What’s next for Roush Fenway Racing?

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The news that Carl Edwards would be leaving Roush Fenway Racing, while not a surprise, does raise the inevitable question – what’s next for one of NASCAR’s flagship teams, that’s now hit a bit of a rough patch?

The short answer is rebuild. The longer answer is recover, rebuild and reflect on what’s happened to put them in this position.

While Hendrick Motorsports remains at the top of NASCAR’s heap, and any of Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing or Chip Ganassi Racing has a roadmap and an arsenal of talented drivers who could easily vie for Chase contention this year or next, Roush is down to one bullet left in its gun as it heads into a likely two-to-three year period of recovery.

The team that began with Mark Martin in the late 1980s and rose to become a power in Sprint Cup, ultimately expanding to as many as five teams, has suffered a slow, steady decline over the last five years and now stands at the crossroads of anonymity while it seeks to recapture the glory days.

There’s been instability in sponsorship, driving, and in overall performance level as the field around them has upped their game.

By year, Roush Fenway has won 3 (2009, 2013), 4 (2010), 5 (2011, 2012), and 2 (2014) races over the last six years.

It’s hardly bad, until you consider that in the team’s past, that number was nearly achievable by one driver in a season.

Edwards won nine times on his own in 2008 – the team won 11 races that season. From 2002 through 2008, Roush never won less than six races in a season (in order, 10, 6, 8, 15, 6, 7, 11 wins from 2002 through 2008 for a total of 63 of its 135 Cup victories).

Much has changed since – including a loss of many of its sponsorships, its personnel and its drivers. It’s changed names too – the switch from Roush Racing to Roush Fenway Racing, adding the new partner in John Henry to help keep the team afloat and running.

Gone on the driving front are Martin, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, and as of the end of 2014, Edwards.

Gone too on the sponsorship front are Viagra, DeWalt, Exide Batteries, Sharpie/Irwin Tools, Crown Royal/Diageo, and more. They collectively activated and allowed for more funding to the team’s overall program, which could be used for testing and development.

The lone holdover is Greg Biffle (and sponsor 3M, which hasn’t yet renewed for 2015), a Cup veteran since 2003 who’s occasionally had title-contending potential but rarely the consistency in personnel and performance to sustain an entire season-long challenge. Only once, with six wins in 2005, has Biffle won more than twice in a season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., if anything, has regressed in his second year at the Sprint Cup level as he ranks 27th in points through 20 2014 races. Trevor Bayne, who replaces Edwards next year and brings back the No. 6 after a several-year hiatus, is still an unproven commodity at the Cup level despite his shock Daytona 500 win in 2011. Bayne is yet to drive a full season.

The leadership now on the driver lineup will have to come from Biffle, who’s never been “the lead dog” at Roush Fenway despite his dozen-year tenure with the organization. And he has the right temperament to guide the team through stormy waters.

“I had other options but I felt like I spent a lot of time there and we’ve always won races and I feel like we can win races again,” Biffle told Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, regarding his own contract extension with Roush Fenway. “The first half of the season has not been what we wanted. It’s no mystery.

“I don’t think that’s a reason to jump ship and say I’m leaving because we haven’t won a race and we’re not performing the way we should.”

Roush told Pockrass in the same article that this situation is not any different to when Biffle and Edwards were the new kids on the block circa 2004-2005, when Martin was the old guard. He feels confident in Biffle’s ability and the potential of Stenhouse and Bayne to achieve near the heights they have in the Nationwide ranks.

Robbie Reiser, the team’s vice president of competition and a steady hand in the organization since Kenseth was a Cup rookie back in 2000, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dave Kallmann that the 2014 struggles have purely been setup related.

“I would not look at the people issue as a big problem,” Reiser told Kallmann. “The guys have been working hard and giving 100% effort. I couldn’t ask for that to be any better.

“We haven’t hit on whatever we’re looking for. And one of those days we will.”

Meanwhile Stenhouse and Bayne need to hit their potential while other young guns like Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, and more seek to establish themselves among Cup’s elite. Logano’s already close and the other two have shown greater flashes this season.

On the surface it seems likely things will get worse before they get better for Roush Fenway Racing, but if they survive this dip and surprise with a performance enhancement in 2015, both they and the sport will be better off for it.

NHRA: Force power — Courtney, Brittany — dominates 1st day of qualifying at Norwalk

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

NORWALK, Ohio – Both Brittany and Courtney Force are the current No. 1 qualifiers in their respective nitro categories after one qualifying session due to inclement weather at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is also a current No. 1 qualifier at the 12th event of 24 on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Weather did not allow for Pro Stock to take to the track during Friday’s qualifying.

Force piloted her Monster Energy / Advance Auto Parts dragster to a 3.776-second pass at 324.44 mph which took her to the top of the Top Fuel category Friday evening. She looks to secure her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 10th of her career.

“That pass was very important for our team,” B. Force stated. “With the rain you don’t know how many laps you’re going to get in before race day. The conditions were great, and we just went straight down there.”

Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is in second after his U.S. Army ran a pass of 3.792 at 324.44. Points leader Steve Torrence is third with a 3.792 at 327.82 in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Funny Car points leader Courtney Force leads qualifying with her run of 3.935 at 327.66 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. She is coming off a No. 1 qualifying position in Bristol and seeking her eighth No. 1 of the season.

“Going up there I was a little surprised we were going to lay down a number like that,” C. Force said. “With the rain coming in I was just looking for a clean run from point A to B. The car went straight down there and it felt like a good run.”

Ron Capps is in second after his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T ran a 3.961 at 320.28 and teammate Matt Hagan is third with a 3.981 at 325.22.

Smith holds the Pro Stock Motorcycle top spot after running as 6.866 at 195.39 on his Victory Magnum. He looks to lock-in his first No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“It was good to get the first run down,” Smith stated. “We have a top three bike every weekend. I’ve just got to do my job, be focused and hurt some feelings.”

Angelle Sampey rode her Team Liberty Racing Victory Magnum to a 6.899 at 193.24 and Andrew Hines rounds out the top three with a 6.911 at 194.58.

Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals continues at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

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NORWALK, Ohio — Friday’s results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.776 seconds, 324.44 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 330.63; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.792, 327.82; 4. Clay Millican, 3.800, 329.91; 5. Antron Brown, 3.805, 323.27; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.818, 313.07; 7. Pat Dakin, 3.833, 328.86; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.871, 309.13; 9. Leah Pritchett, 4.099, 271.73; 10. Scott Palmer, 5.854, 116.34; 11. Richie Crampton, 6.073, 104.42; 12. Blake Alexander, 7.041, 82.72; 13. Dom Lagana, 7.105, 85.82; 14. Terry McMillen, 7.432, 91.70; 15. Luigi Novelli, 7.996, 75.45; 16. Chris Karamesines, 9.544, 59.37. Not Qualified: 17. Kyle Wurtzel, 10.731, 64.88; 18. Audrey Worm, 12.635, 56.10.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.935, 327.66; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.961, 320.28; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 325.22; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.991, 325.22; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.017, 322.27; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 314.61; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.044, 315.27; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.101, 308.57; 9. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.143, 313.95; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.148, 279.73; 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.198, 298.21; 12. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.258, 304.67; 13. John Smith, Camry, 4.302, 277.66; 14. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.997, 185.92; 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.409, 152.64; 16. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 6.489, 101.17. Not Qualified: 17. Shawn Langdon, 6.512, 106.74; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 10.971, 44.80.

PRO STOCK: Class did not race due to rain.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith, Victory, 6.866, 195.39; 2. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.899, 193.24; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 194.58; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 192.85; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.917, 195.39; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 190.92; 7. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.938, 196.64; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.938, 194.66; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.63; 10. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.954, 193.85; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 195.70; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.990, 191.51; 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.066, 191.13; 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.92; 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.158, 188.75; 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 7.209, 187.29. Not Qualified: 17. Marc Ingwersen, 7.428, 187.29; 18. Joey Gladstone, 12.376, 63.63; 19. Kelly Clontz, broke.