The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Roush Fenway Racing was not one of great acclaim for the team. The team fielded two full-time drivers in Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed, while having part-time entries for Trevor Bayne, Gray Gaulding, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Bayne completed at Watkins Glen for Roush-Fenway. He started seventh and finished in the fifth position.
Gaulding completed in the second events at Bristol and Richmond. At Bristol he started 21st and finished 13th. At Richmond, he started 11th and finished 13th.
Stenhouse Jr. competed at Phoenix in the fall. He started 13th and finished third.
For Wallace Jr, the season started off with a sixth place finish at Daytona, but at Atlanta he finished 18th. His first DNF came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he was involved in a crash. However, he was able to have three consecutive top-20 finshes. At Bristol, he received a 25th place finish. Over the next three weeks, he had top-20 finishes with his best finish of second coming at Dover. Wallace did not find his mojo at Charlotte, which resulted in a 27th place finish. As the season entered the summer months, Wallace had seven consecutive top-20 finishes with his best coming at Kentucky. At Iowa and Watkins Glen, Wallace finished 27th and 29th, respectively. Going into the inaugural playoffs in the Xfinity Series, Wallace had six consecutive top-20 finishes with the best coming at Bristol.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Wallace opened at Kentucky with an eighth place finish. At Dover, he finished 11th. At Charlotte, he finished 20th. Those finishes allowed him to advance into the next round.
The next round was not as nice for Wallace. He suffered two DNF’s at Charlotte and Phoenix. At Texas, he finished in the 11th position. The two DNF’s served as his Achilles Heel to advance into the final four at Homestead. Wallace finished the season at Homestead with an 11th place finish.
2016 was Reed’s third full-time season in Xfinity competition. He started out Daytona with a 16th place finish. He went into the next five races with consecutive top-20 finished with the best coming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 13th place finish. At Bristol, he finished 21st, but was able to rebound for an 11th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, Reed finished 31st, but backed it up at Dover and Charlotte with an 18th and 19th place finish. His first DNF of the season came at Pocono, where he was involved in a crash that resulted in a 33rd place finis. However, Reed went on a streak of three consecutive top-15 finishes with his best being a sixth place finish at Daytona. Kentucky was not one his stronger tracks, but he went on a tear of five consecutive top-15 finishes with the best coming atWatkins Glen where he finished ninth. At Bristol, he finished 35th, but leading into the playoffs, Reed had four top-15 finishes. In the final race of the regular season, he finished 32nd due to a crash, but was able to make the inaugural playoffs.
When the playoffs began, Reed knocked a seventh place finish at Kentucky, a 10th place finish at Dover, and a 15th place finish at Dover to advance to the second round.
The next round saw consistency from Reed, but that was not enough to advance to the final four at Homestead. Reed finished 16th at Kansas, 12th at Texas, and sixth at Phoenix. At Homestead, he closed out the season with a 16th place finish.
2017 is not looking bright for Roush-Fenway’s Xfinity Series program. Wallace Jr. only has sponsorship for the first six races of 2016. Wallace knows that his job in the first six races is to win and run up front to help with the sponsorship deal. Reed will continue to have the sponsorship of Lilly’s Diabetes in 2017. Just like in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 2017 is a crucial year for Roush-Fenway’s future.
Kevin Harvick holds off weather and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win the almost 24-hour long Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-five. Harvick started from 24th to win today’s race. This is Harvick’s 33rd victory in 561 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series started.
“We should have won a lot of race this year, and we’ve just had things not go our way, made mistakes, or whatever the case may be, but to get back in victory lane here at bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here the last few years. And to have Busch Beers on the car, we’ve had some crap luck with these guys on the car. Just really happy for Busch Beers and Jimmie Johns, and really proud for all these guys on the 4 team,” said Kevin Harvick in post-race victory lane interview.
“Just frustrating. Starting sixth on that last restart with him (Harvick) starting on the front row was tough. We were going to have to get everything perfect. It took me a minute to get the top going, but I wanted to give up there, but I remembered we had Bryan Clauson’s tribute car here. The guys dug deep to make our Fastenal Ford a lot better. We really wanted to park in victory lane for his whole family, friends, and fans. We were just a little bit short. I thought we were matching lap times there at the end; I just needed a restart or to start a little bit closer. I am definitely happy with how the weekend ended,” said second place finisher, Stenhouse Jr. post race.
Despite the race was delayed due to lightening in the area, the race began shortly after 9:00 pm eastern on Saturday night. Drivers were debating on whether to run high or on the bottom, but the lower groove prevailed at the beginning of the race. After getting the race underway for 31 laps, rain returned to the Bristol area bringing out the caution and ultimately the red flag. As the track dried, the engines refired shortly after 10:40 pm eastern. The red flag was displayed for 1 hour 24 minute and 4 seconds. While the cars were on the track and the jet dryers were finishing up drying pit road, the rain returned on lap 47. The race was postponed shortly after 11:20 pm eastern, and was scheduled to begin at 1 pm on Sunday. However, when 1 pm came on Sunday, rain was still a factor, delaying the even more. The red flag was lifted shortly after 4:30PM (EST). Green flag racing resumed on lap 58. When the race resumed, drivers were on the high and low lines trying to gain positions. The first half of the race was a dominating performance and a blistering pace set Kyle Busch, who lead 184 of 250 laps in the opening portion of the race.
Just as the race crept past halfway, the caution flew for debris. Busch continued his early dominance from the first half of the race into the second half. Tony Stewart, who had a terrible qualifying effort at Bristol, ended behind the wall to fix the tire vibration issues, but did return back on the speedway. The bottom and high line began to equalize in the second half of the race. Teams began to play cat and mouse on pit road in an effort to restart on the outside line. After dominating most of the are, Ky. Busch reported that the rear-end housing might be broken, but ended up crashing before heading to the garage. Unlike the first half of the race, cautions were breeding cautions. Weather brought out a caution on lap 433, but cars were brought onto pit road with 54 laps remaining as the red flag delayed. After a brief timeout the red flag was lifted after 6 minutes, 47 seconds. The end of the race went business as usual. The second half of the race was dominated and ultimately won by Harvick and the 4 team.
Overall, the 56th annual Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway say 20 lead changes among 8 different drivers. Ky. Busch led 256 laps, the most laps led, before getting caught up in an accident. The caution flag flew nine times for a total of 106 laps. The red flag was displayed three times all for weather. The average speed of the race was 77.968 mph. The official time of race was 3 hours, 25 minutes, and 5 seconds. The margin of victory was 1.933 seconds.
Harvick continues his reign as the point leader. Brad Keselowski is 27 points behind, Kurt Busch is 70 points behind, Carl Edwards is 73 points back, and Joey Logano rounds out the top five behind 78 points.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup grid has shifted some after today’s race. Buescher has raced his way into the top-30 and points, shifting the grid to only four spots remaining in the next three races. Ryan Newman is currently in the 12th spot on the grid. Because of Beuscher’s run, Kyle Larson was bumped out of the Chase.
The next race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the second time in 2016 for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Alex Bowman will be in the no. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy at Michigan if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not medically cleared to race due to concussion-like symptoms. The Pure Michigan 400 will be on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network beginning at 2:00PM (EST).
Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, and Kyle Larson used the Sprint Showdown to run in tonight’s Sprint All Star Race. Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick won the fan vote in order to advance. After being washed out yesterday, today’s Sprint Showdown showed intensity from the drivers to make tonight’s race.
In the first 20 lap segment, Trevor Bayne became the surprise winner upsetting Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney who were running one-two before the final one lap dash, after the caution waved with five laps to go.
In a Ford press release, Bayne stated, “We had a fast race car for no practice and no teammates in the earlier practice. My guys did a great job guessing where we should start at. The car was good in clean air, but in dirty air I just couldn’t go, so with one lap to go all you’ve got is the restart and I kind of treated it like it was for the win for the All-Star Race for a million bucks. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get in. I thought that would be our best shot. I got a good restart and off two there was a tiny hole and somehow our car got through it without getting beat up, so we’ll take it.”
When the caution flag flew in the first segment, Kyle Larson and others went ahead and took two tires because they knew that they would have to come down within two laps to take the mandatory two tires between segments. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott started on the front row, but Blaney was black-flagged for jumping the restart. Bayne and Elliott battled it out on the final lap, leaving Bayne with a margin of victory of .005-seconds. During the segment break, Brian Scott was found to have a loose lug nut following the mandatory lug nut check after the pit stops.
The second segment started with Chase Elliott at the front, but once the segment started, he was tight, which caused him to drop in positions. Austin Dillon took the lead from Elliott. However, a possible tire issue occurred causing him to fall back, giving Biffle the race leader. Biffle was able to set sail to win the second segment.
Greg Biffle, being one of the few drivers to play the four tire strategy, explains the decision that ultimately led for him to win segment two. “Brian Pattie is a very, very smart veteran crew chief in this sport and it was his call. I was skeptical of it, trust me, but I tell you what, what really made the difference was we made a chassis adjustment, two left side tires, the car was really fast the last single lap that we made under green and I was able to pass four cars in one lap. Then we came down and the guys ripped off a great two-tire stop like a lot of other cars did and got us out third. Really, that’s what did it. I was being as aggressive as I could be, and I knew it was 20 laps and I knew that was my chance. The 3 car was a little bit loose and so was I, but I made some adjustments on my driving style and was able to get by him.”
The third segment saw the momentum from Chase Elliott return, a momentum that was lost during the second segment. The last half of the 10-lap third segment saw Larson and Elliott battling for the lead. Coming off of turn four in the final lap, Elliott and Larson were neck and neck heading to the line. In a 2003 Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington style, Elliott and Larson were beating and banging, using the wall as the mediator. Larson was able to hold off Elliott to win the third segment.
“I knew (Elliott) was going to be good on four tires and was probably going to win the fan vote, so I knew I had to win because I knew I wasn’t going to win the fan vote,” Larson said. “So, I did what I could do. Hopefully, they can repair the right side good enough or we can pull out the backup — or whatever. "I’m sure Chase is upset with me. He has all the reason in the world to be but hey, tonight we’re going for a million bucks and I’ve never had a chance to do that before. Hopefully we can get this car back in victory lane and hold a big check later.”
Elliott and Larson are allowed to go to a backup car for the Sprint All Star race, according to NASCAR, if they cannot fix their cars.
Qualifying for tonight’s Sprint All Star Race will begin at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.
2015 was the year that Roush Fenway Racing hit rock bottom. For the first time in team history, none of the organizations cars made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in its 13-year existence. For the first time in team history, they had no shot at the championship.
Team owner Jack Roush is an equivalent to a racing God. He has placed cars on the track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time for the last 28 years. In its tenure in the Cup Series, RFR has been with one manufacture, Ford. The two sides have stuck with each other through thick and thin, last year being the absolute thinnest.
It is possible that any other team may have folded, but Roush is a racer. It’s what he has done for the majority of his lifetime. The Concord, N.C.-based team has had to overcome tough seasons in the past, but it needs speed to be competitive in 2016.
RFR finished 2015 as a team with an average finish of 23.3, the worst in team history. The worst season for the team prior to 2015 was in 2001 when the team’s average finish was 19.2, though posting two victories. Over the span of the 36-race schedule, the organization led a team-low 43 laps, and went winless for the first time since the 1996 season.
As the team progresses into the new year, it has mixed up its interior design.
Trevor Bayne is entering his second full season as the driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford. It seems like a distant memory, but the five-year anniversary of his first career win is approaching this February when he took the Wood Brothers to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500.
The team has paired Bayne with veteran crew chief Matt Puccia. For the last four and a half seasons, Puccia worked with former XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series champion Greg Biffle. In the 162 races that the duo worked together they picked up three victories, 24 top fives and 54 top-10 finishes, including 21 in 2012.
2012 was arguably one of Biffle’s best seasons in terms of consistency as he posted a career-best 10.2 average finish. Since that season, he’s cooled down only picking up one win at Michigan in 2013.
For Bayne, he needs leadership. It seems like he’s been around longer than he really has, but 2016 will be only his second full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series. He finished 29th in the championship standings, and didn’t lead a single lap all season long, not even on the restrictor plate tracks, which he normally runs near the front.
“I think last season we were kind of shoved into the dark a little bit, we didn’t know what we were going into,” Bayne told Speedway Digest. “We were optimistic, but we didn’t know. This season we have a lot more notes. We’ve had people in places for longer. I know my crew chief Matt Puccia. I’ve done this for a season so I know what that grind is like. I feel like I can be more optimistic.”
Bayne has had to overcome remarkable odds to ever step foot back into a competitive car due to having Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the central nervous system.
After taking some time off, Bayne has trained extremely hard to make sure he can make it through a full event. He went to Victory Lane in the XFINITY Series at Iowa in 2013, the only time he has been victorious since the diagnosis in NASCAR, he does have one victory in the ARCA Racing Series at Pocono in 2015.
Since that time, the 24-year-old has grown up. Bayne got married to his longtime girlfriend, had a child and is now competing full-time in the Cup Series.
“This season versus last season, our team the way that its working together is a lot different,” Bayne said. “It’s not just saying ‘hey we’re working together’ it’s actually making physical changes in the race shop. It’s putting all of the cars together.
“It’s moving all of the crew chiefs to one office. It’s the drivers coming in and being a part of the meetings. That leads to change and that leads to forward progress in our organization.”
The organization as a whole is destined to do better this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is entering his fourth full-time season in the No. 17 car. The two-time XFINITY Series champion has underperformed in his first three seasons, but his relationship with Bayne could be crucial going forward.
The two younger drivers are potentially the future of RFR. Stenhouse is in a contract season and knows that he needs to up the ante in 2016 coming off a season in which he only produced three top 10s.
Biffle is entering the twilight of his career as he is the oldest full-time driver in the Cup Series. He is signed through the 2017 season, and this will more than likely that will be his last stint in the No. 16 car. With drivers such as Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Chris Buescher, who is laying in the weeds over at Front Row Motorsports, the pressure is on the younger drivers. The 45-year-old has established himself with RFR and is the leader on that team.
The key to the movement could be the Bayne, Puccia relationship. The driver is known for getting everything out of the racecar and sometimes pushing the envelope just a little too much. With a new crew chief coming in, it could be the perfect match for the kid. Cool, calm and collective will be their focus.
“I think that as I was talking about communication, he and I have that,” Bayne said. “Our personalities are a lot alike in racing. We’re racers, that’s what we are. That’s what we have in common. We talk about it and work on our cars. I’ve known him for a long time. I believe in him.”
The pressure to perform is at an all-time high for Bayne. His start in the No. 6 car is similar to David Ragan’s back in 2007. He picked up his first career top-five finish in the Daytona 500 and then fell of the face of the Earth. He picked up another top-five and tallied a total of three top 10s in his rookie campaign. At the time, Ragan posted four DNF’s compared to Bayne’s three, but finished on the lead lap more times than the 2015 season.
Those numbers are very similar to the current driver of the legendary No. 6 team.
Competing for a championship isn’t a realistic expectation this season for Bayne and the rest of Roush Fenway Racing, but making the Chase is. Once a team is in the Chase, anything can happen.
Coming off of a rather lackluster season in NASCAR’s second-tier division, 2015 is set to be a lot more enticing. Dominating efforts by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars was taking place nearly each week, and that is going to change for the upcoming season.
XFINITY, which is owned by Comcast (who owns NBC), is taking over as the title sponsor from Nationwide. Not only is the logo getting a face lift for NASCAR’s version of Triple-A, but it will have plenty of fresh names in new places.
But even with all of the changes occurring, 2015 should witness a more competitive environment than ever before.
Chase Elliott, 18, dominated the XFINITY Series last year. Winning three races and having an astonishing average finish of 8.0 in his rookie season, the soon-to-be driver of the No. 24 Cup Series Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports is geared up to repeat his championship efforts. However, 2014 saw a lack of competition for the championship, especially with Cup Series drivers winning week-in and week-out.
Let’s take a look at the predictions for the top-15 in points for the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the 2015 season.
- Chase Elliott: It’s kind of cliché to pick Elliott as the champion once again considering the circumstances surrounding him. But with the amount of success he had in 2014, experience is going to help him run just as strong, if not better in 2015. With a new crew chief at the helm, we might see the reigning champion struggle at first, yet he should be on a steady pace after a handful of races into the season.
- Elliott Sadler: Making the move to Roush Fenway Racing from Joe Gibbs Racing, Sadler is expected to reemerge as a championship contender. The organization began to run stronger toward the end of last season, and Sadler will be the veteran of the team, which should propel him to success. However, he is going to need to find Victory Lane often if he wants to beat Elliott. Working with Phil Gould, the No. 1 Ford crew is going to be fast on a weekly basis, but being mistake-free will be the defying factor in their season.
- Regan Smith: Smith has been coming extremely close to winning the title for the past two years. After coming close last year to his teammate, he has more motivation than ever before to win the whole thing. However, he has experienced struggles at the intermediate tracks, which has been the difference maker against his competitors. It is going to be tough to be more consistent than he was last year, but leading just 133 laps definitely did not help his efforts.
- Chris Buescher: Buescher was exceptional late last season in the No. 60 car. This team found consistency in the latter part of 2014, and that is expected to carry over this season. Earning an average finish of 12.6, Buescher should work his way into the top 10 more frequently. Expect him to record a win or two, especially at the intermediate tracks, which have become his strong suit.
- Ty Dillon: There is just something missing at the Richard Childress Racing stable. Dillon has the potential to emerge as a championship contender this year after finishing fifth in points last year, but he will probably stay around there in 2015. Although the No. 3 team was arguably the most consistent besides the No. 9 crew, they didn’t have the speed to contend for wins on a weekly basis. The same will likely be the case this year, especially with the level of competition increasing. Expect Dillon to have only one win this year, but he will have more top fives than he did in 2014.
- Brian Scott: 2014 was Scott’s chance to have a breakout season. He did just that with 23 top 10s and an average finish of 9.3. However, he failed to find Victory Lane, and that is the difference maker. In 2015, the No. 2 team, led by new crew chief Mike Hillman, Jr., will find the winner’s circle at Chicagoland, Kentucky or Richmond. If they can win at least one event, they have potential to keep piling it on. But Scott has a pattern of struggling early each season, and that could carry on with a new crew chief at the helm.
- Darrell Wallace, Jr.: Bubba Wallace is back in the XFINITY Series. He’s finally getting the chance to race full-time, which is what he deserves. Over the course of his career, Wallace has run a mere six events in this division, so there is going to be a steep learning curve. He will have some trouble throughout the first part of the year, but with his experience in the Truck Series, he should be able to come away with a handful of top-five finishes, and about 15-20 top 10s.
- Daniel Suarez: Suarez is expected to run quite well in his first full-time season in one of NASCAR’s top-three divisions. He is going to get plenty of experience with a handful of ARCA Series races for Venturini Motorsports, along with 13 races for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series. Don’t expect him to score a victory in his first season, but three or four top fives is realistic for the No. 18 team. Gibbs’ full-time car usually struggles compared to the one that runs for the owner’s title, and that might be the case here.
- Brendan Gaughan: Winning two races last year probably wasn’t expected of the No. 62 team. He knew that he needed to win, otherwise his career could be coming to a close. Gaughan has repeatedly said that he needs to be in competitive equipment to continue racing, and 2015 should be a solid year for him. Expect him to earn a victory at an intermediate track, but inconsistency will plague this team once again. Seven top 10s just won’t do much in 2015, and he is certainly capable of doing better.
- Landon Cassill: Cassill was on the verge of breaking into the top-10 in points a few times last year. Although this team is expanding to a third full-time car, his leadership skills and added funding should provide them with more success in 2015. Mechanical issues plagued him for much of 2014, but if he can stay on the lead lap for the majority of the season, expect his average finish to increase to approximately 15th or so.
- Ryan Reed: Reed struggled throughout the entire 2014 season. Earning just one top 10 (a fourth-place finish at Daytona), the No. 16 team didn’t see much success. There were times where he ran inside of the top 10, but always had something go wrong that put him around 12th-15th nearly every week. If he can relax behind the wheel and focus on not overdriving the car, Reed has potential to run just inside of the top 10 on a weekly basis.
- Dakoda Armstrong: Lackluster is probably an understatement for Armstrong’s 2014 season. Having an average finish of 20.2 in decent equipment gave Richard Petty Motorsports a reason to split ways with him. However, resigning for a second season, Armstrong will continue to pilot the No. 43 Ford. Earning three top 10s in the final 11 races last year, he began to finally hit his stride just a bit. If he can run well once a month, he has potential to finish inside of the top-10 in points just like his predecessor, Michael Annett.
- David Starr: Starr is entering his first of three full-time seasons for TriStar Motorsports in the No. 44 Toyota. The four-time Truck Series winner will embark upon his first full slate in the XFINITY Series after running a career-high 14 events in 2014. Expect Starr to run around the top 20 for the most part, but he will have a few races inside of the top 10 with TriStar’s additional funding.
- Mike Bliss: Bliss should have another solid season in the No. 19 car. Although he’s been with TriStar for a few seasons, he has never had a year of more than two top-10 finishes. Coming off of a season with an average finish of 20.4, which is the worst since he joined the organization, Bliss should go back to finishing around 15th in 2015.
- JJ Yeley: Racing for JGL Racing, Yeley has become a team leader for this small team. After he had two top 10s in 2014, the No. 28 team should run better in 2015. Making the swap to Toyota, they had a solid run at Homestead, and that should be expected of them for the majority of 2015. Although it isn’t known if Yeley will run for points in the Cup Series for BK Racing or in XFINITY, the No. 28 car should be inside of the top-15 on a weekly basis.
- Cale Conley: Conley is going full-time in the No. 14 car this year. After running 11 events for RCR, he showed the potential to be a top-10 caliber driver. Expect him to run better than his teammates, with approximately 10 top-10 results. However, consistency has been a problem for this organization, which is going to put him back a bit in points.
- Blake Koch: Koch will get his shot at running full-time in 2015. He ran 28 races each of the past two seasons, but never had enough races to gather momentum. As long as he isn’t forced to start-and-park, Koch should run in the top-20 weekly, with a handful of top-10 finishes.
- Ross Chastain: After a breakout season in the Truck Series in 2013, Chastain didn’t run full-time last year. Earning his first career top-10 finish at Kentucky for Hattori Racing Enterprises, he earned a chance to finally race full-time in the XFINITY Series. Although he is going to be racing for JD Motorsports, Chastain should have a few Cassill-like races, where he runs stronger than the equipment he is in.
- Jeremy Clements: This family-run team has run well over the years. This will be his fifth full-time season in the No. 51 car, and he will continue to work with 1986 and 1987 championship winning crew chief Ricky Pearson. In 2014, he had two top 10s, and ended the season with 11th and 13th-place finishes, respectively. Expect him to have a solid season, but they will likely finish around 20th each week, which is solid with the limited funding that they have.
- Jeffrey Earnhardt: Earnhardt is moving over to Viva Motorsports in 2015. Jamie Dick is stepping out of the seat after running for a few years. This team usually runs outside of the top-20, but is a step up from the equipment that he drove last year. In 2014, he failed to finish inside of the top-10. However, with potential to have a solid season in 2015, expect Earnhardt to earn a pair of top 10s, plus an average finish inside of the top 25.
You can follow Joseph Wolkin on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.