The 2015 season is over and Kyle Busch is the champion for this year. It was a tremendous fête, missing 11 races and still winning five races and coming home the champ. Congratulations to Kyle, but something very troubling is going on in the sport. It’s almost like we turned back the clock to 2006.
Robert Yates Racing was a force in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After buying the team from Harry Rainer, he put Davey Allison in the car and a lot of magic was produced. Allison would have been a multiple champion, but his death cut his career short, yet Yates continued winning. Whether it was Ernie Irvan (who also had devastating injuries) or Dale Jarrett, his cars were fast and dominating. Jarrett won the championship in 1999 in his No. 88 Ford and then something happened.
I remember traveling to the October Martinsville Speedway race in 2006, and the big story was Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler, Yates’ two very successful drivers, were moving on from the team to other opportunities. The reason? Engineering. While other teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Roush Fenway Racing had moved to the engineering model for their teams, Yates had fallen far behind which could be witnessed in their last couple of seasons. Robert Yates finally closed after a short alliance with Richard Petty and it was no more. This is so familiar that it seems eerie.
Roush Fenway Racing had become the top team for Ford in the Sprint Cup Series. Roush had a few championships and cars that competed in every race. When the Car of Tomorrow was introduced, the RFR teams had a hard time catching up. Roush blamed it on opposition teams not following the rules which left the RFR team behind. It was also mentioned that the computer software was not up to snuff. Sound familiar?
The last two years, RFR has found their teams behind. So much so that in that period of time, only Carl Edwards has won a race. After Matt Kenseth bolted for Joe Gibbs earlier, Carl Edwards followed. Roush formed his team in 2015 with veteran Greg Biffle, XFINITY Champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne. None of them were competitive.
The Wood Brothers dropped their alliance with RFR and went with Team Penske, who became super competitive with the same Ford engines. Richard Petty Motorsports followed. There was more talk of outdated computer simulation software. Jack Roush was asked if the Penske people could share information with his team and his answer was the suspension setup which was so different, it wasn’t compatible.
Interesting that the Wood Brothers No. 21 team became more competitive in 2015 and Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 car outran all of the RFR cars. If the earlier discussion about Robert Yates Racing is true, we have another truth here. For five years, Roush Fenway Racing, the flagship of Ford Motor Company, has been in decline, and now there seems to be no end to their misery. Will we see the demise of that dynasty in 2016 or will the organization go the way of Robert Yates Racing?
For the good of the sport, NASCAR needs Jack Roush. If we had 43 Toyota Camry’s and Chevrolet SS’s only around the track, NASCAR might as well close shop. There must be competition. While Roger Penske’s organization holds down the fort for the Blue Oval now, his loyalty shifts from time to time. It was once said of Roush that if you cracked open his head, blue ovals would fall out. Let’s hope that the RFR teams,at least, become competitive in 2016.