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Penske's Kurt Busch takes the Kansas 400 pole, but Ford's Jack Roush has everything going his way this spring -- So what's the trick? And what's up with Kyle Busch and Richard Childress?

  First pole in a year for Dodge's Kurt Busch (174.752 mph). Is the Roger Penske operation finally turning the corner? It's been over a year since Busch and Penske last won a Cup event. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
Tony Stewart is no whiner.
   And he's certainly not one to mealy mouth around an issue. When he's got a point to make, he makes it, clear and simple.

   It's shaping up to be another Jack Roush weekend, and that's pretty much the way the whole season has gone, right from that Trevor Bayne over Carl Edwards and David Ragan finish at Daytona….
   Here Sunday's 400-miler could easily be Edwards versus teammate Greg Biffle, fast but hard luck so far this year.
   Now Clint Bowyer, home state favorite, might have something to say about things. But Bowyer, after a hot run from California through Dover, was surprisingly off his game at Charlotte, and his Richard Childress teammates also look to be a little off their game too right now, Kevin Harvick's 600 win notwithstanding.
   But Childress and Kyle Busch might have more on their plates Sunday morning at Kansas Speedway than just pre-race briefings. The two apparently got into an altercation following Saturday's Truck race here, with Childress reportedly punching Busch several times. NASCAR officials are looking into the incident. Busch and Childress' driver Joey Coulter battled hard for fifth in the Truck race, Coulter moving Busch for the spot late, and Busch apparently taking offense at that and tapping Coulter's Truck on the cool-down lap. The incident continued into the NASCAR garage where Childress reportedly confronted Busch. Neither team had any immediate comment over the flap, which could have repercussions, if NASCAR follows its actions in a similar incident involving Robby Gordon earlier this year, and in light of Busch being on probation for a Darlington incident with Harvick.
   What effect all that might have on Sunday's STP 400 remains to be seen.
   Already Roush was figured to have a shot at sweeping this race 1-2-3-4.
   That, of course, is a far cry from the way things were going in the Ford camp just a year ago.



Ford's Jack Roush has the NASCAR world on a string this spring. So what's the secret? Since early April Roush men have dominated the stock car racing playing fields
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

What's the difference for Roush and Ford?
   Chevy's Stewart says he knows, and it's under the hood:
   "I think Ford definitely has an advantage right now over the whole field.  They've been working on this motor (the new FR9) for a long time… and we're still on about a six-year old model. 
    "I'm really proud of Hendrick's engine department (Stewart gets his motors from Rick Hendrick). They've been fighting a lot, and have been really working hard to keep us where we're at. 
    "(But) I think you're bringing a knife to a gun fight right now. 
     "I can't wait for one of these NASCAR deals after the race where they chassis-dyno some cars and see where they're at, because I think that will tell the tale."


Chevy's Tony Stewart wants NASCAR to look under the hoods of all those Jack Roush Fords. That, Stewart says, is where his rivals have such an edge
. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Roush himself dismisses complaints: "There was a time -- chassis and engine both – you'd have a trick and say 'Man, you've got the steered rear axle, or you've got the coil-bound front spring, or you've got the higher (engine) intake port, or you've got a camshaft with a bigger diameter quill that was stiffer…. 
    "You'd have a trick, and until everybody else found out about your trick, you could use that to your advantage.
    "But today there are no tricks in this business.  It's hard work. 
    "You go to a place like Daytona, and you have the result we did this year…the biggest reason we were able to have the dominance there with all of our Fords is the cooling system worked better. 
    "It's the cooling system performance…it's the aero-performance…it's the brakes…it's the kinematics of the suspension. 
     "All of those things have got to be right. And it's not the matter of finding a trick, because with all the inspectors they've got today, they won't let you have a trick. It's just a matter of doing the complete job better than everybody else. And once you get that going for you, you can ride it for awhile."



Greg Biffle (L) and crew chief Greg Erwin have had some of the sport's fastest cars. Now if they just add luck to the equation.... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Some rivals have been complaining that perhaps Roush has discovered a new chassis trick that allows the front end to stick better to the track, that it may flex better, improving aerodynamics into the corners by providing more downforce at the critical corner-entry.
    Some, like Stewart, are suspicious that the new Ford engine is simply more powerful than Ford teams are willing to let on.
    From pit road it appears both points are advantage-Roush.
   Consider Edwards' romp in the All-Star race (and consider Greg Biffle's dominance too, in that event and in the 600). Fords seemed faster into the corners, and faster off the corners.
   Add that to the seemingly sudden malaise that Chevy rivals have sunk into, and it does appear a dynamic has changed on the Sprint Cup tour.
   If so, that should be most easily seen here in how well Jimmie Johnson does Sunday afternoon. And Johnson, who blew an engine in the Charlotte 600, and crew chief Chad Knaus both were less than pleased with how things went here Saturday.
   This track, one of the eight 1-1/2-mile tracks on the stock car circuit, may be the trickiest, Biffle says, "because it's a little bit less banking, it drives a little flatter, and there's a little more technique involved.  That's a little more difficult."
    And if Roush teams can do as well as they did at Charlotte, where Roush hasn't won a points race in something like nine years, well, that bodes ill for rivals this weekend.
  It does appear some dynamic has changed on the tour over the past two months, perhaps beginning at Texas in early April.
   That's when Ford's Matt Kenseth suddenly charged into the picture. That afternoon Roush men took four of the top seven spots.
   And that could be the way it plays out here too.


Goodyear's black magic has kept NASCAR crews guessing all spring. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

 A wild card could be tires.
   While on Sunday nights after a race there has been little complaining about tires, pre-race many times this season crews fret about the tweaks Goodyear keeps making. At virtually every track this season Goodyear has brought a slightly different tire design than used last season.
   That, plus the weekend's 90-plus temperatures, could make for interesting strategy. And Howard Comstock, Dodge's at-track engineering boss, says pit road decisions could again be key to what happens Sunday.
    "We haven't seen any tire issues, so tire wear should be fine," Comstock says. "Whether teams can find grip or not is the question.
   "If the temperature is in the 90s, the track temperature will probably be in the 130s.  Call it greasy, slippery or whatever, imagine yourself driving on a road where you have little patches of ice here and there.  You hit one of those little patches, and your car wants to jerk.  It scares you. That's how I see this track."
   But Comstock points out "Track position here is everything.  If you're in a hole in Sunday's race, teams will forego four tires and take two to get themselves back toward the front of the field.  At the end of the race, two tires will certainly be an option for a lot of teams."
    Will four tires be any edge on this relatively flat track? Can a driver make just two tires work?
    Just what's going on behind the scenes in Akron isn't clear, why all the changes. But crews and drivers frequently complain that the tweaks have kept them guessing.
    Here, for example, drivers will have the same left-side/right-side tire combination used at California in March (Kevin Harvick beat Jimmie Johnson that afternoon, and Ford teams didn't lead a single lap). This left-side was used here last fall, but the right-side has a new construction.
    Biffle's take:
   "What's changed in our sport, about five years ago, if you had too much camber in the right-front, the car is too tight, and if you were too hard on the right-front tire, it would blow out.  You would have problems or issues. So the driver had more responsibility. 
    "We cannot make it to where it is absolutely childproof inside that car, where you can do anything you want and nothing is going to happen. 
     "I understand we painted Goodyear into a corner -- People don't want to see on TV a Goodyear tire blowing out.  The public says 'Oh, that tire failed…'
      "Well, it's not always the tire's problem.
     "They don't want tires blowing out.  It's a safety issue.  We can't just say 'Okay, if you drive too hard, your right-front tire is going to blow out and you're going in the fence at 200 mph.' 
     "There is a balance there.  (And) at some of these tracks we're getting a softer tire (for more grip)."
    At Charlotte, though, the track was a one-groove track most of those two weeks, making passing difficult, and providing a premium for clean air.
    "We’ve always been aero-tight," Biffle says. "But the cars are so sensitive now, and we're so close to the same speed, that when you get within five or four car lengths of someone, you can't really get any closer. Nobody is planning it that way; it's just evolution."


     Jack Roush (R) and Matt Kenseth: Roush teams began their turnaround last summer, but it was Kenseth's romp at Texas in April that showed Roush men have now taken it all to another level. And rivals are still trying to guess the Roush secret. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

i'am a hvac installer and

i'am a hvac installer and this week i was hired to do work at fords race tech center. while working i pretty much had free rome of the place. and while working i moved into a locked room to install a vent and thats when i learned the secret ford is hiding its brilliant i can't believe no one else has thought of it. what i found is that the fr9 engine turns counter clockwise which in turn when the driver mashes the accelerator pedal instead of the torque lifting the left front of the car it pushes down on the left front which allows the cars to have more front grip in the turns that lets the drivers mash the gas in the turns and pull away from the Chevy dodge & yotas. the cooling is apparently stolen from NASA it was designed by NASA to cool the space shuttle on takeoff and re-entry and takes drag off the body to streamline it so it can climb into space. [ps I'm going back this week and i should be able to get some info on the super-pill ford has gotten from the Russians that makes their drivers so awesome]

Gosh, i thought it was

Gosh, i thought it was something new. that's stuff from the Junior Johnson Darrell Waltrip Neil Bonnett days. but then sometimes it's the old stuff that works, because everyone else has forgotten about it.

Mike What have I been telling


What have I been telling you!!!!!

Ford "has not" won as many races as Chevy this yearand all of a sudden, all these annoucers and press who say that Nascar is a 'driver sport" start turning into engine gurus and 'BANDSTAND FORDS FIRST NEW ENGINE SINCE 1991!!!! Why dont say they have better teams? Leave the engine alone!!!! Where were you Darrell Waltrip when Ford and Dodge were getting lapped all these years if you were wanting fairness?

Let see after Jeff Gordon and Dale Sr, dominated the ninties Nascar gives them in 1997 a new SB2 Engine! Then in 2007 after total domination of point titles, Daytona 500s and not to mention winning 16 out of 18 races at Talledaga they get a another new engine the RO7! You heard it here first! Giving new engines to cars that already dominated show Nascars Favoritism with GM! Bet not many fans know about this!!!!but "they all" know about Fords FR9 dont they?

Not once in Jimmy Johnsons total domination of 5 point titles in a row has FOX, or ESPN used a Chevy engine and an advantage!!!! Oh I forgot they just have "better teams" and drivers! Bull!!!!

You can go back to BiLL Elliot and see all he had to put up with when he started winning, nothing changes, Ford drivers start to dominate its always a car advantage, but the "status quo" Chevy it alway the drivers!Nothing changes!

Dont Ford or Dodge or Toyota have the rights to rule like Chevy with out penalty?

remember buddy it was chevy

remember buddy it was chevy that got ford & dodge out of nascar racing in the 60's because ford & dodge where dominate then they threw all of their aftermarket[none factory] resources at it to get their cars running up front. ford came back in the 80's 20 years out but just remember chevy has 675 wins total ford has 603 just 72 less and after be'ing out 20 years is pretty awsome

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