It's been an interesting year so far for the ROUSH Performance road racing team. With a win at Daytona and a mechanical problem at Barber (resulting from another car going out of control), the team was eager to move on to Homestead for the third race of the season. We've historically performed well at Homestead, with a 1st place finish in 2010 and a 2nd in 2011.
Practice leading up to the race went fairly well. With a lap time that put us as high as P2 in practice with a 1:26.217, the No. 61 ROUSH Mustang driven by Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr., looked fairly strong, as did the No. 51 Mustang, driven by Jade Buford and Shelby Blackstock. In qualifying, the No. 51 car lead the ROUSH team times and was third fastest in the field with a 1:26.296.
Over the past few years, the ROUSH team has consistently been strong. In 2011, the No. 61 earned a podium in all but two races. In one of these two races, the team had an on-track incident at Daytona that ended the race, while in the other the No. 61 Mustang had a mechanical problem that put the car several laps down. The downside of doing well in racing is that there is a strong tendency of the series to places rules on you to slow you down. It appears that the Grand-Am rule package present at Homestead finally made it impossible to keep the team's record of podiums going. Despite having balanced set-ups, a lack of incidents on-track, and great pit stops, the No. 61 Mustang scored a 5th, the 51 an 11th, and the 49 a 27th place finish.
"Hopefully we will see some changes within Grand-Am heading into the upcoming race in New Jersey," says Jack Roush Jr. "Grand-Am has a very difficult job in trying to keep parity between vehicles that are fundamentally different. The challenge for us right now is that our ROUSH Mustangs have historically run so well. As a result, it is now mandated by the series that we have the smallest brakes, the highest weight, and a restrictor on an engine that is smaller to begin with than that of the Camaros. It's a real testament to the performance of the Ford Mustang in the series that we have done so well despite this, but given the current rules for the other cars, we are now at a significant disadvantage that is very difficult to overcome."