USA TODAY US Edition
Roush has inside track on Hendrick at Texas
Kenseth, mates see opportunity in Fort Worth
FORT WORTH — The way they see it, racing at Texas Motor Speedway gives Roush Fenway Racing drivers the chance to separate themselves from the Sprint Cup pack.
Carl Edwards, who won both Cup events in 2008, is the only driver to win three races at Texas in NASCAR’S premier series. Matt Kenseth, who has won twice here, leads all drivers with 10 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. And recently, series points leader Greg Biffle has been the most consistent driver in the Roush Fenway stable, with seven consecutive top-10 finishes on the 1.5-mile super speedway.
“You really feel like you need to capitalize when you come to this track,” Kenseth said Thursday before practice for Saturday’s Samsung Mobile 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox). “It feels like one of you should have a shot to win or the boss will probably be disappointed Monday morning.”
Team owner Jack Roush has rarely left Texas disappointed since winning the inaugural race at Texas with Jeff Burton in 1997. Four drivers in the last seven years (14 Cup races) have a rating of 100 or higher at Texas, and three are his: Kenseth (106.5), Biffle (100.8) and Edwards (100.0). The other is Tony Stewart (105.8), who won here in November.
Combine a sweep of the Cup events by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in 2010 with Roush Fenway’s Texas success, and there’s nothing but scraps left for Hendrick Motorsports, which is struggling early in the season.
Although Jeff Gordon is first in laps led and Jimmie Johnson is third in that department, their finishes belie those numbers. Five-time champion Johnson, recovering from his 42nd in the Daytona 500, is 10th in points; fourtime champ Gordon, with no better than an eighth this season, sits 21st.
And while Dale Earnhardt Jr. has started strong (in second, six points behind Biffle), Kasey Kahne has been a disappointment. Despite winning two poles and starting 10th or better in each of the last five races, Kahne has finished no higher than 14th and hasn’t led a lap in his first season of a four-year deal with Hendrick.
“Our performance has a little bit to do with luck,” Kahne said Thursday. “We’re fast. We’ve been really good every race this year. We just haven’t finished any of them off very well.
“It’s frustrating but also exciting for me to know that I don’t have to do it all right now. We have a good, long period of time with Hendrick — four years. I know I am going to have great race cars. Hopefully we get it figured out and I can go on a good run.”
Rick Hendrick has been in search of his 200th Cup victory as a team owner since October. Each of his four Cup drivers has won a race at Texas.
“When I go around the shop, everyone seems pretty good about what we’re doing and the race cars we’re bringing to the track,” Kahne said. “We’re more competitive than any car in this garage. I think everybody feels like we’re right on the verge of winning some races.”