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INDIANAPOLIS -- Anyone who picks a Roush Fenway Racing driver to win the Brickyard 400 Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) must be crazy.
Call me crazy.
I believe one of the weirdest statistical anomalies in NASCAR is long overdue to end. Matt Kenseth can end the jinx, or maybe Greg Biffle.
Heck, talk about overdue. Even Carl Edwards, winless in 2012, could become a new Brickyard winner.
Historically speaking, I must be off my rocker. The Brickyard 400 could go by a few other names for team owner Jack Roush and his drivers.
The Boneyard 400. Jack's Junkyard 400. The Cursed Backyard 400.
|Matt Kenseth and crew chief Jimmy Fennig are out to show they can finish a lame-duck season strong, starting at the Brickyard.|
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Roush's house of horrors when it comes to Victory Lane. In 18 years of trying, Jack's boys have yet to kiss the bricks. More like getting hit over the head with a brick.
Indy and Chicagoland Speedway are the only active Cup tracks where RFR hasn't won. But the Brickyard is Roush's record slump at 0-18.
And this isn't just a Roush problem. The last Ford driver to win at Indy was Dale Jarrett in 1999. A Chevrolet driver has won this race each of the past nine years.
But it hasn't been all bad for Roush's stable. If you overlook the winless thing (granted, that's hard to do), the Roush drivers have done OK at Indy over the years.
RFR has made a total of 76 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, dating to the inaugural event at the Brickyard 400 in 1994.
Those drivers have 15 top-5s (including four runner-up finishes) and 29 top-10s on the 2½-mile rectangle, along with leading 167 laps. So they haven't exactly stunk up the place.
Kenseth, the 2012 points leader, may have the best shot at ending the drought. He finished second at Indy in 2003 and 2006. He was third in 2002 and fifth last year.
What better place to silence his doubters, who say Kenseth is a lame duck (moving on in 2013, likely to Joe Gibbs Racing) who won't stay on top and probably won't win again this season?
"I feel like this is the second-biggest race of the year and everyone wants to win it and kiss the bricks," Kenseth said. "Indy is one of the most unique tracks we visit on the circuit. With our time on track there being so limited, without any testing and just a few practices, you really just unload and try to get up to speed on things as soon as you can to tune in your car."
It makes things difficult for the crew chiefs, who try to make adjustments on the fly at what may be the trickiest track in NASCAR as far as finding the right setup.
"Indy is a tough one to win because it's such a narrow track, so it's a challenge to pass there," said Jimmy Fennig, Kenseth's crew chief on the No. 17 Ford. "But Matt runs really well at Indy and he's had a lot of strong finishes here."
If Kenseth and the 17 team don't win it, why not Biffle? He has finished in the top eight in each of the past four races at Indy, including third in 2010. Biffle has finished on the lead lap in all nine of his Brickyard starts.
"We've run well [at Indy] in the past and I have high expectations for this weekend," Biffle said. "Indy is a fast, flat racetrack, so it's very important to be able to get into the corners well. Having Ford horsepower under the hood will help us get down the long straightaways, which is also crucial for a fast lap at Indy."
Matt Puccia, Biffle's crew chief, said the No. 16 team has placed a special emphasis on racing well at Indy.
"We've been working on our flat track programs," Puccia said. "Traditionally, this team has run well at Indy and we hope to continue. It's a unique track where fuel mileage and track position are a big factor."
A win at Indianapolis would be huge. We've got a brand-new car, and Chad and the guys have been working very hard to make sure we run well, qualify well and have a good strategy.” -- Carl Edwards
Last but not least on the potential-winner list for Roush is Edwards. The 2011 championship runner-up desperately needs a victory to stay in the Chase picture.
Now he has a new crew chief in Chad Norris (who replaced Bob Osborne) to try to spark some life into the No. 99 team. A victory at Indy in their first Cup race together would send a strong message that Edwards is back.
"A win at Indianapolis would be huge," said Edwards, who finished second in the 2008 Brickyard 400. "We've got a brand-new car, and Chad and the guys have been working very hard to make sure we run well, qualify well and have a good strategy. These last seven races [before the Chase] are as important as any seven races we've ever run. We're giving it our best and hopefully we'll kiss those bricks."
Norris said he's not coming in to revamp the 99 team. He just hopes a fresh outlook can get Edwards back to where he was a year ago.
"Bob has done a great job with this team and these cars, so I don't see a bunch of huge changes coming," Norris said. "We're going to give it everything we've got for the next seven races and get in this Chase. That is what Carl, Jack and this team deserves and expects."
A Jack Roush driver deserves to win this race. The organization is too good to be winless anywhere, especially a place with the racing lore of Indy.
So go ahead and call me crazy. All bad things must come to an end. It's time for Jack to kiss the bricks.