Roush Racing teams showing familiar spark. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 22, 2003) -- The desire to win races and championships is a given in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition, but Roush Racing has chosen a different method of attaining...
Roush Racing teams showing familiar spark.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 22, 2003) -- The desire to win races and championships is a given in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition, but Roush Racing has chosen a different method of attaining those goals.
Since 1998, when Jack Roush installed then-unknown Greg Biffle at the controls of his Ford F-150, the team has grown from a driver development exercise to title contender.
Biffle, now a rookie in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, set a single-season record for victories -- nine -- in 1999. He won the championship the following season; Roush's first in NASCAR competition, and captured the NASCAR Busch Series title in 2002.
The 2000 campaign also saw the emergence of Kurt Busch, who finished second to Biffle in the championship standings. Busch received an instant promotion to NASCAR Winston Cup, where he has become a title contender.
Identifying future talent, however, has its down side. In 2001, Roush struggled with driver stability and finished outside the top 10 in points for the first time in six seasons. Last year the organization failed to score a top-five finish or a point toward the manufacturer's championship total.
Four races into the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck season -- which resumes May 16 at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- the short drought appears over.
Jon Wood (No. 50 Navy Racing Ford), showing a veteran's savvy at age 21, finished second on March 23 at Mesa Marin Raceway in California. Raybestos Rookie leader Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford), surprise leader of the season's opening event at Daytona International Speedway, battled his way to fourth place at Martinsville Speedway on April 12 to match a series rookie finish mark at the tough .626-mile short track.
Wood is ranked ninth in the standings and the 23-year-old Edwards is 12th as the teams prepare for the May 16 Hardee's 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at the track.
Reorganization -- backed by a veteran cast -- has been the key to the teams' resurgence.
Roush moved his NASCAR Craftsman Truck operation from Michigan to North Carolina at the end of 2002. The shift also saw a top-to-bottom personnel makeover. Doug Richert, a seven-time series winner with Ron Hornaday Jr. in 1995-96, was tapped to quarterback Edwards; John Monsam, whose series winners include Hornaday, Mike Bliss, Rick Carelli and Dennis Setzer, was named Wood's crew chief.
"We've improved some every race and it's only going to get better," said Richert. "We've got all of our key people in place so we can pick up where Biffle and Busch's teams left off in terms of building great trucks.
"We have two of the most talented drivers in the series and if we can continue to give them quality trucks, then their performance will just keep getting better."
Keeping those young drivers headed in the right direction is as important today as it was with Biffle and Busch, who persevered after rocky beginnings on the series.
Wood finished third in the final race of 2001 and labored through an up-and-down sophomore season. He's improved considerably -- a late race, engine-related problem at Darlington Raceway stands between Wood and a probable top-five ranking in current standings.
Edwards, a University of Missouri education major when he finished eighth last summer at Kansas Speedway, has been both spectacular and uneven -- just like Biffle and Busch in their rookie campaigns. He had an accident while leading at Daytona, made several sensational passes at Darlington battling from 23rd to fourth and was involved in a three-truck accident at Martinsville.
Clearly, though, Roush Racing likes the potential of Edwards and Wood given that it's far easier to slow a fast driver than to speed up a slow one.
"It is tough with young drivers because they often let their emotions take over and you have to reel them in," Monsam said.
"Getting a top-five finish (at Martinsville) was really important for this team," said Edwards, who carries Busch's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series number (No. 99), "but what I really want to do is win. I won't be satisfied with any finish until I'm the first one across the start/finish line."
NEWS & NOTES
* Charting Roush Racing on the series ... While it's been more than a season since Roush Racing registered a victory -- Biffle's Oct. 26, 2001 triumph at Phoenix International Raceway -- the team's trucks remain No. 1 overall with 28 wins. The April 12 Advance Auto Parts 250 at Martinsville was Roush Racing's 27th consecutive start without a victory, a continuing team record.
* K-Automotive retunes Power Stoke team ... Veteran crew chief Rick Ren has been named to call the shots for Terry Cook's (No. 29 Power Stoke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford) team, beginning with the Hardee's 200. He succeeds Bob Keselowski, named general manager of the family operated K Automotive unit he co-owns with wife Kay. Keselowski continues to recover from illness suffered in early April. Ren, a 28-year racing veteran, spent the past four seasons with Addington Racing, which won five times with Andy Houston and Travis Kvapil. Cook stands seventh in points with four top-10 finishes.
* Breakdown of Chevrolet's first 100 victories ... Dennis Setzer's (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet) Martinsville victory was Chevrolet's 100th in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition. Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Hendrick Motorsports have the most wins -- 25 apiece.
* Martinsville different winner streak ends ... Setzer ended Martinsville Speedway's run of different winners at eight as the Newton, N.C. veteran successfully defended his 2002 triumph. The Milwaukee Mile also has eight winners without a repeat and can match Texas Motor Speedway's series record of nine on June 28.
* Etc. ... Two days of open testing for the May 16 Hardee's 200 have been set for Monday and Tuesday, May 5-6, at Lowe's Motor Speedway. ... Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge) is both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points leader and only competitor to have led a lap in each of the first four races. ... Three-time NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series champion Jamie Aubie has been named crew chief for Team Racing's No. 86 Chevrolet and Raybestos Rookie contender T.J. Bell. ... Shane Wilson, crew chief of Brendan Gaughan's No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge, and the former Dana Hall exchanged vows April 18 in Las Vegas. ... James Stephenson (No. 36 ATT Motorsports Ford) of Lowrys, S.C. is the latest competitor to register for the 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. The current list stands at 10 candidates.