Sprint Cup Series News (7346)
It’s been since August 8, 2004. The journey to return back to Victory Lane at the most famous track in motorsports history has finally concluded for one Indiana man.
20 years ago, Jeff Gordon took his rainbow-soaked No. 24 Chevrolet to the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for NASCAR’s inaugural race at the speedway. On Sunday afternoon, Gordon drove his No. 24 Chevrolet back to Victory Lane at the yard of bricks for the fifth time in the 21st running of the Brickyard 400.
Scoring his 90th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, Gordon tied Formula 1 driver, Michael Schumacher, for the most wins at Indianapolis with five triumphs. His last Brickyard 400 victory came in 2004 where he dominated the race – holding off Dale Jarrett to get his fourth win at the track.
“This team came prepared. That was an awesome Axalta Chevy SS, and we had so much support. With five (laps) to go I was trying to look up in the grandstands, but it is the biggest race in my opinion. I know the Daytona 500 is a big race, but to me personally, this race means so much because of the fans. Because of the history of this track, but I couldn't help it,” he said on his historic victory.
Although he did not lead the most laps, the 42-year-old arguably had the fastest car throughout the 400-mile event. In the 21st running of this event, Gordon had to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, for on a late-race restart after the caution came out for Ryan Truex – who was off the pace on the apron of the race track. During the restart, Gordon passed Kahne on the high line, and set sail after that.
“I’m not very good on restarts and wasn’t very good today. I finally made the restart of my life today when it counted most. I knew we had a great race car. We just needed to get out front. Kasey (Kahne) kind of hung back and I kind of got a little ahead of him and I had to back up and was able to stay on his quarter panel and once we got down into (Turns) 1 and 2, I could hear him get loose. I was kind of glad he took the inside because I really wanted the outside,” Gordon said after the race.
Kahne dropped to the fifth position after getting passed by the three Joe Gibbs Racing cars, and then Joey Logano took a top-five away from the man that led a race-high 70 laps.
“I think we finished where we deserved to finish, we just need more speed in our car.” A GOOD RUN. “That’s about what we ran all day is where we finished. The guys did a good job. We got this thing better from the way we unloaded. We weren’t very good to start off this weekend, but every time we went out for practice or went on the race track we got a little bit better – through practice, through qualifying and even the race,” Logano said.
Kyle Busch used pit strategy to his advantage to come home in the second position, yet slipped over two seconds behind Gordon after the restart. This was Busch’s second runner-up finish at Indianapolis in two of the last three races at the 2.5-mile circuit. Throughout the day, he was racing outside of the top-10, but came on strong as his team took advantage of the multiple green-flag pit stops which took place in the first half of the race.
Busch was followed by his JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – providing a solid day for the Toyota organization. However, since Toyota entered the Sprint Cup Series in 2007, they have yet to record a victory at Indianapolis.
During the race, there was talk of rain in the area. Following the competition caution on Lap 20, multiple drivers were reporting rain in certain areas on the track. However, after a few minutes of drizzling on the speedway, the rain diffused and the drivers were able to focus on the racing. But because of the speculation that rain was surrounding the track, there were several different strategies on the day – providing an added level of excitement for a race that many presumed would be the polar opposite.
Entering the Brickyard 400, pole sitter Kevin Harvick was labeled as the favorite to win the event. Moreover, after starting out the race with the lead, he was passed by Gordon after the two roared by the start/finish line to begin the second lap of the day. Harvick led 12 laps in Sunday’s spectacle, and sits 12th in points after finishing in the eighth position at Indianapolis.
Here are some notables from the Brickyard 400:
- Austin Dillon earned his third top-10 finish of 2014. This is Dillon’s first career top-10 at a non-restrictor plate track in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. He currently holds the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as he sits 14th in points.
- Jimmie Johnson came home in the 14th spot after coming off of back-to-back 42nd-place finishes.
- Carl Edwards finished 15th in the Brickyard 400. Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush announced on Sunday morning that they will be parting ways at the conclusion of the season.
- A.J. Allmendinger finished 17th on Sunday. Allmendinger struggled with the handling on his No. 47 Chevrolet. He started the race in the 36th position, and steadily worked his way through the field. With his top-20 finish, Allmendinger gained three spots in the standings and sits 23rd in points.
- Juan Pablo Montoya earned a 23rd-place finish in his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a stock car. Montoya won at Pocono Raceway a few weeks ago in the Verizon IndyCar Series while driving for Team Penske. This was his second of a pair of scheduled starts at NASCAR’s top-tier division for the 2014 season. He currently sits fifth in the IndyCar Series standings.
- Danica Patrick was racing inside of the top-15 when she broke the right rear axle on her No. 10 Chevrolet. Patrick finished in the 42nd position after bringing her car into Gasoline Alley following a burst of smoke billowing out from her car on pit road.
- Trevor Bayne finished 43rd for the first time in his young career. During the same announcement about Edwards departing RFR, Roush stated his faith in Bayne piloting the No. 6 Ford on a full-time basis in 2015 with funding from Advocare – his sponsor in the Nationwide Series.
Roush Fenway Racing announced their driver lineup in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2015 earlier today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which includes Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne in a three-car program. Owner Jack Roush and President Steve Newmark spoke about the lineup before today’s driver’s meeting.
JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing – WHEN WAS THE DRIVER LINEUP FOR NEXT YEAR FINALIZED? “Recently. We’ve been discussing the Trevor Bayne program for a period of time. That’s come to fruition with AdvoCare. Ricky Stenhouse is in the middle of a commitment he’s made to us and we’ve made to him for a period of time. Sponsors are still in a state of flux on all the programs. We’re not prepared to talk about those today, but it’s Ricky Stenhouse led by Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne for Sprint Cup for 2015.”
WHAT WERE NEGOTIATIONS LIKE WITH CARL EDWARDS AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NOT HAVING HIM GOING FORWARD? “Carl has been a cornerstone of our success here in the last 10 years. He’s one of the drivers who have come to our program initially. We’ve had 48 drivers in 27-and-a-half-years that have driven our cars and he, along with Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, have certainly left his mark. We’ve enjoyed the time with him and enjoyed his success and wish him and his family success going forward.”
WERE THERE EFFORTS TO RETAIN HIM? “We made him an offer, but I believe his decision was not based on – NASCAR racing, Cup racing is a big-time sports entertainment thing today. Like football and baseball and basketball, athletes move around. We wish it wouldn’t happen, but there’s curiosity about what another team’s situation would look like and I think that although I shouldn’t speculate, I think Carl wanted to try something different before he saw his career get in its middle term and its final years.”
SO YOUR HOPES WERE TO KEEP HIM? “Our hopes were to keep him and we were not successful with that.”
WHEN DID CARL TELL YOU HE WAS LEAVING? “I don’t remember the date. I didn’t write it down. It was some time ago he let us know he was in serious discussions with another team and he’s not indicated who that is and I’ve not been told by him or anybody else. It’s speculation where he’s going, but I don’t know for certain.”
HOW LONG AGO? “It was more than a month ago.”
WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK FOR ROUSH FENWAY RACING GOING FORWARD WITH TWO YOUNG DRIVERS? “It doesn’t look different than when Mark Martin stepped away and we were left with Greg and Carl to go forward. We’ve been in this business, as I said, for 27 years counting and we have made it our habit, our practice, our preference to bring drivers in. We’ve brought in 23 drivers that had never been part of NASCAR before and 19 of them are still in this sport and 17 of them have won races, so we’re pretty much on time. We’ve got a great field of rookies coming with Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher. They’ll be in our Nationwide program next year. There’s also some more room in there. We may have more rookies, but Ricky and Trevor and Greg are gonna be great. I’m real excited about that for next year and not less excited than I’ve been at any time in the past.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS THAT CARL DIDN’T STAY? “It’s just a reality of the business we’re in. I have no emotion either way on that.”
Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Brickyard 400 Advance – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 27, 2014
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED -- YOU HAVE THE UTMOST FAITH IN RICKY STENHOUSE DON’T YOU? “Ricky Stenhouse is gonna be as good in this business as anybody has been. The detoxing of the success he had with the Nationwide cars are different. They’re lower power. The momentum is different. You use your brake differently. You use the accelerator differently. I sat with Mike Kelley, the crew chief, and looked at the corners around the race track. This is only Ricky’s second time at Indy here. This race track, with these four corners, is different than any other track we go to and he’s got some of it right for the time being and he’s got something to work on and improve for the race today.”
WHAT REASONS DID CARL GIVE YOU FOR NOT COMING BACK? “He didn’t give me his reasons. You have to ask him about that.”
DID YOU ASK? “I did not ask.”
WHEN WAS HIS DECISION MADE KNOWN TO YOU? “It was more than a month ago.”
DO YOU FEEL HIS DECISION IS A REFLECTION ON YOUR PROGRAM OR ARE THERE OTHER FACTORS? “I think, as I said earlier, that his moving at this time like Kevin Harvick’s move and Tony Stewart’s move from their teams previously is just a reality of the times that we’re in and with the importance that everybody sees of really optimizing their productive time as a driver.”
DO YOU HAVE SPONSORSHIP FOR BIFFLE? “We have many sponsorship opportunities and I’m not prepared to discuss those. You can ask Steve Newmark about those. He’ll have a timetable on that.”
CARL HAS BEEN THE LEADER OF THIS TEAM AS FAR AS WINNING RACES. DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A HOLE THAT CAN BE FILLED BY ONE OF THESE THREE OTHER DRIVERS? “Certainly the focus of our leadership is gonna be with Greg Biffle and the things that he does with the race car and the leadership he provides for the engineering initiatives we take. We had that split with Carl and Greg together this year, so that will be a little different next year, but Ricky is ready to step up. Trevor, of course he’s a Daytona 500 winner and he drives his car with great enthusiasm in the Nationwide Series. We’re not gonna be in a bad place next year, it’s just gonna be a little different.”
STEVE NEWMARK, President, Roush Fenway Racing – “The only sponsor announcement for today is that Fastenal is shifting over starting in 2015 to be the anchor partner on Stenhouse’s program.”
AND HE HAS CARGILL SIGNED AS ANOTHER PARTNER? “Today, we’re just trying to talk about the driver lineup. I know there has been a lot of intrigue and speculation about it, which is fair when you have two marquee drivers up for renewal, so we wanted to do you the service of letting you guys know what the status was as soon as possible. That’s really the focus – the 2015 Cup lineup, other than the Fastenal announcement, which they wanted to do simultaneously with the driver announcement.”
WHY WAS NOW THE RIGHT TIME? “It was a combination of factors, some of it I won’t go into. We interact with our sponsors and talk to them because everybody understands how this business works, so it was sponsor input, driver input, team input and we just settled on Indy as being the appropriate time as opposed to dragging it out later in the year.”
Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Brickyard 400 Advance – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 27, 2014
STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- IS THIS A DISAPPOINTING DAY FOR THE ORGANIZATION? “It’s always disappointing when you lose a driver that you bring up through the organization. I think everyone is aware that we pride ourselves on being a driver development program. It’s in our DNA and our heritage. In an ideal world all the drivers and crew chiefs and the over the wall guys that we bring up through the system you would retain forever. The reality of it is that that doesn’t happen for a variety of factors – some of it is space constraints and some of it is just other circumstances, so I think that we recognize when you take the approach that we do, which is generally not going out on the free-agent market but trying to develop from within, that these type of circumstances are gonna happen. The key is just to make sure that you have a very fertile playing field behind that and group coming up and we feel that we do when you look at Ricky and Trevor, Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher. That’s just the way we operate and we’re pretty proud of how that has worked for us in the past.”
WHAT WAS FORD’S REACTION TO CARL LEAVING? “I think you’ll probably have to ask Ford on that, but Ford is a tremendous partner of ours and we consult with them on everything that we do, whether it’s competition or business, but the reality of it is that Ford very much allows us discretion in how we operate with our drivers and any discussions with drivers and contract negotiations, all of that goes on solely between the team and the driver. Again, we keep Ford informed just because of how they’re so intertwined with everything that we do. You’ll hear Jack say that Ford has been part of his family for his entire career.”
WHY DID YOU RE-SIGN GREG? “Our goal when we bring drivers up through the system is to retain them – to have them start with us, to win championships and then to retire with us, so this is all part of the process. I think if you talk to Greg and Jack they would tell you that they have some unfinished business. They set out a while ago to be the first tandem to win the Truck, the Nationwide and the Cup championship. They’ve knocked off two of those, so they’re still going after the third piece of that triple crown, so they have unfinished business.”
DID CARL GIVE YOU ANY SPECIFIC REASONS FOR LEAVING? “I think we all recognize that Carl is a private person. I’ve spent a lot of time with him and have just the utmost respect for him, both personally and as a competitor. I think he keeps a lot of his reasons to himself. The only insight that he shared with me and that we talked a lot about is that the reality of sports today is that athletes don’t generally stay with one time for their entire career. I think he was reflecting on what was going on in other sports and including our sport, and I think he just thought that when he retires at some point off in the future he didn’t want to wonder what it would be like to be in a different situation, so that was the primary discussion that we’ve had and I think you guys know Carl very well. He’s extremely thoughtful and I think he really kind of evaluated everything that was going on and that was just the decision that he made.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF ROUSH FENWAY? “I think it’s just consistent with the approach that we’ve always taken in that we’re gonna continue to try and develop young drivers, and that extends beyond the drivers. We do that with crew chiefs. If you look at our crew chiefs that come up through the system, engineers, over the wall guys, and that is just part of our culture and part of the way that we operate and we’re very confident that that will continue to breed success as it has for the last 27 years.”
Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Brickyard 400 Advance – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 27, 2014
STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- THIS IS THE SECOND DRIVER WHO HAS BEEN WITH THIS ORGANIZATION FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME THAT IS MOVING ON. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO RETAIN THOSE PEOPLE FROM BEGINNING TO RETIREMENT? “I think we’re pretty proud of the fact that we’ve actually had longevity with a lot of our drivers. You look over our history and when we’re retaining drivers for over a decade we feel pretty proud of that. The reality of it is as you’re growing drivers from within and moving them up, there is gonna be turnover. We’ve seen in the past, I think if you look across the Cup lineup around nine of the drivers that have driven in Cup have come up through our system, so I think that’s just a reality of the way that we operate as opposed to relying on the free-agent market primarily to refill and restock.”
SO YOU’RE DOING THE WORK FOR EVERYBODY ELSE IN DEVELOPING DRIVERS. THAT’S AN EXPENSIVE ENDEAVOR. “I don’t think that we view it that way. We’re pretty proud to have had Carl as part of our program for a decade. We’ve had a lot of success. He’s contributed quite a bit to our organization, so it’s not a one-way street. He has helped a lot to make the 99 a better team, a stronger team. We’ve had a lot of victories and competed for championships, so I think we view that as a successful relationship.”
WILL THE 99 AS A CAR NUMBER NOT RUN IN 2015? “From a car number perspective, I know Jack is pretty excited to bring the 6 back out on the track and that’s obviously already been announced with AdvoCare, so, right now, unless something unusual happens, you would have the 99 not running full-time next year.”
WILL YOU LOOK AT ANY OF YOUR NATIONWIDE GUYS TO RUN SELECT CUP RACES NEXT YEAR? “Those decisions are made by the competition guys in the fall. I think it’s too early in the year to do that evaluation, particularly when both Chris and Ryan are rookies and just getting their feet wet in the top series.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN ABOUT EMPLOYEES AT THE COMPANY? WILL YOU KEEP EVERYBODY? “Like every race team you make that analysis as you get towards the end of the year, but fortunately for us this doesn’t change the composition of the number of teams that we have in Cup next year. In a perfect world, we would have been four teams but we’re comfortable that we will continue at least with three teams at this point for the Cup level.”
IS 3M ONE OF THE COMPANIES YOU’RE TALKING TO? “We’ve got a number of partners that we continue to discuss that are on the 99, and you look at Zest, Fifth Third, Kellogg’s, 3M and we’ll continue those discussions and at the right time we’ll have announcements about those partners.”
DID IT SURPRISE WHEN CARL SAID HE WAS LEAVING? “Carl and I have had a constant dialogue every since I’ve come on board and he’s been very open and forthcoming with us behind closed doors. I know that he’s very adamant about not discussing this stuff in the media, but that doesn’t mean that he’s keeping it to himself. We’ve had an ongoing dialogue and I think we’re both aware of our positions throughout this period.”
SO YOU COULD SEE THIS COMING? “We kind of knew the direction that we were going and we continued to have those discussions and as Jack said a little while ago the decision was conveyed to us that that was gonna be the direction in 2015.”
Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Brickyard 400 Advance – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 27, 2014
STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- WHY IS IT BETTER TO BRING UP YOUNG TALENT AS OPPOSED TO GO AFTER FREE-AGENTS? “I guess one correction is I don’t think it’s just teams that kind of grow drivers internally that lose them. I think free-agents moving teams is just really the way of the business. You look at Peyton Manning or LeBron James and we can even look at our industry the last few years and you’ve got Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman switching teams. You’ve got Logano moving, Kenseth, so I think it’s just a reality of sports today. I think in a perfect world, based on the way that we view things, drivers and athletes would come with a team and they would stay there from when they develop through retirement, but I think we recognize that the business reality of today’s sports world just doesn’t lend itself to that.”
SO HOW DOES IT CHANGE DEVELOPING SOMEONE WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MIGHT LEAVE ONE DAY? “When we’re developing a Ricky Stenhouse or Trevor Bayne, Ryan Reed or Chris Buescher we’re not thinking at that point that in a decade from now we may have a break. What you’re focused on is giving them the resources, the training, the development to win races and compete for championships. I think we would view it as a success if we could have 10-year runs with all of the drivers that come up. They could have multiple championships and multiple victories at NASCAR’s top levels.”
DO YOU EXPECT ANY AWKWARDNESS MOVING FORWARD? “We expect this to be completely seamless and I will tell you for those of you guys that know Jimmy Fennig and the 99 team that they are laser-focused on one thing and that’s winning the 2014 championship. So I don’t envision any of that. I think this is very amicable. I know Carl has talked to the team and had an open dialogue, so I think everybody is very comfortable with the situation and I don’t view it as an issue going forward.”
DO YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH JIMMY FENNIG? “All of our crew chief decisions, engineer decisions, as you guys know, they’re made much later in the fall when Robbie Reiser and Jack sit down with those guys and they have a dialogue about what 2015 will look like.”
Ford Racing PR
JAMIE ALLISON, director, Ford Racing – “Carl Edwards has been a part of the Ford family for a decade, and it will certainly be tough to see him leave Ford and Roush Fenway Racing. During Carl’s time with Roush, he has represented Ford Motor Company with the utmost class, both on and off the track. We at Ford Racing did everything to facilitate keeping Carl a part of the Ford Racing & Roush Fenway family, but in the end that option did not come to fruition.
“While we are disappointed in his decision to leave Roush Fenway Racing, we certainly want to extend our appreciation for Carl’s contributions winning races and a NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship in a Ford, and especially for his outreach to Ford fans. That said, with this decision out of the way, our plan for 2014 has not changed. We will go forward strongly with our stated goal of securing a NASCAR championship for Ford.”
Ford Racing PR
Suddenly the ace qualifier at Stewart-Haas Racing this year, Kevin Harvick dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the pole for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 in track-record speed.
Fastest in all three rounds of knockout qualifying, Harvick earned his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at the Brickyard and the 10th of his career.
Harvick established his credentials early in the first 25-minute session, covering the 2.5-mile distance in 47.647 seconds (188.889 mph), shattering the previous record speed of 187.531 mph set by Ryan Newman last year.
The record speed of his first lap surprised the driver of the No. 4 SHR Chevrolet.
“After the first lap, I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying,” Harvick said. “I wasn’t really expecting to have the car run that fast. From there they are all looking at you, ‘All right, if you screw this up, it’s on you, buddy.’”
In the second round, Harvick remained the only driver to top 188 mph, posting a lap at 188.281 mph to pace the 10-minute session. No other driver could reach even 187 mph in Round 2.
In the final five-minute round, Harvick ran 188.470 mph to win the pole convincingly over Jeff Gordon, who will share the front row after a lap at 187.770 mph. Brad Keselowski (186.893 mph) qualified third, followed by 2013 Brickyard winner Ryan Newman (186.765 mph) and Brian Vickers (186.455 mph).
The last time Harvick won the pole at Indy, in 2003, he won the race, and he acknowledged the advantages of starting up front.
“You can overcome a lot of things with your track position here,” Harvick said. “To have the first pit stall, to have clean air to start the race—usually your problems will be a lot less than they are in traffic when you’re out front. Hopefully, we can put together a whole day.
Nor is the history of the Brickyard lost on Harvick.
“There’s Daytona, and then there’s nothing quite like this place that we come to,” he said. “It’s a unique race track with a lot of things that have to come together, a lot of history, and I’m excited to be here.”
Keselowski certainly took notice of Harvick’s lap times and gave them their due.
“It’s always scary when Kevin’s fast in qualifying,” Keselowski said.
Notes: Aric Almirola hit the outside wall during the first round and went to a backup car. Accordingly, he will start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field. ... Juan Pablo Montoya qualified eighth in Team Penske’s third entry, the No. 12 Ford. ... Brett Moffit, David Stremme and Matt Crafton failed to make the 43-car field.
Roush Fenway Racing announces that long-time partner Fastenal will team with two-time NASCAR champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., serving as the anchor sponsor on the No. 17 Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) for a multi-year agreement beginning next season. Fastenal first joined with Roush Fenway in 2010 and has served as a primary partner for multiple Roush Fenway teams and drivers in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) and NSCS.
“Fastenal is a first class partner and we are extremely pleased to have them team with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 17 team starting next year,” said Roush Fenway co-owner Jack Roush. “Ricky has accomplished a great deal in a short time, and continues to improve each week. We have very high expectations for his success in the future and I’m thrilled that Fastenal will be a part of that.”
Stenhouse, who earned NSCS rookie of the year honors in 2013, will move into his third full-season of Sprint Cup competition in 2015. Considered one of the most talented up-and-coming drivers on the circuit, Stenhouse posted back-to-back NNS championships in 2011 and 2012.
Fastenal is currently in its third season as a primary partner on the No. 99 NSCS entry driven by Carl Edwards, and was the primary partner on the No. 60 NNS team that captured the owner’s championship in 2011. Fastenal has also served in a limited role as a primary partner for the No. 16 and No. 17 NSCS teams the past two seasons.
“We appreciate everything Carl has done and wish him nothing but the best,” said Fastenal President Lee Hein. “That said, we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with Roush Fenway Racing as the anchor sponsor of the No. 17. We already have a strong relationship with Ricky, and we’re 100% confident that he’ll do a great job representing our company on and off the track.”
“As a driver, I’m thrilled to have Fastenal on board for next season,” said Stenhouse. “I grew up working in a race shop, helping my dad build cars and racing engines. I appreciate the chance to work with a partner like Fastenal that plays such an important role in building our race cars and helping us win on the track. I’ve had the opportunity to work with them in the past and meet a lot of the men and women that are part of the ‘Blue Team.’ I look forward to representing them on the racetrack, and to taking them to victory lane.”
Roush Fenway Racing’s 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) lineup will consist of three teams anchored by two-time NASCAR champion Greg Biffle. Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Ford and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford and also a two-time NASCAR champion will be joined by Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Ford. The lineup features a veteran perennial ‘Chase’ contender in Biffle - who is currently competing to become the first driver to win a championship at all three of NACAR’s premiere series - as well as two of the sport’s most promising up and coming drivers.
“I have had the privilege of fielding entries for the world’s best race car drivers in NASCAR for nearly 30 years, and feel quite fortunate to have an opportunity to do that again next year,” said team co-owner Jack Roush. “We have always prided ourselves in developing talent at Roush Fenway, and our 2015 line-up is a testament to the success of our organization in that respect. Greg Biffle is one of the most purely talented racers I’ve ever seen behind the wheel of a car, and his experience combined with the raw natural abilities, enthusiasm and desire in both Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne have me very excited for the future. Although we still have a lot to accomplish this year, both John Henry and I are looking forward to going to the track in 2015 with this blend of veteran leadership and youthful potential.”
Biffle, who has 746 NASCAR starts, first joined Roush Fenway in 1998, and earned the organization its first NASCAR championships in the NASCAR Truck Series in 2000 and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) in 2002. He has qualified for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in five of the last six seasons; with a runner-up finish in 2005. Of his 55 NASCAR wins, 19 came in the NSCS, including Ford’s 1,000th NASCAR victory last year.
“I don’t have the words for what Jack Roush has meant to my career,” said Biffle. “During our 16 years together, we have won multiple championships and numerous races on every level. I am as excited about what the future holds for me here as I am about what we have been able to accomplish in the past. Our goal remains to run up front, win races and become the sports’ first triple-crown winner by having a championship in all three series. I know that we have the right ownership, the right team, the right resources and the right manufacturer to get that done here here at Roush Fenway.”
Stenhouse joined Roush Fenway in 2008, going on to win back-to-back NNS championships in 2011 and 2012. In addition, he captured NASCAR rookie honors in NNS and NSCS in 2010 and 2013, respectively. Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 Champion, joined Roush Fenway in 2010 and has competed full-time in the NNS, while also running a limited NSCS schedule with Wood Brothers Racing. He will make the transition to full-time NSCS racing with AdvoCare as his primary partner on Roush Fenway’s iconic No. 6 Ford.
Carl Edwards will not be with the team for the 2015 season.
“I will always be thankful for Carl’s contribution and the role he played in many Roush Fenway wins and championships,” said Roush. “We wish him well for the future. In the meantime, we are excited about continuing our quest for a championship with Carl and the No. 99 team in 2014.”
You’d think a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and a four-time winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would have adapted quickly to racing at the Brickyard, but that wasn’t the case for Jimmie Johnson.
Before Johnson found success at the marquee track, he had to start thinking outside the box and drive in a manner that was counter-intuitive.
“My natural tendencies just didn't work around this track,” Johnson said Friday before opening Sprint Cup practice at the 2.5-mile speedway. “I had to make a conscious effort to drive differently. I've been playing that movie in my head, coming here getting ready for this weekend's race.
“So there are tracks that your natural driving tendencies suit, and this just isn't one of them for me. So I've got to change my game coming here. And I've been able to identify with it. I think that's half the battle, is just to understand that (you) don't do what you think you need to do. Try to think in an opposite manner to find speed.”
It took several years, however, for that realization to register.
“There's certain tracks that are very difficult to get sorted out and to know how to lead your team,” Johnson said. “For me, this was one of the toughest ones I came to. Took me a long time to get it. The light finally turned on in my head, I think maybe it was '04, '05.
“Mid-race I'm like ‘I've driven this track wrong since practice opened, set the car up wrong and led my team in the wrong direction.’ In the race it really dawned on me.”
That “dawning” was the functional equivalent of a blazing sunrise. Johnson won races at Indy in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Last year, he finished second to race winner Ryan Newman.
The last time Kurt Busch came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was hoping to run 1,100 miles on the same day as he attempted the Indy/Charlotte double.
Busch finished the entire Indianapolis 500, finishing sixth, but ran just 406.5 of a possible 600 miles at Charlotte, the result of an engine failure two-thirds of the way through the Coca-Cola 600.
Nevertheless, with only 400 miles on his agenda for Crown Royal 400 weekend at IMS, Busch feels almost as if he’s on vacation.
“This feels like an off weekend now--I only have to do 400 miles,” Busch said. “The way that the month of May went was a tremendous feeling and a sense of accomplishment. I really enjoyed it all the way through with the two race teams, of course, with Andretti Autosport, Stewart-Haas Racing, and all the people along the way that helped make that double happen.
“Still writing thank-you notes. It's incredible the amount of people that we touched and that reached out to us. So it's a lot of fun to come back to Indianapolis and see (speedway president) Doug Boles again. I won't be bumping into any of the IndyCar folks but the atmosphere here at Indianapolis is always special, and now I have a greater appreciation for the Speedway.
“And I hope the respect that I'm going to show it this weekend, it will help me bounce up on some of my results here at the track. It's been tough in a stock car here for me.”
Though there’s precious little performance transfer between an IndyCar and a Sprint Cup car, Busch hopes the dues he paid in May will translate into improved results in July. His average NASCAR finish at IMS is 19.4, with his only top five (a fifth) coming 13 years ago.