Notebook: Roush Resurgence?

Carl Edwards, Jack Roush

Carl Edwards celebrates with car owner Jack Roush after winning at Bristol last weekend. (Photo: Getty Images)

Car owner Jack Roush concedes that it’s “been a very long winter’’ at Roush Fenway Racing.

Although the organization won three races last season, it failed to win on a 1.5-mile speedway - typically where Roush cars often are strong - and had its highest-finishing driver place ninth in the points. That led to an in-depth look in the off-season at how to improve.

“We took an evaluation, took stock of who we had – the talent and the experience – and decided we had people with the right stuff that were motivated and committed, so we stayed the course with the folks that we had even though we didn’t win a championship last year,’’ Roush said. “We stayed the course and added to the staffing level and were able to do some things that I wouldn’t care to talk about.’’

Carl Edwards gave Roush and the organization something to celebrate with his victory Sunday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, but questions remain as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway this weekend.

Roush cars have not been as strong on big tracks since Greg Biffle won at Michigan last June.

“We basically changed everything (in the off-season) and worked really hard, and that’s what was so scary about struggling at Vegas because it was like, ‘Hey, this is the problem we’ve been addressing,‘ ‘‘ Edwards said, referring to the Las Vegas race two weeks ago where he finished fifth but Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished outside the top 20.

“We just kind of lost the balance there, and I think we need to understand that, so there’s a big glimmer of hope and some evidence that we can do it, we just have to understand a couple of things the car is doing a little bit better.”

Will that transfer to this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway, which is a two-mile oval?

“We are looking at California as a place to try some different things and hopefully tell us how we’re going to perform at these big racetracks,” Edwards said.

HUSTLING

Kyle Larson admits he was like some fans who watch NASCAR Sprint Cup racing and thought “they just ride around until the last hundred laps or whatever.’’

The rookie knows better now.

“My first race at Charlotte last year in the Cup Series, I realized there's not as much give‑and‑take as I thought,'' he said. "It's all racing really hard the whole time, and it's a lot of fun.’’

Larson heads to Auto Club Speedway after a career-best 10th-place finish last weekend at Bristol.          

FAST START

Jeff Gordon finished seventh at Bristol on Sunday, giving him top-10 finishes in each of the first four races of the season. Gordon had never started the year with such a streak until this year.

NEW STRATEGY

Qualifying will have a different look at Auto Club Speedway. Drivers and crew chiefs note that there’s a significant drop in speed the more the tires are run. Teams only will want to do one run per round to save the tires. The last couple of weeks, speeds improved the more tires ran so teams were willing to make multiple attempts in qualifying.

PIT STOPS

Aric Almirola scored a career-high third-place finish at Bristol last weekend. His previous career high was a fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2010. ... Jimmie Johnson has an average finish of 5.7 in 19 career starts at Auto Club Speedway. ... Defending race winner Kyle Busch has finished in the top three in each of the past three races at the track and led 67 percent of the laps run in those races. ... Auto Club Speedway is the only Cup track Brad Keselowski has yet to record a top-10 finish. His best finish there is 18th.  

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