In the land where everything is bigger, Roush Fenway drivers usually deliver big
By: Staff Report, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
As the largest state in the contiguous United States (only Alaska is larger) and the second most populous state in the country (behind California), Texas always expects to deliver big.
In the same vein, on-track action at Texas Motor Speedway always delivers big. And, no team performs bigger at the 1.5-mile track in the Lone Star State than Roush Fenway Racing.
The same should hold true this weekend when Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and 40 other drivers saddle up for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' 500-mile event (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Texas Motor Speedway.
In 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at "The Great American Speedway," Roush drivers have won nine times, including last spring's event when Biffle claimed the checkered flag after pacing the field with a track race record speed of 160.577 mph.
All three Roush Fenway Racing drivers competing in the event under the lights have found Victory Lane at least once. Biffle and longtime teammate Edwards have won two and three times, respectively, in NASCAR's premier series. Stenhouse, who moved into the No. 17 Ford Fusion fulltime this season after winning back-to-back titles in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, won last year's Nationwide Texas spring race.
Additionally, Edwards has two Nationwide victories at Texas, while Biffle has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win.
The other four NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Texas for Roush Fenway belong to Jeff Burton (1997), Mark Martin (1998) and Matt Kenseth, who drove the No. 17 Ford to Victory Lane in 2002 and 2011 before leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2012 season.
Once the race starts, Roush Fenway Racing drivers should be easy to spot near the top of the leaderboard, as they will probably be among the fastest on the track. In the past eight years (16 races), Biffle leads all active drivers with 455 fastest laps and 732 laps led (13.7% of laps led, also best among active drivers), which is his personal best at any track. In 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, he has seven top fives, 11 top 10s and a pole to go with his two wins.
"We are really excited to go back to Texas as the defending race winner," said Biffle. "It takes a good balanced car to be able to win at Texas. … The car we are taking just came out of the wind tunnel with really good numbers. I'm ready to get on the track and defend our win."
Edwards has run 4,043 laps in the top 15 in the last 16 races at Texas, which is third most among active drivers, behind only Matt Kenseth (4,174) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4,106). He has the fourth highest number of fastest laps with 342. Edwards' three victories (in 16 starts) at Texas ties a personal best for the Missouri native; he also has three at Atlanta. In addition, he has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
Although Stenhouse has never competed in the premier series at Texas, he has one victory, two top fives and four top 10s in six Nationwide starts there.
"We're hoping for our second win of the season and fourth at Texas Motor Speedway," said Edwards. "It's going to be an awesome 500 laps under the lights of Texas."
"We won their last year in the Nationwide series so hopefully we can get another cowboy hat," said Stenhouse. "We have a test session on Thursday to work on getting our Best Buy Ford dialed in. After last weekend, I am looking to get a top-10 finish."
Through six races this season, Edwards has one win (Phoenix) and three top fives. Biffle has three top 10s, including a pair of sixth-place finishes at Daytona and Auto Club, while Stenhouse's best finish in his first season in the series was a 12th in the season opener at Daytona.
Among all three national series, Roush Fenway Racing boasts a combined total of 18 wins, 74 top fives, 125 top 10s, eight poles and 3,439 laps lead at Texas.
FANTASY FOCUS: Beyond the current crop of Roush Fenway drivers, who are always solid choices at Texas, former Roush Fenway driver Matt Kenseth, now with Joe Gibbs Racing, tops the list. He has the most laps run in the top 15 (4,174) and highest average finish (6.3), average running position (9.4), percentage of laps run in the top 15 (77.9) and driver rating (106.6) among active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas. Jimmie Johnson should also be a consideration for your fantasy team. With two wins and 14 tops 10s in 19 starts, there are not many drivers who have been as consistent. A dark horse candidate to consider is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Although he hasn't won since his first trip there in 2000, he has 12 top 10s and two poles in 21 races. Additionally, his 13.6 average finishing position is his third best at any track, behind only Atlanta and Bristol.
PIQUET CONFIDENT AFTER TEST SESSION
Confidence can come from many things.
In Nelson Piquet Jr.'s case, it's last week's test session at Texas. It could also be from his past success at the track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Although Piquet has never run a NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, he is nonetheless confident heading into Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
"I am looking forward to returning to Texas and the Nationwide series this weekend," said Piquet. "We had a great test session there last week, so I feel pretty confident heading into the weekend. Chris Carrier and the guys at Turner Scott Motorsports have worked really hard to get my Camaro ready to race."
In five races at Texas (all in the NCWTS), Piquet has three top fives, four top 10s and one pole. His lowest finishing position was a 13th in the 2011 truck race. In the most recent race there, he sat on the pole, led 65 of 147 laps and finished third (his highest at the track).
In his first season in Nationwide, he currently sits 14th in points, 79 points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. He trails Mike Bliss, who is currently 13th, by only five points. Through the season's first five races, Piquet's best finish is an 11th at Daytona. Overall, he has four top-16 finishes and a 34th-place finish at Bristol, at which he was sidelined after only 104 laps due to an accident.
If he's able to produce at Texas similarly to what he's done there in the truck series, he should be able to improve his position.
TO DILLON THE ROCK IS A MEMORABLE PLACE
Growing up near a landmark, such as Rockingham Speedway, that provides racing fans with many memorable moments is certainly something to be treasured.
And Ty Dillon certainly does.
"I remember going with my grandfather [Richard Childress] when I was really young, just riding up the day before the race in his Corvette, spending a full day with him at the race track and really learning about racing back in the day when Dale Earnhardt was driving, and it was always a great time when Rockingham came around," said Dillon.
Instead of going to the races as a guest of his grandfather, these days Dillon is racing around the race track as the driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Dillon, who is currently eighth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings (28 points behind Johnny Sauter), will have the chance to compete with 35 other drivers in Sunday afternoon's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock Presented by Cheerwine (2:00 p.m. ET, SPEED).
The truck race is the second in as many years at Rockingham, after taking an extended break from hosting NASCAR national touring series events. Prior to last year's truck event, the last time the one-mile track hosted such an event was in February 2004, when both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series competed there.
In last year's race, Dillon finished eighth after starting 12th. Among last year's Truck regulars in the race, he ran all 200 laps in the top 15 and had the sixth highest driver rating (96.5). The event was won by NASCAR Sprint Cup regular Kasey Kahne.
After two races in 2013, Dillon has a 6th-place finish at Daytona and an 18th in last weekend's race at Martinsville.