Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roush Rewind: Samsung Mobile 500

Persistent rains on Sunday forced the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to be postponed until Monday. The Roush Fenway Racing drivers looked strong during the race on Monday, but late race incidents left two of them with finishes that could have been better.

Carl Edwards qualified 20th in the No. 99 Scotts Turf Builder Ford and fought handling issues much of the race. Edwards had his hands full with a loose racecar in the early going. A competition caution came out on lap 25 so teams could check for tire wear due to the rain from the day before washing all the rubber from the track’s surface. Edwards used this caution to pit for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment and restarted 14th. He reported that the handling had improved slightly, but that the car was still loose off, but he had worked his way to up to 9th by the time the next caution came out. Edwards had a quick pit stop under that caution, which had him sitting 4th for the restart. He quickly settled into the top ten, running 6th. Caution came out again shortly afterward, and Edwards pitted once again. During that cycle of stops, Edwards took four tires, while some teams opted for only two tires. This would cause him to restart 11th. A long run had teams making green-flag pit stops, and once those cycled through, Edwards was running 12th. A late caution was the turning point for many teams who assumed it could be the final stop of the race. Once again, it came down to deciding between four tires or two. Edwards and his crew opted for four tires and restarted in the 10th position. Just when it looked like Edwards might get a great finish, contact between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart set off a multi-car incident, which collected Edwards. He tried to avoid the melee, but had nowhere to go, and drove his battered car to the garage to finish 33rd.

Matt Kenseth started the race in 28th in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford and by lap 3, he had moved up to 21st. Shortly after, Kenseth radioed to crew chief Todd Parrott that the car was getting a bit tight and suggested that they should maybe put some shim in the front of the car to help the handling. Kenseth pitted under the competition caution and his crew quickly went to work making air pressure and track bar adjustments to loosen the car up. Kenseth restarted 19th, but it was immediately apparent that the handling issues were still there. While jockeying for position, Kenseth made contact with another driver, which caused some damage to the left front fender. The damage began to make the No. 17 Ford tighter as the race wore on. Over the next few pit stops, Kenseth’s crew made adjustments to the shims and track bar as well as air pressure adjustments to improve the handling, but Kenseth still couldn’t find the grip he needed. He had fought his way inside the top ten by lap 239, but was battling a loose racecar. He was running 8th, when teammate Carl Edwards was caught up in the nine car pile-up on lap 318 off of turn one. Kenseth restarted in the 6th position, but bad news came in the form of a flat tire. Forced to pit, Kenseth came back off pit road with new right side tires, but had no time in the waning laps to get back inside the top ten. He crossed the finish line in the 20th position.

Despite being the first out for qualifying, David Ragan ended up getting a solid 13th place starting spot in the No. 6 UPS Ford for Monday’s race. Once the green flag dropped, Ragan hung around outside the top ten. He pitted under the competition caution for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. Once the race was back under green, Ragan began to lose positions rather quickly. His racecar was loose and lacking the forward bite needed to challenge for position. Ragan pitted under the caution brought out by Brian Vickers on lap 77. He came in for more adjustments to his racecar. While those changes helped, they still weren’t enough. Ragan pitted under the next caution, and crew chief Donnie Wingo noticed a hole in the nose of the car. Ragan had to come back down pit road for repairs, which resulted in lost track position. It took all Ragan had to keep his loose handling racecar under control during the race. He pitted for adjustments whenever he could, but still got lapped by the leader. During a round of green-flag stops, Ragan lost another lap. Late in the race, Ragan took the wave around to get one of his laps back. The caution never fell when Ragan needed it in the closing laps when he was battling to be the first driver a lap down. Despite all the struggles, he avoided the multi-car wreck on lap 318, and jumped from 25th to 16th. Ragan gained one more position in the last few laps to finish 15th, which was his best finish of the season.

By all indications, it seemed as though Greg Biffle had a great car for the race. Biffle qualified the No. 16 Post-it/3M Ford in the 3rd position on Friday and had topped the speed charts in practice earlier that day. Once the green flag waved, it took Biffle 16 laps to take the lead from Tony Stewart. He held the lead until he pitted under the competition caution on lap 25 as Tony Stewart won the race off pit road. The following run found Biffle dropping back to 10th as he reported that the car was just way too loose. The caution on lap 77 allowed for him to pit for adjustments. He restarted 10th and was running 11th when he pitted under the next caution on lap 99. He took two tires on that stop to gain track position and restarted 4th. A few laps later, the caution flag waved once more, and Biffle chose to pit while several stayed out. That put him in the 20th position for the restart. Biffle made two pit stops under green and was 13th when the caution came on again on lap 232. Biffle pitted under that caution and took only two tires to get gain track position. He restarted 5th but dropped back to 8th. Another two-tire stop later helped Biffle get back inside the top five, where he was running when the caution came out for the “big one” off of turn one. While under the red flag, it was noticed that the left rear tire on Biffle’s car was flat. Once the engines refired and pit road was open, Biffle pitted for left-side tires to restart 9th with just over 10 laps remaining. In the closing laps, Biffle reported his car was tight, but he held on to finish 10th.

The last time a race was held on a Monday at Texas Motor Speedway, it was Matt Kenseth who brought home the win. But once again, Roush Fenway Racing was unable to get their first win of the season. It was Denny Hamlin who fought off Jimmie Johnson to get the win. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 crew on their astounding victory!

Next up: Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway


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