Roush drivers have always been good at Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas – Matt Kenseth has led more laps than anybody in Texas. Current points leader Greg Biffle has seven consecutive top-10 finishes here. Carl Edwards is the only three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner at the 1½-mile, high-banked track.
This place certainly brings out the best in the Roush Fenway drivers.
"I don't really know why, but it has been a pretty good track for us in the past," said Kenseth, who has two wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 19 starts. "Whenever you come back to a track you've had success at, then I think you probably always look forward to coming back to it maybe a little bit more."
Owner Jack Roush was winning races at Texas Motor Speedway even before his current trio of drivers. He has been to Victory Lane and gathered quite a collection of winning cowboy hats by taking eight of 22 races.
Jeff Burton won the inaugural Texas race in 1997 driving for Roush, and Mark Martin won the following year when there was still only one Cup race a year at the track.
"You feel like you need to capitalize when you come to this track," Kenseth said. "You feel like yourself or one of your team cars needs to have a shot to win, and you should all be running up toward the front."
That is where the Roush drivers hope and expect to be Saturday in the first scheduled night race of the season. Remember, the Daytona 500 was postponed to Monday night.
Martin Truex Jr. is on the pole for the race after a qualifying lap of 190.369 mph Friday in his Michael Waltrip-owned Toyota. It's his seventh career pole and second at Texas, where he finished third five years ago.
Qualifying right behind Truex were the Fords driven by Kenseth and Biffle. Edwards qualified 20th.
Owners Joe Gibbs and Rick Hendrick both have three victories in Texas, the closest to Roush.
Hendrick Motorsports is still looking for its first win this season. The next one will be the owner's 200th in a career that began in 1984 when Geoffrey Bodine won at Martinsville.
"We're thinking about it all the time, and Rick reminds us all the time to get it out of the way," Jimmie Johnson said. "Man, we've been all around it, and have had a lot of shots at it this year. ... We had one through three locked up there at the end of Martinsville, and felt like that was the day for it to happen."
But the special bookend for Hendrick's 200th victory didn't happen after Clint Bowyer's aggressive move on a late restart took out front-runners Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Ryan Newman won and Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in that last race before the Easter weekend break.
Kasey Kahne, the first-year Hendrick driver, starts fifth in Texas. Johnson qualified 10th, Earnhardt 16th and Gordon 34th.
All three Roush drivers Saturday night had top-five finishes in both Texas races last year.
"It is a fun race track for me and for our team," said Biffle, who had a win in 2005, three years before his stretch of top-10 finishes started. "It is nice to come to a track where if during practice you are slow or have trouble qualifying or are slow during the race, you know you can fix it and you can go out and win. We have that confidence. It is nice to sit in a race car and know that we can do this."
Kenseth ended a two-year drought with a dominating victory last spring. He led 169 of 334 laps, upping his career laps led to 756 and his average finish to 8.73, both track bests.
The Roush team is smaller this season, down from four teams to three.
"We haven't seen a huge impact," Biffle said. "Obviously we'd like to be a four-car team but we understand economics, and right now we're a three-car team and we're working with that. It doesn't seem like it's affecting us as a group."
Roush also scaled back its Nationwide operation, running full-time only the No. 6 car of defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse won the Nationwide race on Friday night for Roush's ninth Texas victory in the second-tier series. But the No. 60 Roush Fenway car driven by Trevor Bayne that was fourth in the standings was parked because of a lack of sponsorship.
Bayne is set for his third Cup start Saturday night, starting 19th for the Woods Brothers team he drove for last year when he won the Daytona 500.
Biffle, the relaxed points leader coming off a Bahamas vacation last week, started this season finishing third in each of the first three races. He hasn't finished lower than 13th.
But this will be Biffle's 50th race since last winning in October 2010 at Kansas, where the series goes next week. The drought isn't bothersome for him yet, and not too surprising.
"Considering how we ran last year, no. Considering we are only six (races) in this year, I am not too nervous about it yet," he said. "We get halfway through the season and we haven't won, then I will be."