREST" and Middlebrook needs to recuse himself from making the ruling!

Middlebrook I am sure is a fine person but its Nascar fault for appointing a person with such a onesided resume for a ruling post!

This gives teams that field General Motors cars the 'luxury" of having a unfair connection in major rulings that the other manufacturers dont have!

Puting people on boards and fiqureheard post in onething, but ruling on penalties is another!

i agree with you. i know JM,

i agree with you. i know JM, and he's a class act, to be sure. but nascar shouldnt be putting him in a spot like this. I think nascar should rethink this entire 'judicial' system it has; it may have worked, in some sense, for a while, and george silbermann has done a very good job of putting together the 'new' appeals system. still, the whole thing works now only as an in-house, or inside-the-beltway, game, as long as the insiders in the sport agree to go along with it; the problem of course is the sport itself today has been reaching out to a wider, less hardcore audience, which might not buy into this 'old-boy' game.
soooo....how would you set up an appeals system for a situation like RC and Clint have to deal with? I'm thinking i agree with jack roush about a jury of 'peers.' after all, it the 'peers' who have to race against them, and it's the 'peers' who have to deal with all the rules themselves too.

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