RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – When Matt Kenseth turned his season around and put himself in title contention, it created a daunting scenario for NASCAR’s competitors: All five cars owned by Jack Roush could make up half the 10-car field in the Chase for the championship.

Roush headed into Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway with three of his drivers – Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch – locked in.

Carl Edwards started eighth in the points and Kenseth, after a late surge, was ninth. Assuming those two drivers maintain their spots, Roush would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Nextel Cup championship.

“I don’t know if NASCAR should be concerned, but I’m concerned,” said owner Ray Evernham, who has only one driver, Jeremy Mayfield, in the Chase. “Really, there’s a part of me that’s concerned, and there’s a part of me that takes my hat off to Jack Roush. It’s pretty amazing what the man’s done.”

Roush chased a NASCAR championship for years, famously coming up short over and over as Martin finished second in the standings a heartbreaking four times. He entered NASCAR as a single-car owner, then slowly started to expand his operation.

He added a second car in 1992, then a third in 1996. Two years later, he had an unheard of five cars. But with expansion came growing pains, and Roush did not have a legitimate title contender until 2002 when Martin again fell short.

Roush finally broke through in 2003 when Kenseth won the title.

But Kenseth did it underwhelming fashion, using consistency instead of dominance. He won just one race, but had 25 top-10 finishes. It created such an anticlimactic title hunt that NASCAR overhauled its championship season that winter.

The result is the current 10-race playoff-style format, in which the top 10 drivers in the standings following the Richmond race are all eligible to win the championship.

Busch used the format to win the title last season, giving Roush two in a row.

Now he’s on the verge of a dynasty and is largely credited with creating the blueprint for how to successfully run a multi-car operation.

But Roush is also often criticized for his approach.

“I’m not really a gambler, but I know if you go to Vegas and bet five numbers instead of one that your odds are better of winning,” Evernham said. “His odds are certainly better than anybody’s right now.”

Roush makes no apologies for his success, and said he warned NASCAR president Mike Helton of his team’s potential when the new points system was announced.

“I said, Mike, right now there has been a lot of criticism on multi-team programs and it’s growing and getting stronger and it’s going to continue to do that,”‘ Roush said.

“I predicted last year that we’d put all five (in the Chase). People are going to say I’m predatory.

“But we’ve got a really nice group of cars that can go do pretty much do on any given day what anybody can do in the business. If we don’t put them (all) in the top 10, it’s going to be because I’ve done something to screw them up.”

Roush did his best to prevent that last weekend at California, using a “team orders” philosophy that is popular in open-wheel racing.

After each driver led long enough to pick up NASCAR’s five-point bonus, he would slow long enough to allow a teammate to pass him for the lead.

That irritated many of the other competitors.

“It should be every man for himself, but you never know how the team situation may play out,” said Ryan Newman, who began Saturday night one point out of the 10th and final qualifying spot. “If five Roush teams are in top 10, they might have an obvious advantage. The way they were swapping the lead at California for bonus points makes you wonder if they have something planned for the last 10 races.

“I don’t think it’s wrong, and I don’t think it’s unfair. I just think it’s a part of the sport, and there’s a distinct advantage in having teammates to be able to do that.”

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