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Roush Fenway Racing: Will They Ever Regain Top Form?

By admin | February 11, 2014

This is one of several previews of Sprint Cup teams going into the 2014 season. Look for these pieces to be released every Tuesday and Thursday during the weeks leading up to the season opening Daytona 500. 

Roush Fenway Racing

By Richard Allen

It would seem more than fair to say that Roush Fenway Racing has demonstrated a knack for inconsistency in recent years. Unfortunately for an organization that once sat at the top of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division, that inconsistency appears to be trending more toward mediocrity as race wins have fallen from the highs of a few years ago and no serious championship threat has resulted since 2011.

When this Jack Roush run company won a total of 15 races and put all five of its drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup back in 2005, some wondered if this Ford-based team had become too dominant. And soon after that season, NASCAR announced that an adjustment in the rules would be implemented limiting organizations to no more than four cars. Many saw this action as a direct targeting of this one team.

Of late, however, there has been little need to consider a rule change to slow this organization.

2013 saw RFR collect only three victories with Carl Edwards taking two of those wins and Greg Biffle earning a single triumph. Although both of those drivers made the Chase for the Sprint Cup, neither was ever a serious threat to take the crown once the playoff began. The team’s third driver, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., did take home the ‘Rookie of the Year’ honors but failed to win a race or make the ten race playoff.

One year earlier, RFR collected a total of five wins and had drivers finish 5th and 7th in the final standings. In 2012, the team still had Matt Kenseth in its driver lineup. However, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion departed after that season for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota fleet.

The loss of Kenseth’s driving talents came one year after RFR had been forced to scale back from the allowed number of four teams to just three after sponsorship woes brought about the closure of the organization’s flagship #6 team of driver David Ragan. The days of having five Chase qualifying rides seem far back in the rear view mirror now.

For whatever reason, Roush Fenway Racing is not what it used to be. Whether it be financial, engineering, chassis, engines or other, the results have fallen off. The question is whether or not they can ever climb back to the top. If that is ever to happen, something will have to occur to reverse the current trend.

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7 Responses to “Roush Fenway Racing: Will They Ever Regain Top Form?”

  1. Leto Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Roush has had opportunities to sign top-caliber talent, both as developmental talent and at the Cup level.

    The problem that they face, much more so than other teams, is funding. Roush has continually had to foot the bill for his Nationwide programs in hopes that he’ll find that diamond in the rough that he can mold into a top-level driver. Think of the number of developmental drivers Roush has had in his Nationwide or Truck teams in the last decade or so.

    Part of Roush’s issues in 2013 were due to being with Ford- all of the Ford teams were off. They just never had their form like you would expect from that contingent. That’s also probably why a number of the lower-tier teams bolted from Ford this offseason.

    Roush has for many years known that they were the top team with their manufacturer. Whereas Toyota has two teams that could be considered their top level teams in JGR and MWR and Chevy has three in HMS, SHR and RCR, Ford only had Roush- and Roush almost got to the point where they seemed to not only be basking in that glory but almost abusing it. Now there’s Penske to deal with, and Petty’s team isn’t completely terrible. Ford’s resources in NASCAR now have to be split more ways than they did before, and Roush had to pay the price.

    What would help Roush would be if they could sign a top-tier driver. There’s some good talent that are in contract years this year, including at least two of their Cup drivers. If they can’t snag at least one driver, they’re going to continue their fall down the ladder. Signing Clint Bowyer to the team would be a huge moral victory for Roush, especially given how they would be putting one over on the “Dark Side” as Roush views the Toyota camp.

  2. Russ Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Think that they lost their focus while consolidating their hold on Ford’s domestic racing structure, particularly the parts supply chain.
    One has to wonder how long Ford can or will allow this to continue given the lack of results.

  3. Arnold Decker Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 7:51 am

    I would like to see penski build there own ford engines.

  4. Charles Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 11:44 am

    There another point regarding Roush’s decline that everyone seems to be missing, and one that was really exposed last year. That point being that Roush has always been conservative regarding his engine setups, which I believe has cost that team a number of championships. Because his team always uses a more conservative engine setup, his cars lack horsepower, and with Penske rejoining
    Ford, that difference really showed itself, because Penske’s always been one of the most aggressive when it comes to engine setups, and they ran circles around Roush most of the season in both the Cup and Nationwide Series.

    Remember that, although Carl Edwards had the pre-Chase reset lead last year, both of his wins came on tracks where horsepower is not important, Phoenix and Richmond. But on the intermediates and big tracks, Roush was usually out to lunch, although Greg Biffle did win at Michigan. That has to do not only with handing, but also horsepower, and they were lacking about 20-30 HP to Penske, even though they run the same engines. Just look at what Matt Kenseth did last year when he finally got some horsepower. People forget that, although Carl Edwards was the most consistent performer in 2011 in his bid for a championship, he only won one race, and that’s what beat him in the end.

    And the same is true in the Nationwide Series, because the HP deficit Roush’s team puts his drivers at is even more evident there. If their cars are not virtually perfect when it comes to handling, they have no chance to be competitive. Penske’s return to Ford in 2013 exposed the biggest weakness at Roush, one that hadn’t been seen for years because Roush had no competition within Ford. But now that he does, his horsepower deficit is really evident, something that comes down to the conservative engine setups they’ve always run. There’s a reason why they’ve always struggled at Pocono, and have never won at Indy, and have always struggled to close the deal when it comes to winning a championship, and I think it comes down to the conservative engine setup they’ve always run.

  5. Leto Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. Roush has historically been the master on the tracks that require high horsepower levels. There’s a reason that the speedways were Roush’s playground for several years. That team knows horsepower.

    And if Penske really had such a huge HP advantage over Roush, there’d be a riot. They use the same engines. Penske doesn’t do much, if anything, to their engines. Penske, Roush, and Petty all get the exact same engines.

    Not to mention, that Roush has multiple wins at Pocono. Granted, other teams have more, but it’s not like the team is winless in its lifetime. They have 4 wins- including a couple in the last few years.

  6. Charles Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    But most of Roush’s success on those tracks came during the time when Roush had no competition at Ford. When he had competition, as was the case when Robert Yates and Penske were top challengers through the 90s and into the early 2000s (before Roush swallowed up Yates and Penske switched to Dodge), Roush was definitely lacking in horsepower. But Roush’s teams usually made up for that with a superior handling package, so the horsepower disadvantage they were at didn’t matter that much.

    But the horsepower disadvantage Roush is at, especially now, has more to do with the way they set up their engines than the engines themselves, because all the Ford engines come from the same place. Roush just uses a more conservative setup than does Penske, RPM, and even the Wood Brothers do. As a result, they often have more horsepower at the track than Roush does. They set up their engines more aggressively than Roush does, hence the HP difference, but if Roush’s cars have their handling package right, they can make up the difference at most tracks. And Roush’s engines usually gets better mileage than the other Ford teams as a trade-off for their more conservative engine set-ups.

  7. Bill B Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I don’t know, if you just took one car out of the line-up for the last decade, maybe the rest of the field (including Roush) would look better. I won’t mention that one car because it pains me to say it but I think most can figure it out. That doesn’t mean Roush’s star hasn’t dimmed but maybe not as much as it seems.