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Drivers Say Roush Drought Could End At Brickyard

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 29 2011

Jack Roush has never won the Brickyard but many on his team think that could change on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

Indianapolis – Carl Edwards looked stunned as he stood behind his Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup car in the concrete-walled garages at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday. The incredulous look came

courtesy of news that a Jack Roush-owned car had never won the Brickyard 400.

“Mark Martin, how about Mark Martin?” Edwards asked back. “No? Can that be true?”

Oh, it be true.

This Sunday, the Brickyard 400 will be run for the 18th time at historic old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For the 18th year, at least one car owned by Roush will be in the field. And for the 18th time – and with 72 total starts by his drivers having been made – Roush will be looking for his first victory in the crown jewel event.

“Indy,” Roush said Friday before the first practice for the 2011 Brickyard, “has eluded us.”

It is one of just two tracks where victory has eluded Roush and his teams – the other being Kentucky, which hosted its first race this season.

And that, he said, kind of stinks.

Roush grew up in southern Ohio at a time when the Indianapolis 500 was not only the biggest race he

Greg Biffle wound up on the podium at Indy last year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

was exposed to, but the only race he was exposed to. As a teen, he listened to the 500 on the radio.

In later years, he built engines that won the 500.

“There’s a certain reverence that I’ve got for the race track and for the fan base around the track based on the fact that it was something that I didn’t actually aspire to,” Roush said. “It was something that I respected as a youngster just because it was an indication that people were out there doing something in racing that I actually thought was beyond my reach.”

And, to date, beyond his reach has been victory as a NASCAR team owner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Not that his teams and drivers have not come close over the years. Four times, one of his drivers has finished as runner-up. Two other times, they have finished third.

Just odd goings-on that have been keeping Roush out of Victory Lane at Indy, Matt Kenseth, who has finished second twice at the ‘yard and third once, said.

“In the past, we’ve had some really good runs and some really good cars and haven’t had the finishes,” Kenseth said. “I think that’s circumstances more than anything.”

But there seemed on Friday to be a feeling across the board at Roush that this could be the year that one of its four cars will win the Brickyard.

“Yeah,” said driver Greg Biffle, who led 38 laps and finished second last year, said, “this could definitely be the year. We tested well and I really think that one of our cars has a good opportunity to win.”

Boosting hopes is the performance the FR9 Ford engines have shown this year. They were designed to run cooler and allow teams to add more tape to the front grills to increase downforce on the front tires.

That could prove important on Sunday as temperatures are expected to be well into the 90s. Also, Indy is relatively flat and so downforce on the front end is more important than at some of other tracks

Plus, Edwards said, the new engines “seem to have more torque and that should help here.”

Carl Edwards looking for first victory at Indy. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

Even David Ragan, the junior member of the team, could be considered a contender this year. He arrives with a bit of momentum at his back.

Ragan got the first victory of his career when he won at Daytona three races ago. He then placed eighth at Kentucky and followed that with a 14th-place showing at New Hampshire.

“Our cars are good enough to win at Indy this year,” Ragan, who will be making his fifth Brickyard start, said. “Robert Yates had all the horsepower back in the day and they carried the banner for Ford for a few years, but the Roush cars have been strong. We’ve got as good a chance here as anybody.”

In practice, the Roush cars all showed speed. In the first practice, Kenseth was fastest among 48 drivers who took to the track. Edwards was fourth and Ragan was fifth.

In the late afternoon practice, Edwards jumped out early to the fastest lap. Biffle spent much of the practice in the top five.

All of Roush’s drivers on Friday said they would love to get Roush his first victory at the Brickyard.

“It would be cool,” Ragan said.

“Yeah, it would be,” Biffle, who has had a frustrating season, said. “It would be cool to get the 16 (his car) a win this year and Jack’s first win.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 29 2011
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