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August 20, 2008 9:42 AM

Visit Back 'Home' for Roush More Meaningful in Victory

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- They were calling him to the center of all the attention in Victory Lane.

After all, as the architect of the remarkable day that had just unfolded at Michigan International Speedway, he deserved to be there, basking in the moment.

But Jack Roush's eyes were transfixed on the little girl he held in his arms, and her eyes on his. They shared a moment of pure joy before Roush gently set her down and told her that Grandpa had to go for a moment and would see her later.

"That was Josie Rose McClenaghan," Roush said of his grandchild, his own oldest daughter's daughter. "She's 3 and a half years old, and she's been to Victory Lane before. I think she's 4-for-4. I don't think she's gone to a race when we haven't celebrated a victory."

After breaking away from blond-haired, blue-eyed, smiling Josie Rose, Roush was off to join race winner Carl Edwards to continue the celebration. High above it all, the scoreboard towering above the MIS start/finish line told the broader story -- not only had Edwards won the 3M Performance 400 in his No. 99 Ford, but four of the top five finishers were members of the Roush Fenway Racing family. David Ragan had claimed third, Greg Biffle fourth and the resilient Matt Kenseth fifth in fellow Fords. The fifth member, Jamie McMurray, was 10th.

It's located one hour up the road from Ford headquarters in Detroit and about the same distance from Roush Industries in Livonia, Mich., where Roush said he employs 3,000. That's in addition to those who are part of his sprawling racing operation, based in Concord, N.C., and on Sunday the track seemed overflowing with all of them.

"It's really home for me," Roush said of racing at MIS. "It's a chance to play in front of the home crowd. It means a lot to Ford Motor Company, and it means a lot to me."

One other aspect to Sunday's victory appealed to Roush and Edwards. In winning the race, Edwards held off the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch down the stretch -- including on the final restart with two laps to go. In a season that has been largely dominated by Busch and the No. 18 car, that was no small feat.

Edwards said he thought back to the recent race at Chicagoland before the green flag dropped on the final restart. It was there that Edwards watched as Busch worked his way around two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson and stole a win at the very end.

"Jimmie lost it on that restart because, well, Kyle is great on restarts. That's just a fact," Edwards said. "I just didn't want to have to go through that pain, so I did everything I could to have the best restart I could -- and it worked out great."

If it sounds like Edwards had no doubts that it would, that's because he didn't.

"My psyche and mentality is pretty much fixed on I'm the greatest racecar driver to ever live," said Edwards, laughing. "You know what I'm saying? ... That's what David Pearson told me once. If you don't believe that, you don't belong in the racecar.

"I'm sure Kyle feels the same way. It's just that when we beat him, it's a 20-point spread. And it goes the other way, too. I've finished second to him a few times this year, and that's frustrating."

It's doubly frustrating because Busch is the only driver who has consistently out-driven Edwards all year. Three times -- at Darlington, in the second Daytona race in July and at Dover -- Busch was the one celebrating in Victory Lane while Edwards was forced to be content with the second-place consolation prize.

With his eight race wins, Busch entered Sunday's event having already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. But Edwards is not far behind after claiming his fifth Cup win of the season.

Edwards also had to give back 10 of his Chase bonus points for a victory following a rules violation earlier in the season, meaning he currently has a total of just 40 bonus points to Busch's 80 (10 for each regular-season win). But he's clearly closing the gap quickly not only in pure mathematical terms, but more importantly in terms of momentum and confidence heading into the Chase.

And there will be others to contend with once the Chase commences, of that Carl is certain.

"Somebody said, 'Oh, it's coming down to you and Kyle.' I said, 'Man, I hope it's just me and Kyle.' It would be nice to just have to beat one other guy," Edwards said. "But I have a feeling that this Chase is going to be spectacularly competitive."

If so, it's obvious what Edwards and Roush must do. They must start bringing Josie Rose McClenaghan on the road more often.

Asked if Josie Rose was busy next week, Roush smiled as only a proud grandfather and winning race team owner can and replied: "I think next week she's going drag racing with her mother. Her mother is a drag racer and she hasn't had quite the success we've had with the stock cars. But she knows what the smell of victory is, and she really looks forward to coming to the races when she can."

Ah, the smell of victory. Roush loves the smell of victory himself on a Monday morning.

So while Josie Rose might not be at Bristol this Saturday night, you can bet Roush will put her perfect race record on the line again if it becomes necessary during the Chase. Meanwhile, he will bask in the memory that is Michigan.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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