Ford can't rely solely on Roush to be Cup competitive
Posted: Thursday July 20, 2006 4:20PM; Updated: Thursday July 20, 2006 4:20PM
Jack Roush is keeping Ford in Chase contention, but the manufacturer needs a more well-rounded approach.
Greg Biffle clings tenuously to the final rung for The Chase. If he can hang on for seven more races, the House of Roush will have produced three cars for bound-at-the-hip partner Ford with the possibility of winning the Nextel Cup. Teammate Carl Edwards, 166 points outside of 10th and with Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin to climb over, has an outside shot to make it too.
No other Ford team is going to come close. It's not a healthy situation.
Jack Roush has painstakingly constructed an empire. His organization regularly runs five cars in Cup, three in Busch and three in Craftsman Trucks and has victories in all three divisions this season. Roush has won two of the past three Cup titles and Matt Kenseth is primed for another one.
Roush has the most extensive driver development program in the sport, ranging from Busch with Todd Kluever and Danny O'Quinn to the local short tracks with Sondi Eden. He has engineers ready to become crew chiefs and deep-ocean depth in every mechanical department. Roush has the bases covered.
So why is it a problem that one team is carrying the ball for Ford?
Empires decline. Ford can't afford for Roush to slip even a little for a single season. It is imperative that Ford has several contenders in The Chase. There is strength in numbers. For manufacturers in racing, as Vince Lombardi once put it, winning is everything. Second in the championship means absolutely nothing. You can't advertise or promote it.
Roush has everything in place technically and mechanically. But Cup is driver dependent. He thought he had 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch under contract for this season until Roger Penske signed him to a contract starting with 2007. No team wants to go through an entire season with a lame-duck driver, so a release was negotiated.
Undoubtedly in reaction to that unforeseen turn of events, Roush made the smartest move of the year by signing Kenseth to a long-term deal. Kenseth is in his prime. He can be counted on to make the Chase for years to come, right? But what happens if he has an off year, or -- heaven forbid -- injuries play a role?