Monday, May 17, 2010

Roush Rewind: Autism Speaks 400

After leaving the Lady in Black of Darlington Raceway, the drivers had to take on the Monster Mile of Dover International Raceway. The Monster Mile seemed calmer than usual for Sunday’s running of the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey’s Milk and Milkshakes. Dover is a track that the Roush Fenway Racing drivers are generally known for performing well at. And on Sunday, they proved it. Three finished inside the top ten while one had issues on pit road that cost him the shot at a better finish.

After placing inside the top ten in practice, David Ragan had high hopes coming into Sunday’s race. He qualified the No. 6 UPS Ford in the 22nd position on Friday. The green flag waved on Sunday, and it immediately became apparent that the car’s handling was nothing like it had been in practice the day before. Ragan slowly began to drop back as he had to fight his tight-handling racecar. Ragan pitted under caution on lap 55 for fuel, four tires, and a wedge adjustment. Unfortunately, Ragan was too fast exiting pit road and had to restart at the rear of the field. Lost track positions and an ill-handling racecar had Ragan going a lap down to the leader around 50 laps later. The team’s next stop was under green, and the UPS crew made a track bar adjustment to try to improve the car’s handling. Ragan soon lost another lap to the leaders, but the caution came out shortly afterward. Crew chief Donnie Wingo decided Ragan should stay out and take wave around to get a lap back. Ragan had to make a pit stop under green well before the leaders did due to staying out for the wave around. Usually, an early stop like that wouldn’t have been such a big issue, but the left-rear tire presented a problem. When changing tires, the rear tire changer could not get the left-rear tire to fit. The studs on the tire just wouldn’t fit like they were supposed to. After multiple attempts to get the tire on, the crew had to get another tire to put on the car. It caused them to go five laps down in the process. With the race past the halway point, Ragan and his team knew they wouldn’t be able to make up many more positions. They just hoped they would be able to get a lap or two back. Unlike last weekend, it seemed that Ragan wouldn't be so lucky. Ragan finished 26th, 5 laps down. His finish caused him to drop from 21st to 22nd in the standings.

Carl Edwards qualified 9th in the No. 99 Aflac Ford on Friday. For the first laps of the race, Edwards began to lose positions, dropping back to 16th about a quarter of the way through. Loose-handling conditions had Edwards unable to challenge for positions in the early run. Edwards’s crew made adjustments every chance they got to improve the car’s handling. Edwards did a great job keeping his ill-handling car under control. It wasn’t until lap 144 that Edwards went a lap down in 19th position, but that was after a cycle of green-flag stops. The caution flag flew on lap 166, and Edwards was the Lucky Dog and got back on the lead lap. He pitted for fuel, tires, and a wedge and track bar adjustment. The adjustments seemed to be working, but the car was still too loose for Edwards’s liking. At the halfway point, Edwards was running 16th. After the Aflac crew performed a flawless 13-second stop under green, Edwards was up to 13th by lap 226. The adjustments the crew had made began to make an improvement. Edwards was back inside the top ten on lap 273. With 100 laps remaining, Edwards was back to 9th. The last 100 laps were caution free. Edwards’s crew made an impressive 12.7-second pit stop that got him up to 7th position once the field cycled through the last round of green-flag stops. With 30 to go, Edwards lost one position, back to 8th. He was unable to take the 7th position from Kevin Harvick before the checkered flag waved. Edwards’s 8th place finish helped him gain one position in the standings, up to 10th.

Greg Biffle was in the top ten fastest all through the practice sessions, but an early qualifying draw on Friday had the No. 16 3M Ford sitting in the 24th position for the start of the race on Sunday. Biffle quickly began to move up through the field once the green flag waved. He was up to 17th when the first caution came out around lap 54. Biffle reported that his car was loose. He pitted for four tires, fuel, and trackbar and air pressure adjustments. Biffle’s pit crew, the Pit Bulls, helped Biffle gain three positions on pit road. Biffle restarted 14th, and on lap 106, he cracked the top ten. He remained inside the top ten until green-flag stops began around lap 125. Biffle pitted on lap 129, and once again, the Pit Bulls picked up three positions. After the green-flag stops cycled through, Biffle was in the 7th position. Soon after that stop under green, Biffle said the car was getting loose. He pitted under every caution so his crew could make adjustments. Biffle dropped out of the top ten, but was back up there when the final round of green-flag stops began. He was 8th once the stops cycled through. He managed to pass Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards in the closing laps to finish 6th. It was Biffle’s 8th top ten finish of the season. He remained 7th in the standings.

Matt Kenseth was the 3rd driver to go out for qualifying on Friday. The early draw resulted in Kenseth starting 21st in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford on Sunday. Kenseth had worked his way up to 18th when the first caution came out. Kenseth pitted after reporting that the car was loose entering the turns. He asked his crew to make the adjustments needed to give him more grip. Crew chief Todd Parrott ordered the Crown Royal crew to make track bar, air, and wedge adjustments as well as adding a shim to the right-front. Kenseth restarted 20th, and it wasn’t long after the restart that Kenseth informed his crew chief that the car was getting looser as the race went on. He fought his ill-handling racecar for a majority of the race. His crew made numerous adjustments when possible to get the handling corrected. A two-tire stop on lap 167 had Kenseth inside the top five. Most teams took four tires, but Parrot opted for right-side tires only. It was a big gamble for the team. A caution on lap 245 had the No. 17 crew making yet another big gamble in the race. Kenseth was 7th at the time, but the leaders pitted while Kenseth stayed out. The move had Kenseth in the lead for the restart on lap 251. He led 15 laps before he dropped back to third. The gambles his crew had taken definitely paid off. Kenseth was up to 2nd on lap 367, but was third to cross the line when the checkered flag waved. Kenseth moved up two positions in the standings to 3rd.

After dominating much of the race, Jimmie Johnson lost the lead after being penalized for speeding when exiting pit road under the final cycle of green-flag stops. Kyle Busch took advantage of Johnson’s mistake to bring home the win. Congratulations to Kyle Busch and the No. 18 crew!

Next up: Sprint Showdown followed by the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


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