Roush rolling on his way toward possible Cup title

Published 2:09 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

DOVER, Del. – No matter how many of his Cup cars were in the race, owner Jack Roush was always on the winning pit box whenever one of his drivers took the checkered flag.

With about 20 laps to go at Dover, Roush wasn’t sure where he should sit. Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth were racing three wide, bumper-to-bumper and just every other exciting combination as they pushed hard on the concrete track for the coveted Chase victory.

Sure, the racing was thrilling for the fans. It was almost too much to take for Roush.

“I hyperventilated,” he said. “It’s hard not to lose your mind when you have as many opportunities as there are with the multiple cars to be involved in something that’s just not going to break your heart.”

No broken hearts this time. Just a 1-2-3 finish that kept Roush Fenway Racing in the thick of the Sprint Cup title hunt with eight races left in the Chase for the championship. Biffle won his second straight Chase race, Kenseth was second and Edwards third. Edwards has a 10-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and Biffle in the standings, putting Roush in prime position to win his first title since 2004.

“We’ve worked hard this season to get our cars and team where they need to be,” Biffle said. “I guess you can use the term, ‘peak at the right time.'”

Biffle certainly is after making the Chase without a win in the first 26 regular-season races and going 33 straight overall without a trip to Victory Lane before winning the Chase opener at New Hampshire. His last victory before that came last season at Kansas — the track on tap this weekend, when Biffle can go for a stunning three straight victories.

Still, no one at Roush Fenway is making room for that championship trophy quite yet.

Kenseth methodically won Roush a championship in 2003 in the last year of the old points system and Kurt Busch won the first Chase title for him in 2004.

But 2005 still stings Roush and his crew. The team placed five cars in the 10-driver field and a third straight championship seemed all but a lock. Instead, Biffle was second and Edwards third — both 35 points behind Cup champion Tony Stewart.

“The thing I remember most about 2005 is how much trouble I got in for stinking up their show,” Roush said. “The fact we weren’t able to close the deal just added embarrassment to the problem we created.”

Edwards thought he’d be able to easily duplicate his 2005 season.

“I thought that was pretty easy, we’ll just win it next year,” Edwards said. “I didn’t realize what a great thing we had.”

Biffle failed to build on the momentum of his six-win season in 2005 and didn’t even qualify for the Chase the last two years. Now, he’s emerged as a legitimate contender to add the Cup title to the championships he won in the Busch (now Nationwide) and Trucks series.

“I feel a lot better now about this championship than I did in 2005,” he said.

Kenseth wrecked in New Hampshire in the first Chase race and is in 10th place in the 12-driver field.

They all promise this won’t be a repeat of 2005.

“I think about it every once in a while,” Edwards said. “I think of how ignorant I was back then. I didn’t realize how good I had it.”

Roush Fenway even got a boost at Dover International Speedway from non-Chase driver Jamie McMurray, who looked strong and led a bunch of laps early before he got tangled up in a wreck.

So with Edwards leading the points race and Biffle winning all the Chase races, just where will Roush sit Sunday at Kansas? Turns out, he sticks with Biffle’s crew because he has seniority on the team.

“I’ll move off the pit box when it’s clear that one of the other cars is going to win just because I show the right amount of support for what they’re doing,” Roush said.

Roush Fenway Racing already had eight wins this season. Edwards would love to move his owner into the No. 99 pit this weekend for ninth win — even if he has to knock off one of his teammates to get it.

“I don’t think it really matters that we’re teammates, I think it matters that we respect one another,” Edwards said.