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Glimmer of hope for Roush Fenway Racing as new cars show slight improvement at Texas Motor Speedway

O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 - Qualifying

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 - Qualifying

Tom Pennington

It wasn’t quite the leap that Roush Fenway Racing wanted, but the team reached a minor milestone for its dismal 2015 Sprint Cup season Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

All three Roush drivers placed in the top 20 for the first time this year, and though the top finish was a modest 15th by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., it still was viewed as a step forward for Roush’s redesigned Fords.

“I think it definitely showed that we still need to work on it, but I do think we had a little bit more speed,” Stenhouse said of the Fusions, which were showcasing months of R&D. “We’ve got to get the handling a little bit better. I think we missed it there, but there’s still more speed we need to bring in these race cars, but I think we’ve got a step in the right direction.”

In an interview with NASCAR Talk, team owner Jack Roush said the team had implemented a new software simulation called Dymola. Roush said his drivers were encouraged by improved speeds in their Fusions during Friday practices.

Greg Biffle finished 17th at Texas, and Trevor Bayne tied a season best with an 18th after qualifying a season-high 23rd (advancing to the second round for the first time in 2015).

“Obviously, we’re not going to jump to the top of that pole in one weekend, so it’s going to be small things,” Bayne said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to see this big of a gain out of it, so I think it’s good.”

It will be a while before the aerodynamic changes are tested again. The circuit heads to consecutive short tracks at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway and the restrictor-plate event at Talladega Superspeedway before returning to another 1.5-mile track at Kansas Speedway.

Bayne said the Texas results would be a morale-booster for a beleaguered shop that hasn’t produced a winning car in 10 months.

“You have to get that little momentum every now and then,” Bayne said. “Momentum isn’t going to make faster race cars, but it just gives the guys that have been working their butts off for the last two years a little bit of hope.

“We need that, so it’s really good for us. Obviously, 18th isn’t where we want to be at this point in the season, but for where we’ve been, it’s an improvement, and we’ll keep getting better.”