Roush Fenway Racing had its best Daytona Speedweeks ever, with Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle sweeping the front row in Daytona 500 qualifying, and Matt Kenseth winning his Gatorade Duel qualifying race before capturing his second Daytona 500 in four years.
As Speedweeks go, they don’t get any better for one team.
And yet, one of the toughest parts of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing is what you did last week counts for nothing this week. So when Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle roll into Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, they’ve got to do it all over again.
Daytona is such an anomaly on the schedule that what happened there isn’t applicable to this week’s race in Phoenix or next week in Las Vegas — no restrictor plates, no blocked off radiators, no big drafting packs.
And no time to rest on your laurels.
No one knows that more than Kenseth, who in 2009 swept the first two races of the season and then went on to finish 14th in points, missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the only time in his career.
“I always look at Daytona as almost like a separate season,” said Kenseth. “I've looked at it mainly for the reason that you can have a big wreck or something can happen. We've left there with bad finishes, low in the points. Usually by the time we get to the next race I put that behind me and don't count that as a race for the season, although the points count, then start off racing and feel like every race towards there is a race towards trying to get yourself and team at a championship level and able to work towards getting in the Chase and trying to race for a championship.”
PIR presents a specific challenge for the teams, in that it was repaved and reconfigured last summer, and so the track surface is still very fresh.
“I think there's a little wondering when you get out there of what the surface is going to be like, how long we're going to have to run to get it burned in, if it's going to be ready, all that kind of stuff,” said Kenseth. “That's one thing you think of right away.”
The Phoenix schedule is different, too. There are two rounds of Sprint Cup practice on Friday, at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. ET, both of which will be televised on SPEED. But Saturday is qualifying only — no practice.
“That gives you a little less time to think about things overnight, try things on Saturday,” said Kenseth. “You have to be ready to get it done in two practices, get it all done. So I think that presents a little challenge for the team and the driver, as well.”
Edwards, who finished second at PIR last November, is ready to roll. He has one victory and six top-five finishes here, along with an excellent average finish of 12.267.
“I love going to Phoenix,” he said. “The weather looks like it’s going to be great, and I’m really excited to see how the track has aged over the winter. I thought the surface was very racy last time we were there and I think everyone is excited to see if it gets even better for the race this weekend. This is a huge race for us being the Subway Fresh Fit 500 and we’re racing the Subway Ford, so a win would be huge.”
Biffle is also set for a big weekend in the desert.
“We showed in Daytona that we have a team capable of competing for wins and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the team we’ve assembled for the 2012 season,” said Biffle. “I am ready to get on the track in Phoenix.”
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.