It’s an old cliché but nowhere else does it fit perfectly than in NASCAR and Roush Fenway Racing has been putting it to work in 2011. That cliché? What a difference a year makes.
The flagship Ford team has turned around their embarrassing 2010 campaign to become familiar with victory lane again and become serious championship contenders. Saturday night in Charlotte RFR driver Matt Kenseth won again and team owner Jack Roush couldn’t have been happier with Ford’s seventh win of the season.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”241″][/media-credit]“I’m really proud of what Matt and Jimmy [Fennig, crew chief] did tonight,” said Roush. “With all the engineering and technical support behind these teams, it comes down to decisions, the last 20 percent of the decision is worked out between driver and crew chief.”
Roush praised his championship quality crew chief and the performance of Kenseth. Saying that he was sitting back waiting, knowing that Kenseth would break loose from the middle of the pack and get to the front. The victory was Kenseth’s third of the season and 21st career. As the season turns toward its final five races of the season, Roush believes Kenseth and Fennig who will be one of the factors in the championship.
However, Saturday night was about Kenseth and more. For RFR it was further prove that they are indeed back in form. Not only are they back in form they’re better than ever. All four RFR drivers led at least one lap Saturday, combined they led 117 of 334 laps and they all finished inside the top 15.
“I don’t know if you saw the same race that I did, but we had seven of our cars tonight that ran in the top 10 most of the night except for the problems we had,” said Roush about Ford when asked about the race.
“We are at the top of our game as far as our mile-and-a-half program,” he said. “There’s other teams that have got good programs but nobody has got a better mile-and-a-half program than us and including tonight there was three races left, mile-and-a-half races left in the Chase and I felt really good about that. Ford has given us great stuff for our Fusion, we have a good aero package and mechanics work well based on the lab testing and engines make a lot of power.”
Roush has good reason to be satisfied and say that his teams are the best of the best on mile-and-a-half tracks. The statistics back it up. Kenseth and Edwards together have won three races on mile-and-a-half tracks and if you count the non-point events held at Charlotte in May RFR has won five such races.
Charlotte in fact, has been nothing but sweet to Roush. David Ragan won the Sprint Showdown, Edwards won the All-Star race and now Kenseth wins the Bank of America 500. RFR even won both Nationwide Series races held at CMS this season and had it not been for a fuel mileage gamble in the Coca-Cola 600, they might have won every race held at CMS in 2011.
And just for giggles, throw in the fact that Ragan’s girlfriend, Jacquelyn Butler, won the “Better Half Dash” charity race Saturday afternoon. Kenseth capped off an what continues to be an incredible season for Roush and it shouldn’t be surprising that he was the one to do it.
Driving the same car that he dominated with at Texas and won, as well as dominated the Coke 600 but finished 14th, Kenseth scored his second win at CMS. His first came in May of 2000 when he won his first career Sprint Cup Series race; he’s also won the non-point Sprint All-Star race, 2004. It doesn’t end there; Kenseth also has three NNS wins at Charlotte.
Not only has RFR turned things around, Kenseth has as well. He went winless in 2010 after winning the first two races of 2009. Now he’s got three checkered flags in 2011 and the season isn’t over yet. He’s looking to win his second Cup title in five weeks too.
“I’m happy to have won obviously,” said Kenseth. “It’s been 20 races, which doesn’t seem that long because I don’t know how many before that, I think it was 70 some, so you’re always thankful. I’m always thankful to get to victory lane. You never know when you are going to win your last race – I’m certainly in a great position to be able to win races and these give me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.”
Kenseth went on to say that another reason he was glad they won was because he didn’t want to be the weak link. Feeling as though there were other races they should have been first to the finish line, Kenseth said he was glad he wasn’t the one who cost the No. 17 team the victory. Roush though wasn’t ‘embarrassed’ that his teams had not won more because it was strategy not performance that cost them.
“But we are in championship form,” said Roush. “And in my 24 years, I’ve never had better cars for the championship stretch than we have got and we are anxious to see how it’s going to work out.”
And says Roush about having those great cars and wining in the Chase, “I don’t feel vindicated, I just think that the hard work everybody’s done is paying off, and we re getting what we deserve.”