It has been a roller coaster start for Roush-Fenway Racing in 2014. Carl Edwards has been running consistently in the top-10, but the team’s other two cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have been mediocre, something that RFR is not accustomed to.
Throughout the past, the organization has been strong on the intermediate tracks, but there has been a lack of performance by each of the three Sprint Cup Series cars owned by Jack Roush and John Henry. Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are 11th and 25th in the points standings, respectively. However, Edwards is third in points after gambling his way to a top-five at Charlotte.
“We have to get faster. There are a couple of teams that are really on the ball right now like the Stewart-Haas guys and Hendrick. We just need to find the raw speed. We have the pit stops, strategy and all of those things that we need to have down pretty well,” Edwards said in an exclusive interview inside the No. 99 hauler after first practice on Friday afternoon.
With speculation that Edwards and Biffle might leave RFR, Edwards has been able to keep his focus solely on racing, all the while dealing with rumors swirling around the NASCAR garage area. Some say Edwards will leave, others say he will stay. But all that doesn’t matter as he is just focused on doing his job – similar to Matt Kenseth in 2012 and Kevin Harvick last season.
The new aero package which NASCAR introduced over the off-season appears to be putting RFR behind, and Edwards understands that. However, with a win at Bristol, Edwards can afford to take more risks, especially since he is amongst the class of the field on a weekly basis. Besides leading 78 laps en route to his win at Bristol, Edwards has led just 26 markers this year, showing RFR still has some improvements they need to make.
“Yeah, absolutely (we can take risks). We can be a little less cautious, have some more fun. For instance, last weekend (the Coca-Cola 600) is a good example,” Edwards said. “We stretched the fuel to have a chance to win the race and if we were points racing, we might not have done that. We have a chance to win this race on Sunday and on the final restart, we really don’t have much to lose by trying to be aggressive.”
Even with some inconsistency this season, Edwards has been able to make improvements from a 2013 season in which he finished 13th in points. Along with the new aero package, Edwards believes the qualifying format has slightly hurt the entire RFR team.
“The most difficult part of the new qualifying format is that if you barely miss the cut, you have to go out with mad panic to try to make the next round. If you try to run a faster lap on older tires, it is really hectic. I hope it is entertaining because it is more fun than the old qualifying.”