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Pedley: The FR9 Has Its Day

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 3 2010

Greg Biffle's engine certainly had enough power to light up the rear tires after Sunday's race. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Normally, engine roll-outs don’t get much attention in NASCAR. They are announced, the engines are lowered into the cars and off they go, to be only obscurely referenced until they are replaced years later.

It has not gone like that for the Ford FR9 engine.

Since it was unveiled last year, it has spend as much time under the microscope as it has on a dyno or on a race track. It’s value has been dissected, questioned and even ridiculed – and that was just by Ford-team drivers.

Two weeks ago, in a far back corner of the massive media center at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ford Racing boss Jamie Allison pulled up a chair and was asked when the engine would win a Sprint Cup race.

“Soon,” he said from behind thick dark sunglasses.

A more accurate answer would have been: In eight days.

Sunday afternoon at Pocono Speedway, Greg Biffle wheeled his Ford Fusion into Victory Lane. Under the hood was the FR9.

And you could almost feel the collective exhale emanating from Dearborn. And also from a hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic.

“Greg Biffle earned it,” Allison said Sunday. “That was no fluke. I just talked to Jack (Roush, the owner of Biffle’s car who is recuperating from injuries sustained in an airplane crash) on the phone and there’s no question this is a great, feel good moment for him that takes away a little of the physical pain he’s been feeling this week.  So this win is for Jack first and Ford second.”

It was Roush who has stood by the engine, which was designed and built by Doug Yates and his staff at Roush Yates Engines.

It was Roush who was on point for criticism when the introduction of the new piece was phased in – and out – in the months since it debuted at Kansas Speedway last fall. It was Roush who had to carefully explain to those with grease-free hands that the FR9 was not about more horsepower, but more about improved center of gravity and better cooling properties which allowed teams to use more front-end tape and thus get more downforce to the front wheels.

Some of Roush Fenway’s own drivers began questioning the benefits of the engine. A couple simply did not want to use it – certainly during the Chase last year and then this spring and into the summer.

But the engine began to prove itself in recent races.

And on Sunday, it was under the hood of the winning car and the third-place car of Carl Edwards.

“I’ve said all along that the road to victory is paved with second and third place finishes, and we’ve had plenty of those the last five weeks,” Allison said. “We knew we were getting better.   We could see it, and we had to be running good enough to be in position to win.

“That victory today was made possible, though, through great teamwork between the Wood Brothers, RPM, Roush Fenway and Roush Yates Engines.  Everyone has played a part of getting us here by working together to make the program better.  It has truly been a one-Ford effort at the root of it all, but there’s a lot of Jack Roush’s spirit behind it all as well.”

Biffle said he was thinking of Roush well before the victory was bagged.

“I have to tell you that when it got to be five to go I started thinking about it,” Biffle, who had not won a race since 2008, said. “I started thinking that this race was meant to be.  It’s for Jack and then I thought spending all the time I’ve spent with the Ford people and how desperate they are to prove that they’ve got good product.  They’ve got great cars and trucks, but they want to improve on the race track, that they want to win.  And then I thought about all the 3M guys, but Jack mostly.

“I just thought, ‘This is gonna be a great day if I can complete this thing.’  In Victory Lane he told me (via cell phone) that he had never met somebody that had the will to win like I do. He didn’t say that because I drive for him, he said he feels that out of any of the drivers. That kind of put goose bumps on my arms. I’m glad that he thinks of me like that.”

Roush, meanwhile, had his condition upgraded to fair on Monday but no timetable has been set for his release from the Mayo Clinic.

You can hate Ford, you can hate Roush, but you’ve got to love it when a plan comes together.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 3 2010
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