Winning will do wonders for your disposition. If you don’t believe it, just ask Jack Roush.
Roush had a big weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, with Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards winning both the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races at PIR, and teammate Greg Biffle earning his second consecutive top-five finish in the Kobalt Tools 500 Cup race.
Those performances put a huge smile on the face of Roush, a man who has endured a challenging 2010 season on many levels. At the start of the year, Roush’s Fords didn’t have the speed of the front-running Chevrolets and Toyotas, a condition Roush ascribed to inferior computer simulation technology: His software maker wasn’t as good as the software makers used by his competition.
Toward mid-season, the Roush Fords found speed, in large part because they started running front-end suspension packages developed by fellow Ford team Richard Petty Motorsports. But in sort of a cruel twist of irony, RPM ran into big money problems and reportedly owes Roush Fenway as much as $10 million for the cars it builds for RPM and the engines it provides through affiliate Roush Yates Engines.
Roush had a huge personal challenge, too, surviving a mid-summer crash landing of his airplane in Oshkosh, Wis., a crash which cost him one eye and a broken back.
Given the backdrop to his season, no wonder Roush was all smiles after Edwards won on Sunday at Phoenix.
Asked what the victory meant to him, Roush chuckled just a little.
“The first thought that occurs to me is ‘too late smart,’” he said. “We didn't realize we needed to build something that — we thought we finished last year with sufficient momentum to be able to get into this year and do what we needed to do. Early on we figured out the things we tried to predict didn't work and some of the things we tried to simulate didn't work out as well as they needed to.”
Roush said the team needed to integrate Ford’s new FR9 engine, as well as make other changes to make the team’s cars competitive.
“We were waiting for our FR9 engine,” Roush said. “We needed a little more work on the aero side of our car. Throughout the year, the engineers worked hard on the aero piece. We had a problem with vibration. We still had that bothering us last weekend with Greg Biffle's car. We had two weekends of testing on an independent race track to evaluate that. We think we have a handle on the vibrations.”
A week before Phoenix, Matt Kenseth finished second at Texas Motor Speedway and Biffle led the most laps before a transmission problem dropped him to fifth. Clearly, with the team running as well as it is — Edwards is up to fourth in points and Kenseth fifth — Roush is ready to keep racing.
“We wish the year would not end,” he said after Sunday’s race at PIR. “Certainly I feel like all the sponsors will enjoy the moment. AFLAC certainly will. Carl's sponsors and Roush Fenway sponsors will bask in the light of this, the glory of this moment. We're off to Homestead with the opportunity to win another Nationwide race and a Cup race.”
One thing you won’t see Roush doing anytime soon: Jumping into the stands after a race victory like Edwards did when he won the Texas Nationwide race and Phoenix Cup race.
“I'm not sure people like me as well as they do you,” Roush told Edwards Sunday night. “I've got a spotted past, so I'm not sure how it would work out for me.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.