Notebook: Big Weekend for Roush

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards and the rest of Roush Fenway Racing are looking for better results on 1.5-mile tracks this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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This weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway provides the first glimpse of how teams compare at intermediate tracks under the new rules.  With 1.5-mile tracks playing such a significant role in the season and the Chase, this is a critical race.

One thing to note this weekend will be Roush Fenway Racing’s performance.  That organization is known for its success on 1.5-mile speedways, but the team did not win a race on that type of track last season - only the second time since 1996 Roush had gone winless at 1.5-mile speedways.  Roush had only one top-five finish in the five races at 1.5-mile tracks during last year’s Chase.

In those five Chase races, Carl Edwards had an average finish of 15.0, which was hurt by a 37th-place finish at Texas because of a blown engine.  Greg Biffle’s average finish in those races was 16.2 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s average finish was 17.8.

Earnhardt vs. Johnson

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s average finish in his last 11 Sprint Cup starts (dating back to last fall’s race at New Hampshire) is 4.8.  Jimmie Johnson’s average finish during that same time is 5.2.  Earnhardt has five top-10 finishes in his last six races at Las Vegas.  Johnson has finished first or second in five of the last nine Vegas races.

Quick On the Draw

Matt Kenseth gained a total of eight positions within two laps of restarts in last weekend’s race at Phoenix, best among drivers who finished on the lead lap.  Kenseth gained at least one spot on seven restarts, including the race’s start.

Jeff Gordon, who said before the season that he needed to be better at restarts this season, gained a total of five spots within two laps of restarts.  He gained at least one position five times.  Winner Kevin Harvick gained a total of four spots, but all of those happened on the race’s start when he went from 13th to ninth in two laps.

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Casey Mears’ 14th-place finish Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway was his best at a non-restrictor-plate oval race since this event a year ago.  Mears had a ninth at Daytona International Speedway in July (restrictor-plate race) and was 12th at Watkins Glen International (road course) last year.

After finishing 10th at Daytona and 14th at Phoenix, Mears is 11th in the points.  This also is the first year of Germain Racing’s technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

Pit Stops

David Gilliland will hike more than 20 miles Tuesday and Wednesday in the Grand Canyon.  He’ll hike to the canyon floor, spend the night in a tent and hike out the next day ... Kurt Busch’s average finish at Las Vegas, his home track, is 21.7 - his worst mark for all Cup tracks ... Parker Kligerman is the only driver to open the season with DNFs in both races ... The final green-flag stretch at Las Vegas has been less than 35 laps in seven of the last eight races there ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. also will compete in this weekend’s Nationwide race at Las Vegas.  It marks the second of three series starts he’s scheduled to make this season.  His final Nationwide start is set for April 4 in Texas.

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