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Frustration Mounts For Edwards And Roush

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010

Carl Edwards and Jack Roush continue their search for speed in the Sprint Cup series. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

Loudon, N.H. – It has been a year and a half since Carl Edwards last was able to celebrate a NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.

Considering the win in the 2008 season-finale at Homestead was the 16th of his still budding career and ninth of that season, the fact that Edwards has now gone 52 straight races without returning to Victory Circle is more than a little frustrating for the driver and his Roush Fenway Racing team.

Not that he’s alone.

The last Roush Cup victory was last November  at Talladega by Jamie McMurray, now with Earnhardt Ganassi  Racing. The only other wins since the end of 2008 for the once dominating Ford team came from Matt Kenseth in the first two races of 2009.

“I’m trying to cope with our situation the best I can, but you have got to be better,’’ Edwards said as his team prepared for Sunday’s Lenox Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“If you start pointing fingers and being mad and freaking out, that only digs you further into that hole,’’ he added. “The reason we’re not running well is very simple: there’s something about our cars that we’re not doing right to make them as fast as the other cars. So it’s not that people aren’t trying.

“You can’t be mad at a race car, at least I don’t think you can be. So I think the key is just to keep focus.’’

Despite the team’s ongoing problems, Edwards has managed to stay in the thick of the battle for a spot in the 12-man Chase for the championship that begins right here in September. With 10 races to go in the regular season, Edwards finds himself 12th in the standings, 57 points ahead of 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Edwards has only two top-10 finishes in his last nine Cup starts, but he is coming off his first victory of the season last week in the Nationwide Series race last week at Road America, where he started from the pole.

“I’m very frustrated,’’ he said. “I want to run better. I’m glad I had that run (at Road America) because that felt really good to just go out there and have the fastest car and dominate a race like that. I reminded me of  how easy it can be and I think that’s important. I’m really glad I’m running the Nationwide Series just for that one simple reason.’’

Edwards said the win on the Wisconsin road course changed his perspective going into the Cup race the following day on the road course at Sonoma, Calif. It buoyed his spirits despite the fact that a late-race crash relegated him to a 29th-place finish.

“When I was sitting back there struggling to run 12th at Sonoma, it reminded me that I can do this,’’ Edwards explained. “It’s not that hard. We just have to keep on working.’’

Team co-owner Jack Roush said several weeks ago that one of the team’s biggest problems has been a combination of NASCAR’s limited testing policy and some less than helpful simulation technology.

He reiterated that on Friday, saying, “Our software that has been cranked through for making the predictions (of what to expect at the tracks) has not worked as well as it should. So, for that reason, given the fact that we can’t test at the racetracks, we haven’t been able to unload with as much speed as we should.

“So then we struggled through the first hour and a half in practice and establish a baseline … and then you go back on Saturday and have a baseline that’s real time and a place to start, but you’re an hour and a half behind the folks that had better simulation.’’

Roush and his team engineers are working furiously to get that problem rectified, but it takes time, a commodity that is in short supply as the season continues.

“That’s one of the frustrations is that if we develop something that’s going to be good in six months , that’s not quick enough,’’ Edwards said. “So we’ve been working really hard – Jack and everybody – to try and speed up the whole process and go through the things that may or may not work quickly so that we can move on.

“Even if somebody dropped off the perfect simulation package right here on this table today and said, `This is it,’ you still have to use it enough to be comfortable with it and develop it, and that takes time. Everybody is working to turn it around. We’ve got to do better and I know we can. We’ve just got to keep working.’’

Sunday’s race could be a tough chore for  Edwards and the rest of the Roush team, too, if qualifying is any indication.

David Ragan was the best Roush qualifier on the 1.058-mile New Hampshire oval in 19th. Edwards will start 21st, while Kenseth qualified 33rd, one spot ahead of Greg Biffle.

But, as the old saying goes, hope springs eternal.

“We need to turn this thing around and start running better,’’ Edwards said. “And this would be a good place to do it.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010
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