NASCAR Media Tour Notebook: Will Changes Mean Success At Roush Fenway?


(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Greg Biffle is the elder statesman now in the Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup Series stable (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Greg Biffle is the elder statesman now in the Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup Series stable (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Before the first engine is fired and the first lap is run in a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, it’s customary for every organization represented on the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour to tout its chances and explain why the current year will be better than the last one.

In the case of Roush Fenway Racing, the optimistic tone appears to be more than mere lip service.

For one thing, there’s a brand new mix of drivers who actually like each other. With the departures of Matt Kenseth in 2013 and Carl Edwards this year, Greg Biffle is the remaining veteran on the Sprint Cup side, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. set to start his third year at NASCAR’s highest level and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne about to embark on his first year of full-time Cup racing in the resurrected No. 6 Ford.

Elliott Sadler and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. have migrated from Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, respectively, to expand an XFINITY Series program that already included young talents Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed.

“We had a photo shoot (Tuesday), and all the drivers were getting along and hanging out, and that’s part of it,” Stenhouse said Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center. “I don’t know if Roush has ever had all the drivers get along and hang out and have fun.

“I think (Owner) Jack (Roush) is enjoying it, too.”

On the performance side, RFR took a hard look at its underwhelming results on the 1.5- and 2-mile speedways — historically a strength of the company — and changed directions. Though NASCAR’s ban on discretionary testing precluded Roush from taking new ideas to the race track, Biffle said that might have been a blessing in disguise.

“I will tell you that this offseason and the no testing that has gone on,” Biffle said, “we have really kind of agonized over things, but I really feel like it has been a turning point for Roush Fenway because it has given us the down time and opportunities to step back and look at potentially where we had made the wrong turn in the road at. We have some new people in, and when you are racing every week and trying to do this and testing and over at Nashville and doing all these things, you are looking at the problem down low.

“It wasn’t until we got up higher and really looked at the landscape we decided we made some wrong decisions back possibly over a year ago on the direction with our cars. We really feel like we have found some things we have done wrong. We feel we have righted those things. Sometimes you have to pick a road and path and go down that, and we did. I feel like we have a great thing going and a bunch of excitement.”

To help establish a new direction, RFR hired outside the company, something the organization often has been loath to do in the past. Mark McArdle comes to RFR from Richard Childress Racing to oversee engineering. Kevin Kidd moves from JGR to take the role of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team manager, and Crew Chief Phil Gould, formerly of RCR, is reunited with Sadler in the XFINITY Series.

“I think Roush Fenway has kind of been the same for a long time,” Stenhouse said. “When you’re promoting from within all the time, the guys that you’re promoting are learning from the guys ahead of ‘em, and I think everything kind of stays the same. So I think, at some point, it just kind of gets stale…

“With Kevin Kidd coming over from Gibbs and Mark McArdle from RCR, I think they’ve brought a lot of great ideas, but really just a lot of structure. I think that’s what we were kind of missing at Roush Fenway, a good structure… I think Mark’s really set up a great plan and organization. The way he runs things, I think a lot of people really look up to him at our shop and really appreciate the effort him and Kevin have put in in a short amount of time.”


Having established its own research-and-development and engineering departments last year, Richard Petty Motorsports has continued its move toward greater independence from its status as a Roush Fenway Racing customer.

An offseason move to an 80,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville, North Carolina has given RPM the ability to hang its own bodies and to hire 35 new employees. Team owner Richard Petty says the organization plans to start building its own chassis, with the transition expected in the middle of the season.

Last year, RPM purchased its bodies and chassis from Roush Fenway and its engines from Roush Yates Racing, which supplies all Ford teams in the Sprint Cup garage with power.

“We’re really excited,” said RPM’s Director of Competition Sammy Johns. “We were able to add 35 new employees and still have a great working relationship with Roush Fenway Racing on the engineering side of things, and we’re looking forward to that.

“I think this model has shown that you can win championships with it. There are other organizations out there working under these type of models and they’ve been able to win championships (notably Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick Motorsports customer for chassis and engines). We got a taste of victory last year and a taste of the Chase, and we’re excited to build on that and take it forward this year.”

Aric Almirola, driving the vaunted No. 43 Ford, won the July race at Daytona last year and qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. This year, former Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. joins the team as the driver of the No. 9 Ford, replacing road course ace Marcos Ambrose.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters, Petty expanded on RPM’s long-range goals.

“We’ve got all the stuff now to do our own bodies and our own finish work,” Petty said. “That’s a start. We’ve got the equipment and the room up there now to start doing our own chassis. I think we’ll start doing that maybe in the middle of the year, something like that, but right now we’re just going into the body part.

“Our first cars coming off the runway will be from Roush, because we’ve been busy moving all winter. It’ll be a transition from being totally with Roush to 90 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent and work our way out.”


Through its newly-formed alliance with Team Penske, Wood Brothers Racing plans to add six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events to its schedule, bringing the total with first-year Cup driver Ryan Blaney to 18. Team Co-Owner Eddie Wood said the additional races are the Southern 500 at Darlington, the Night Race at Bristol in August, Kentucky and New Hampshire in July and the Chase races at Chicagoland and Charlotte…

The U.S. Air Force is returning to Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford this season and will serve as primary sponsor for the car at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend for the Coca-Cola 600 and at Daytona on July 4 weekend for the Coke Zero 400. The Air Force will take on an associate sponsor’s role for the rest of the Sprint Cup schedule…

Thrivent Financial, a faith-based Fortune 500 not-for-profit financial services membership organization, has extended its relationship with Leavine Family Racing to include primary sponsorship of Michael McDowell’s No. 95 Ford for 10 Sprint Cup races and associate sponsorship for another 10 events.

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