The Great Motivator?

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Eight weeks ago Jack Roush must have felt like the king of the world. His Roush Racing organization had half of the field in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" and his entire organization was focused solely on one goal: winning a third consecutive championship for the long-time owner.

From that moment, Roush has had to watch as Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have turned the "Chase" into what many say is a two-car battle, despite the fact that his organization has won three of the eight races thus far.

Now, with two races remaining, he should be motivating his Roushkateers as they prepare to launch their final assaults on the championship leaders...right?

Well, not exactly.

"We don't have a realistic prospect of beating the 20 or the 48 with any of our cars, Carl (Edwards) included, unless somebody else has trouble," Roush said.

Not exactly the same type of speech Knute Rockne gave to inspire his Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football team.

With four of his five drivers within 135 points of championship leader Stewart, Roush should be optimistic to retain the NEXTEL Cup championship for the third year, shouldn't he?

"When we started, with the way the No. 20 had been running and the way the No. 48 had been running and the way we were extraordinarily lucky to have won our championships in the last two years," Roush added.

Geez, with that type of talk no wonder Mark Martin was so pessimistic following his win at Kansas Speedway last month.

Is there any doubt that most of his drivers, even those with a legitimate chance at the championship (that excludes the soon to be Penske driver Kurt Busch), have begun downplaying their chances?

"So, I'm saying we're not out of it, but, you know, our hopes are not like they were," Greg Biffle said, who sits 122 points behind in fourth place.

"It would take a miracle for us to win the championship, but we’re digging," Mark Martin said, who is in fifth, 123 points out of first.

"Hopefully we can climb up there in points and if we can't get all the way to the front and catch those guys, hopefully we can get up in the top five and get a good finish out of the end of the year," said Matt Kenseth before this weekend's Texas race, where he made up 20 points on the leader and now sits 135 points from obtaining his second career title.

About the only person who remains optimistic about his chances is the junior driver in the Roush stable of drivers, Carl Edwards.

"I want to prove (Roush) wrong. What are you talking about Jack?" joked Edwards after his victory in Texas, the second in a row after winning in Atlanta. "(Stewart) knows how win championships and he's an unbelievable race-car driver and they've got a great team, but that's not going to stop us from giving 100 percent."

After other drivers have been accused of playing mind games, could this be an effort by Roush to take the pressure off his drivers? Nobody can be sure, but one thing is for certain, this cannot be healthy for the morale of his entire organization.

"The thing I'm doing is building toward next year and the years that will follow. We've had a great run, even though this may not be a year of harvest for that," said Roush.

He may be a great team owner, but he sure needs to work on his motivational skills.

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