Carl Edwards to leave Roush Fenway Racing at season’s end

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The Carl Edwards era at Roush Fenway Racing will soon come to a close.

This morning, the team announced that Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and the incoming Trevor Bayne will make up its driver lineup for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – and that Edwards, who has won 23 Cup races and a Nationwide Series championship (2007) for the team, is moving on.

Biffle and Stenhouse will continue driving their No. 16 and 17 Fords respectively, while former Daytona 500 champion Bayne will make his full-time return to Cup in the No. 6.

“I will always be thankful for Carl’s contribution and the role he played in many Roush Fenway wins and championships,” team owner Jack Roush said in a statement.

“We wish him well for the future. In the meantime, we are excited about continuing our quest for a championship with Carl and the No. 99 team in 2014.”

Additionally, with Edwards’ exit, longtime No. 99 sponsor Fastenal will now become the primary backer for Stenhouse starting next year.

Edwards currently sits sixth in the Sprint Cup standings and is currently the lone Roush driver to have locked himself into this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of his two wins at Bristol and Sonoma earlier this year.

He now officially becomes the biggest free agent in the Sprint Cup garage. For months, the Missouri native had maintained silence on his contract situation with Roush and on what his future may hold. However, Edwards has been heavily linked to a new, fourth car at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015.

As for the team he’ll be leaving behind, Roush Fenway has an interesting mix of drivers in the stable for next year.

Biffle has been with the team since 1998 and has won championships for the team in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. But now, he’ll be the team’s lone elder statesman, so to speak, while the younger Stenhouse and Bayne continue to come into their own at NASCAR’s top level.

Stenhouse will be entering his third season of Cup racing in 2015, while Bayne will be shifting to a full-time Cup ride after several years of running a full Nationwide schedule for Roush and a part-time Cup schedule for the Wood Brothers.

“The focus of our leadership is going to be with Greg Biffle and the things that he does for the race car and the leadership he provides for the engineering initiatives we’ll take,” Roush said to reporters this morning.

“We had that split with Carl and Greg together this year, so that will be a little different this year. But Ricky is ready to step up, and Trevor’s a Daytona 500 winner and he drives his car with great enthusiasm in the Nationwide Series.

“We’re not going to be in a bad place next, it’s just going to be a little different.”

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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