Roush Brings "Ford Five" To The Chase

by Pete McCole

September 16, 2005

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2002 Champion Tony Stewart will lead the 10-car field of championship contenders into next week’s race at New Hampshire Int’l Speedway, but he will certainly have his hands full holding off a juggernaut of five Roush Racing drivers all vying for a shot at the title in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

Roush Racing swept the top three spots in last Saturday’s race, with defending series champion Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle finishing 1-2-3. Kenseth’s runner-up showing help him clinch a spot in the Chase, joining teammates Busch, Biffle, Mark Martin and this year’s surprise contender, Carl Edwards - all looking to give Roush Racing its third title in three years.

Biffle will start the Chase second in the standings, followed by Rusty Wallace, Jimmie Johnson, Busch, Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

The five-car Roush contingent – the “Ford Five” as they are being called – also gives Ford an edge in the field over three Dodges and two Chevrolets.

Despite covering half the field in the Chase, team owner Jack Roush doesn’t believe he has advantage over the other teams in the Chase.

"I'm in better shape with five (cars) than I would be with one,” said Roush. “I think I'm in better with five than I would be with four, unless somebody runs into somebody for reasons that aren't good enough. I'm really excited about the prospect of taking this group of five to the final 10 races here. I couldn't be prouder of them for what they've done.

“I'm feeling that we've got five capable and able drivers driving equipment that's organized through great engineering activity, that pools their efforts and works real hard and administered by five crew chiefs that hopefully know what they're doing. On any given day, they've all demonstrated they can win. They've all won this year.”

With five fiercely competitive teammates who are now adversaries going for the same championship, Roush doesn’t expect his teams to go out of their way to hurt one another’s chances.

“To this point, they've had the respect for me to not take one another out by taking mindless chances around one another - where they could do damage or reduce the prospects of success through some misdeed of theirs,” said Roush.

“I expect them to race clean. I want to see the same race that the fans do and the same race that our sponsors do. I want to see the best of our drivers and the best of our programs win based on who has the most luck and who executed the best strategy on the race track with their crew chief.”

Kenseth, who brought home Roush Racing’s first championship in 2003, believes all five teams will continue to work together no matter what is at stake, but only to a point.

“I think the big thing is we're still gonna work the same during the week and the teams are still gonna work the same during the week. They're gonna work together,” said Kenseth. Everybody is still gonna talk. They're still gonna share information.

“They're still gonna work together. Everybody is gonna do that, but when you get on the track, yeah, you're not gonna do nothing to hurt each other, but if you're gonna do something that might help Greg, but it's gonna cost me, I'm not gonna do that and he's not gonna do that either.”

Biffle, too, says racing against teammates could be a disadvantage.

“I had fun racing with Matt tonight, but if that's for the championship or for a potential five points towards winning the title, it's gonna be harder to race with each other like that because that spot is important,” said Biffle. “Naturally, he's gonna try and race as hard as he can. I was turning. If he won't let me up there and he chops down on me, then he won't do it again.”

Although only one can win the title, Busch believes as the Chase comes down to the wire, if any of the teammates are out of the running for the Cup they can ultimately help the ones who are.

“I believe early on it will definitely help us understand with the extra testing, with the cars on the race track giving one another extra room and to be able to know that that guy is in the chase, it's definitely a great feeling,” Busch said. “As we get closer to the end, let's just say six races, one or two might not be able to have a shot at the championship, but their tests are still just as valid.

“So, if we're out, we're gonna help the other guys. If Edwards falls out or Kenseth, it's still gonna work even better into our hands when we have five guys in the chase.”

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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