The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Finding Answers For Ford's Top Team Going Forward by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday August 2, 2010

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With his win Sunday, Greg Biffle will make the Chase

Greg Biffle’s win at Pocono was a Hollywood ending for both Ford and his Roush Fenway Racing team, the push that should all but assure him a spot in this year’s Chase for the championship.

Greg Biffle had won fifty career races across NASCAR’s three national touring series, a Truck Series championship, and a Nationwide championship; but for all of his career successes, win No. 51 ranks near the top. In the record books, it may go down as just another midsummer victory, his first at Pocono, but with his Chase hopes on the line, Ford winless on the season, and longtime car owner Jack Roush in the hospital with serious injuries after a plane crash, Sunday’s win meant much, much more. Biffle has been with Roush for over a decade now, and if there were ever a time for Ford to pick up its first win this season, and ever a driver to win a race in honor of the injured car owner, Biffle and this weekend proved to be the perfect scenario. The Hollywood ending not only ends the manufacturer’s winless drought and helps Roush with the healing process, but it also now gives Biffle a 122-point cushion ahead of 13th-place Mark Martin with five races remaining before the Chase cutoff.

Sitting eleventh in points, Biffle has an 88-point advantage over Clint Bowyer in twelfth and has back-to-back top-3 finishes. Despite inconsistency for much of the season, Biffle has completed 99.1 percent of the laps this season and has top 10s at a road course (Sonoma – 7th), a superspeedway (Daytona – 3rd), both short tracks (Martinsville – 10th; Bristol – 4th), and numerous cookie-cutter tracks. He may just now be competing for wins, but Biffle has been strong enough all season to make the Chase; and come New Hampshire, he ultimately will.

Carl Edwards will be the next Roush Fenway driver to win this season

When Carl Edwards has made storylines this season, it’s been for all the wrong reasons, whether it’s putting Brad Keselowski in the fence at Atlanta or retaliating once again and triggering a multi-car crash at Gateway. But what seems to be a tumultuous season for the former championship contender on the surface has turned around in the summer months; and now, the No. 99 team is thinking race wins and potential championship. OK, championship may still be a bit of a stretch, but Sunday’s third-place finish is Edwards’ fourth consecutive top 10, and it’s not wrong to think that a win is in the near future. With cookie-cutter tracks making up half of the remaining schedule, Edwards will have a legitimate shot to break into Victory Lane and end a two season winless drought. Where will that breakout performance come? Edwards fans should pay particularly close attention to upcoming races at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, and Dover.

Matt Kenseth is a legitimate championship contender

Kenseth shot to the top of the standings early in the 2010 season with top 10s in six of the first seven races, and immediately established himself as a force to be reckoned with. But since a sixth-place run at Phoenix in April for his sixth top 10 during the short campaign, the No. 17 team has hit a wall and recorded just two top-10 finishes since. It hasn’t gotten any better as of late, either, with a best finish of twelfth in his last eight starts. The Roush Fenway program as a whole seems to be turning the corner, but for whatever reason the No. 17 team isn’t, leading just two laps over the last two months. There may be four months left in the season, but if you don’t have it figured out by now, you’re just not going to win the championship. Sorry, Kenseth fans.

David Ragan will one day emerge as a Chase driver

While there are three Roush Fenway cars currently inside the top 12 in points, David Ragan and the famed No. 6 sit 24th. It’s the second consecutive disappointing season for a team and driver that once seemed poised to start winning races and contending for Chase berths. In 2008, Ragan had six top 5s and 14 top 10s, leaving fans and media all predicting another leap forward in 2009. But since then the No. 6 team finds itself stuck in reverse, with just three top-10 finishes total over their last 57 starts in the series. It’s tough for a Sprint Cup organization to field four competitive cars week in and week out, and unfortunately for Ragan, he’s on the “D” team at Roush. But while he may never be a Chase driver at Roush Fenway, Ragan has continually shown glimpses of potential. If the two ever part ways and IF he lands in the right situation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young driver show the promise he once showed in ’08. Things may not be looking good right now, but don’t count Ragan out just yet.

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