Matt Kenseth set a new track record during qualifying at Kansas on Friday afternoon, but in racing it’s rarely about where you start.
Roush and Ford racing teammates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are well aware of that tidbit and plan to show on Sunday that while they don’t have the track record, they have the fastest cars in town. Edwards and Rookie Stenhouse qualified second and third respectively.
“I had the pole there for about five minutes and it felt really good, but we’ve got a great starting spot,” said Edwards on his run. “It’s a good lap. I hope our car is as fast in race trim.
“It looked like Ricky was pretty good the little bit of race trim he ran and hopefully we can go get this thing tuned in [Saturday] and win this race on Sunday. I think the Fords are gonna be really tough.”
Greg Biffle, another Roush driver, qualified 11th while their young teammate Stenhouse, earned his best career qualifying effort at Kansas and Stenhouse is driving for the same team that won here last fall. Should he follow in those footsteps, it would deliver Roush Fenway Racing their fifth win at the 1.5-mile speedway.
“We were hoping to back up what we ran in practice and I actually think that would have tied Matt [Kenseth],” noted Stenhouse on qualifying. “We knew we had a good car when we unloaded here and all the Fords are fast.
“Doug Yates and the guys in the engine shop have been working on our complaints we’ve had the first few races and it’s paying off right now. There’s a lot of speed here. The racetrack is really fast. [Sponsor] Zest won the last time they were here with Matt, so hopefully we can be battling for the win before it’s over with.”
Last fall it was Kenseth who won for Roush driving for the same team that Stenhouse rolls into Kansas with this weekend. And it was on that same weekend that Stenhouse won in the Nationwide Series, en route to his second consecutive championship.
That success, adds to Stenhouse’s confidence entering race day. He knows the new surface and feels comfortable with it, he says. The goal for crew chief Scott Graves and company will be to make sure no one gets in over their heads and the car stays dialed into the racetrack, hopefully parlaying into another victory.
A victory Edwards has yet to experience in Kansas. This is the home track for the Missouri native and he’s come close in the past – including a brave move into turn three back in 2008 in hopes of beating Jimmie Johnson.
“I feel that this season we have a couple of really great things going for us. We’ve got Jimmy Fennig on the pit box, who is second-to-none in the garage with experience and decision making capability,” said Edwards, when asked if this was the year he’d finally break through.
“We’ve also go the fastest pit crew on pit road. We talk about how difficult some of these tracks are to pass on right now, that pit crew is hugely important, so I think we have some great reasons to look forward to this race particularly, and the starting spot won’t hurt. I think it’ll all be good.”
On a somber note for the company, regardless of where the RFR drivers finish, team owner Jack Roush has pledged to donate $100 for every lap that his drivers lead to victims of the tragedy this past week in Boston. Biffle and Stenhouse have both pledged to do the same for any laps they lead.
RFR is half owned by John Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox. Each of their cars, along with many in the NSCS garage, will carry a special “B-Strong” decal in honor of the victims and those affected from the Boston Marathon bombings and the resulting manhunt for the suspects.
The green flag for the STP 400 at Kansas falls shortly after 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.