I went blog topic fishing today on Twitter to see what I could come up with, and Becca hit me up with this one (thanks!). We just had two straight short tracks, Bristol and Martinsville, and the five teams of Roush Fenway Racing came out the other side looking like they just went twelve rounds with Ali.
As an organization, RFR had an average finish of 30.2 at Bristol and 22.8 at Martinsville. Carl Edwards was the top finisher at Bristol with a 15th place run, and Jamie McMurray led the way at Martinsville with a 10th. The other teams’ finishes were forgettable at best.
I looked back a little ways to see if short tracks have been problematic for Roush in the past, but in the COT era they have been pretty good. Last season they collected one win (Bristol – Carl Edwards) and had nine top ten finishes in four short track races. Their 2009 short track results have fallen off pretty significantly over 2008.
On top of that, it’s not like Roush has struggled so far this season. Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the season, and both Kenseth and Edwards are in the top 12 in points. McMurray, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan are all outside the top 20 in points, but have had some decent finishes.
We didn’t have any major rule changes this season that would have maybe put Roush or the Fords behind the other manufacturers either.
With all that said, it would appear that these teams just missed the setup. And I’ve got to believe this is partially because of the testing ban implemented by NASCAR for 2009.
In the weeks leading up to both these races, the 26, 6, and 17 teams for Roush, and the 96 and 98 teams for Yates all tested at “Little Rock.” In case you don’t know, Little Rock is a short track that was built at Rockingham Speedway, specifically for testing, that is supposed to be very similar to Martinsville. NASCAR teams from all three top series have utilized the track for testing.
But apparently the testing time didn’t help, as the teams struggled anyway.
The interesting thing we heard this weekend about Little Rock though, is that while it is similar to Martinsville and some info can be obtained there, it isn’t exactly the same. Time at the track is valuable for shaking down cars and working on bigger picture stuff, but any fine tuning done on setups is really useless.
Without being able to test at either of these tracks, RFR may just be behind the eight ball on their information. Little Rock is a substitute, but it isn’t exactly the same, and not all data is going to carry over.
When something like this happens to a team, its important to note that they aren’t necessarily backing up. I don’t believe Roush’s performance is technically worse this year then it was in 2008. But instead, it would appear that everyone else just got a little bit better. Rest assured though, Jack Roush won’t rest until the situation is rectified.
With the short tracks in the rear view, don’t expect this two race drought to last for RFR. The Cup Series heads this weekend to Texas Motor Speedway where both races in 2008 were won by a Roush Fenway Ford.