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TALLADEGA -- Jack Roush, owner of Roush Fenway Racing, watched his team win two of the four restrictor plate races last season, including last fall’s event at Talladega Superspeedway, which is the site of this weekend’s Aaron’s 499. A year ago, this race produced the most dramatic moment when Carl Edwards, who was leading as he approached the finish line, made contact with Brad Keselowski and went spinning into the catchfence. Edwards emerged unscathed and after getting out of his car, jogged across the finish line. Roush spoke about his team’s success at the superspeedways a year ago and how he thinks the spoiler will react on Sunday.
Q. YOUR ORGANIZATION WON TWO RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES LAST YEAR AND CAME WITHIN A FEW FEET OF MAKING IT THREE. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT SUCCESS TO OF LATE?
A. We certainly had more success in restrictor plate racing last year than I had expected and had historically been the case. Todd Parrott did a great job organizing the guys. Jimmy Fennig did a great job. All the crew chiefs cooperated. You work along and you feel like you’re making a maximum effort on everything, and you kind of get yourself hunkered down into what your expectation is and occasionally something surprises you. The fact that it all came together for restrictor plate racing was a pleasant surprise. It was a bright spot in a year that otherwise was not what we had hoped for in terms of average performance throughout the year. We had not run as well as we needed to on short tracks, and then we lost the dominance we had the year before on intermediate tracks. We remained competitive on mile-and-a-half tracks, but the year before we pretty much owned them. The bright spot was we were arguably in a position to win three of the four restrictor plate races, and if things had broken differently on the fourth one who knows? You go through a cycle where you work your way to the front as a driver and then a lot of times you get shuffled back. We were just on the wrong side of the shuffling process. We had been up front and if the race had been 50 miles longer or 50 miles shorter at the July race in Daytona, we would have had a chance to win that as well. We just weren’t in the right position in the way things shuffled at the end, but I’m hopeful for this week at Talladega. We ran well at Daytona. The spoiler will be a little bit of a change for the car, so there may be some winners coming out of there that we’re not thinking about, and there may be a reason why it works out to their own detriment that I’m not aware of, but, right now, I’m very hopeful that Talladega will be good for us.
Q. WE USED TO HEAR PEOPLE SAY THAT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES WERE ONLY FOUR RACES A YEAR AND IT WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO CONCTRATE ON THE 1.5-MILE TYPE TRACKS BECAUSE THAT WAS WHAT A MAJORITY OF THE RACES WERE RUN ON. YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO DISCARD THESE FOUR RACES ANYMORE, CAN YOU?
A. That is true and that mindset is also passé. Right now, you’ve got to have the resources and put the attention to every race on the schedule because as soon as you write one off, that will predispose a bad result in terms of your average performance throughout the year because so many of the teams have the resources and management strength to bring a good effort to the race track every single weekend.
Q. YOU’VE BEEN IN THIS SPORT A LONG TIME. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A MORE SCARY ACCIDENT WITH ONE OF YOUR CARS THAN WHAT CARL WENT THROUGH LAST YEAR AT TALLADEGA?
A. That was the most frightening thing that I’ve seen involving one of my cars. Mark Martin was upside-down a number of times in restrictor plate races and that was always a concern, but the thing at Talladega was unfortunate. NASCAR has got to establish boundaries for everything that we do and what you can do on the race track. The fact that they were unyielding on the checkered flag circumstance and protecting that yellow line on the bottom of the race track, that resulted in the problem that Carl and Brad Keselowski found themselves in and, of course, the result was that Carl wound up in the fence. In my mind’s eye, I pictured a worse scenario. I thought he went through the fence.
Q. WHAT DID YOU DO PERSONALLY AFTER THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED?
A. I was waiting to see if they were going to give him a checkered flag after he ran on foot across the finish line (smiling). It was clear to me that he was not injured. I don’t remember if he went to the care center. I guess he probably did, but I didn’t. If he had gone out in an ambulance on a stretcher I would have been there, but as it turned out I was not concerned about his health at that time.
Q. YOU’VE USED THE TERM ‘JUMP BALL’ AT TIMES WHEN IT COMES TO RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
A. Yeah, it’s a little bit of a jump ball. The aero balance of the car through some of the dynamic manifestations will change with the rear spoiler versus the wing – probably not as much at Talladega as it would at short tracks, say Martinsville or Richmond or Phoenix – but it will be different. The thing that I think we’ll all be comfortable with is that indications are from the wind tunnel that when a car goes backwards it picks up the normal amount of drag that would tend to stop the car from getting airborne and making the dramatic crashes we’ve had when the cars have swung around or turned backwards with the wing. It was an unintended side-effect and unanticipated problem that when the car went backwards with the wing on, it didn’t pick up as much drag as with the spoiler and that increased the propensity for it to go upside-down.