Once upon a time, Roush Racing (now Roush Fenway Racing) put its five teams – yes, once a team owner could have as many teams as they wanted – in the 10-car Chase. Today, they’ve gone from four cars to three, and with the news of today, now there are only two. What happened? You can chart the demise easily. Joe Gibbs Racing coveted Roush drivers and before long, they received those drivers. Along with that came bad performance and maybe old thinking. The result was a team that unfortunately resembled the also-rans of the Sprint Cup Series. It is a sad story.
Once Gibbs lost its star driver, Tony Stewart, the search was on for another star driver. At first, they went after Carl Edwards. Ford apparently did enough to keep Edwards in the fold, including stock options and other things, and three years later, off he went to Gibbs. Matt Kenseth was next. Roush apparently saw the writing on the wall and off went Kenseth without a lot of fight. Edwards and Kenseth have been successful at Gibbs.
At the 2013 Sprint Media Tour, I asked Jack Roush if the One Ford philosophy would mean that RFR would work closely with Team Penske. Roush’s answer was direct. The suspension geometry that Penske used was “not compatible” with what RFR was doing. In other words, no. In the meantime, Team Penske has won many more races than RFR.
The 2016 season saw RFR start out slow, but by the middle of the season, some gains were evident. With none of the three drivers making the Chase, the team seemed to revert back to three top 20 teams, and the result was evident. XFINITY and Truck champion Greg Biffle had enough and basically quit the team, even though it was evident that there wasn’t enough sponsorship for more than two cars on their team. Chris Buescher, the rising star and former XFINITY champion, was farmed out to JTG Daugherty Racing, a Chevrolet team, because apparently, there was no sponsorship available for the No. 16. Regardless, the future is not rosy for one of the sport’s legendary teams.
So, we are at one of those change points that an icon falls from grace. Today, the former great team is making changes. Robbie Reiser, who came to RFR with Matt Kenseth has been relieved of his duties as competition director but will stay on with the team in some capacity. Changes are being made, but will it be enough? Having watched this sport for over 50 years, I have my doubts. It is important that Jack Roush and Roush Fenway Racing survive, but I see no evidence that that will happen. That’s sad.