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FORT WORTH-- Jack Roush, owner of Roush Fenway Racing, has visited victory lane seven times with five different drives at Texas Motor Speedway, most recently with Carl Edwards who swept the 2008 races there. Roush sat down with Ford Racing to talk about his team’s season so far, expectations to get back in victory lane and his feelings about the new spoiler at one of his favorite tracks.
Q. HOW DO YOU FEEL THINGS ARE GOING FOR YOUR TEAM THROUGH THE FIRST SEVEN RACES?
A. Well, the obvious thing is that we haven’t won yet. By this time last year we had already won twice, so that is a disappointment, but the cars are running much better as a group and there is more of a consensus over what we want in the car from a tuning parameter point of view. Last year we were all over the map because we weren’t getting the result we needed in terms of competitiveness. We are very competitive this year and we have the teams functioning well. All the crew chief and driver lineups are at least satisfactory, if not close to optimum, as far as I see. The team chemistry is good and the engineering tools provided by Ford are working better than they ever have. I think we have a better database in our programs now than we had last year and the algorithms are one more year in development, so I am very satisfied with where we are on that. The goal is to be at prime and the best we can be by the second Loudon race to start the chase. I have every hope, and don’t see a problem, to having at least three or four of the Roush Fenway cars in the chase at the end of the year.
Q. DO YOU FEEL ADDED PRESSURE TO GET IN VICTORY LANE AS THE WEEKS GO BY?
A. Well, there is certainly pressure from the people watching. It is easy to say ‘Well Jack, you have to try harder’, or for me to tell the drivers they have to try harder. If you try to exert effort that is unsustainable, you will certainly fail. I have to be cognizant of the fact that if we make ourselves an unrealistic commitment and compromises in the requirements of our business, we are in trouble. To finish first, you must first finish. That means you can’t break your engine. You can’t fail your brakes. You can’t crush your car. If you are willing to tax your engine to the point of failure, or tax the brakes and the tires to the point of failure, if I am okay to take unrealistic chances in traffic, you are going to be blown up or crashed. I think we are operating sufficiently close to the point of diminishing returns on those things and there isn’t much more we can do right now. When we have the cautions fall right for us or have the second-best car and the top car has a problem, or when occasionally we are the best car in the field and something doesn’t happen to us, then we will win. Until that happens, there isn’t much more we can do.
Q. YOU HAVE HAD SOME SUCCESS OVER THE YEARS AT TEXAS WITH DIFFERENT DRIVERS, WHAT IS IT ABOUT TEXAS THAT HAS BEEN SO GOOD TO YOU?
A. Well, first of all we got off to a great start when Jeff Burton won the first race there. We have been very fortunate to be successful at new tracks like Las Vegas, Texas, Loudon when it came on. We have been good at adapting to tracks at which there wasn’t much information or history. The mile-and-a-half tracks like Texas have been one of our strengths. At different times we have been better at different places and, right now, based on the way we ran last year, uncharacteristically, speedways were our strongest performances last year. We won two of the four restrictor plate races last year and arguably could have won a third very easily if Carl hadn’t wound up in the fence at Talladega. This thing ebbs and flows and goes through cycles. The mile-and-a-half tracks have been one of our best performing track layouts historically. I think Texas is the second-most successful track for us in terms of wins, right behind Bristol. That is just the way it has been for various reasons.
Q. TEXAS WILL BE THE FIRST CHANCE TO RUN IN BIG PACKS WITH THE NEW SPOILER, WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE WITH THAT?
A. I think that the change from the old spoiler to the wing was ill-advised. As the front end of the car pitches and the back end raises in its attitude through braking and corner entry, the wing caused the car to get more aerodynamic benefit for the tires on the back of the car. The spoiler moves that benefit to the front of the car. I think it is a more natural state for the aero balance of the car to move to the front so that as you are braking, the front end of the car will turn. That is a much more natural thing than how it was with the wing. Aesthetically, having been in stock car racing for more than two decades, the majority of that time with the spoiler rather than the wing, I think that the cars are returning to the appearance of a traditional stock car, which I feel good about. I am also excited about the engineering and technical aspect of having the aero balance shift back to the front of the car. I think that is an easier problem for the drivers to deal with and for the engineers and crew to adjust to.
Q. DOES HAVING THE SPOILER INSTEAD OF THE WING CHANGE YOUR GAME PLAN GOING INTO TEXAS?
A. Yes, it does. With the spoiler versus the wing, it will have four different springs and a different weight balance. When you talk about nose weight, you are talking about what the portion of the 3,400 pounds is on the front tire in a static circumstance versus the portion on the rear tires. The weight balance between the front and rear axel will change. I think the anti-roll resistance between the front roll bar and rear roll bar will change. I think all four shocks and springs will change. It will be a completely different dynamic package that we have run through our Ford FRAMS tool. The crew chiefs have discussed it and they all think they have a good place to start going into Texas, and I am very optimistic about that.