Friday, Sep 30
While Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. each ran a full schedule for Roush-Fenway Racing (RFR) during the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, XFINITY standout Ryan Reed made only one start for the race team at the top level. Driving the No. 99 Lilly Diabetes/ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford in the Hellman’s 500 at Talladega last October, Reed finished 26th.
Reed was pleased with his Cup debut in a race that is known have tense moments. “Today meant so much to me,” Reed said after the race in an RFR post-race report. “I truly hope I was able to earn some respect out there. We always want a better finish than 26th, but with no mistakes and not a scratch on the car we’ll take that here at Talladega.”
Ever since 2014 when Carl Edwards won races at Bristol and Sonoma, RFR has been skunked as far as getting back in victory circle. Stenhouse, Jr. got close in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol in August (which ended up being a day race due to inclement weather) when he finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick driving a special tribute car dedicated to Bryan Clauson.
“We really wanted to get this (Bryan Clauson tribute) car into victory lane but it just wasn’t meant to be today,” Stenhouse, Jr. said in a team transcript after the race. “We made our car a lot faster throughout the race and came from two laps down to get back on the lead lap. We missed some wrecks and gave it all we had.”
Throughout the 2016 season, RFR seemed to have their peaks and valleys. One of their highs came in July during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway when they took home three top-10 finishes. “It was wild out there,” Stenhouse, Jr. said in a team report after finishing fifth. “Clint (Bowyer) was pushing me the whole last lap. I wasn’t sure we would be able to be pushed all the way through the corners but we were able to hold it in a straight line as best we could and get a top-five finish.”
Stenhouse, Jr. also finished fifth in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana in March and the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega where he also led six laps. He ended the 2016 season with four top-five’s, six top 10’s and 22 top-20 finishes.
Bayne earned his best season finish of third during his summer visit to Daytona. The driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford did it by passing nine cars on the final restart of the Coke Zero 400 with only two laps remaining. “That was wild,” said the 2011 Daytona 500 champion in a team report after the race. “We restarted 12th and with help from the (No.) 3  car, we were able to get up to the outside and really make up some ground. We got behind the (No.) 18 down the backstretch and I pushed him with all I had.”
Bayne also finished fifth at Bristol’s spring event, the Food City 500, to give him a total of two top-five finishes for the 2016 season. He also earned five top 10’s, 20 top-20 finishes and led 34 laps in two races.
Sitting on the pole during the Coke Zero 400 was a high point for Biffle. The driver of the No. 16 Ford EcoBoost Ford went on to finish eighth in the 160-lap race despite being collected in the ‘big one’. “It was a rough night after we got in that wreck,” Biffle said after the race in a team report. “We got shuffled out of line and that will happen with speedway racing. We got pretty severe damage and were able to finish eighth.”
Biffle’s best season finish of fifth came during the New Hampshire 301. “It was a great run with the (No.) 18 car towards the end,” Biffle said in a post-race report from Ford Racing. “We are still working on these cars to get them faster. A great run for the NESN Ford Fusion today.”
Biffle finished sixth in Kentucky during the Quaker State 400 to give him a season total of three top-10 finishes. He also earned 20 top-20 runs and led 42 laps in six races.
2017 is looking a little different for Roush-Fenway. The team has decided to downsize to two cars. Bayne and Stenhouse, Jr. will return to the No. 6 and No. 17. The No. 16 charter has been leased to Chris Buescher as he makes his way to JTG-Daugherty Racing. Biffle has left the team and his plans are still unknown.
Co-owner Jack Roush is content with these adjustments. “We have been able to shore up our plans for 2017 and we feel that this will continue to move us in a direction that will yield improved performance and results,” he said. “We saw improvement in our cars and made substantial gains in our performance at times last season, and we will continue to build on that by maintaining a robust engineering group in order to take the next step by consistently running up front.”
After contact earlier in the race between Ryan Reed and Ryan Sieg, tempers flared in the garage area during a rain delay at Pocono Raceway Saturday afternoon. 

On Lap 38, Reed blew a tire and hit Jeremy Clements, ending both of their days. Just a few laps before that the No. 16 Ford got into Sieg, sending him into the Turn 1 wall. 

Sieg, who is the driver and owner of his No. 39 machine was none to pleased with Reed. When getting back to the garage area working on the car, Sieg was accused of mouthing off to the No. 16 team, which led to pushing and shoving. 

"I went into Turn 1 and I should have been a little smarter than I was, you can't race around the kid," Sieg told a group of reporters. "He has a lot of money and is in a Roush car, but he can't drive it. He's an idiot, everywhere he goes it seems like he's in a wreck. Money can't buy skill. He either can't see or he can't drive. 

"He kept jabbing off with his with his mouth and I figured I would shut it up for him." 

With just four full-time employees, Sieg isn't sure if the team will be able to repair this car before Michigan next weekend. The No. 39 car is currently on the Chase bubble sitting 12th in the championship standings. 

"It's not going to make it to Michigan," Sieg said about his car. "That's the Michigan car, so we're going to have to brash to get one ready.

The irony is that since the teams are so close in points, the team haulers are right next to each other, resulting in the scuffle. These drivers have been said to have ongoing problems racing each other on the racetrack as lately as last week in Charlotte. . 

"Emotions run high, obviously, and it's racing," Reed said of the incident. "I look forward to talking about it in a calm, cool-collective manner and working it out. Obviously we race every week and it's not going to do us any good to go out there and get into a battle royal, but at the end of the day it's going to take two parties to agree. I think we need to sit down and have a mature conversation and when that happens, that happens." 

The XFINITY Series heads to Michigan next week, a place where Roush Fenway Racing has been dominant in the past. 

After winning the opening race of the 2015 season at Daytona, Ryan Reed failed to record another top-10 finish the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

As teammate Chris Buescher made it look easy running up front on a consistent basis en route to the XFINITY Series championship, Reed struggled with the cars provided by Roush Fenway Racing. Much like the Cup Series, RFR also struggled on the XFINITY Series side of competition, though, winning three races on the campaign.

In his first two full seasons, Reed has not performed up to expectations. Recording just two top five and top-10 finishes in those 66 races (excluding six races run in 2013), there is reason for concern heading into the new year. However, throughout the first two race weekends of 2016, the team has improved at least on the practice side of things.

In the first two races he has a 15th and 16th-place finish, respectively. In Atlanta, he was among the top 10 in two of the three practice sessions, showing that the interior changes and upper management at RFR has given the team speed to look forward to the remainder of the season.

“Roush Fenway was definitely dedicated to getting better,” Reed told Speedway Digest. “They’ve really restructured the entire organization and the entire mentality of how to approach these races weekends. There are so many changes with parts and pieces on the racecars and personnel.”

This season RFR is only fielding two full-time racecars in the XFINITY Series. Joining Reed for the second straight season is Darrell Wallace Jr.

Last year, these two drivers were able to bond and form a friendship away from the racetrack that they hoped to translate on track. Wallace was steady on track last season, accumulating three top fives and 14 top-10 finishes, resulting to a seventh-place finish in the season end standings.

 “We are good teammates and share a lot of information,” Reed said. “There’s definitely no hostility between the two of us. We just have pretty good chemistry thus far.

“I think giving the best feedback that we can on the racetrack and be as evolved as possible away from the racetrack. Obviously give 110 percent while we are driving the racecar and get everything we can get out of them.”

The Nos. 6 and 16 teams have had to build a closer relationship heading into this season knowing that it would be just two teams this year for RFR. For the organization, it has never been about underperforming. Jack Roush lays all of his eggs in a basket in the XFINITY Series because that’s where his organization has historically been the most successful and finding drivers for the future.

Since Buescher won the championship last year, it allowed RFR to realize that they have the equipment to be successful. Even if the duo of teammates that fulfill the team underperformed, confidence is a virtue for this season.

“I think that it definitely adds a little bit of thinking that ‘my teammate did this so can I,’ but I think that we are focused on going out there and be the best that we can and compete for top 10s week in and week out,” Reed said.

One thing that Roush doesn’t need to worry about on the No. 16 team is sponsorship. While battling diabetes, Reed has formed a close alliance with Lilly Diabetes. Lilly sponsors the car throughout the full length of the schedule. But because of that, the driver still feels that his job is on the line each and every week.

“I think that every driver or every athlete whether you are playing baseball, soccer, football or racing, you feel like competing for your job is performance based,” he said. “If things aren’t going perfect then you are going to be a little concerned with your job.”

Obviously, winning is what the 22-year-old wants to accomplish. With a win, Reed will have a shot at the championship knowing that he would clinch a spot in the newly formed Chase in the XFINITY Series.

As proven in the Cup Series, if you are in it, you can win it when it comes to the championship battle. He knows that he needs to prove that he can run up front with championship favorites Erik Jones, Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier.

If he can do so leading up to the Chase, then maybe a championship is in his future. But if he underperforms again this season, he will be on the hot seat heading into the 2017 season, knowing that Roush has been there as a father figure throughout his tenure at RFR.   

“Jack, I wouldn’t say that he is a man of few words, but when it comes time for Jack to speak up and say his part you definitely listen,” Reed spoke of his car owner. “Those are powerful words that carry a lot of weight with you. When he comes to you, you listen and I’ve definitely absorbed a lot of what he has said.”

With the recent announcement of Roush Fenway Racing and ARCA Racing team Lira Motorsports, if Reed doesn't live up to expectations this season there is a chance his spot could be filled by one of the ARCA drivers, potentially, Kyle Weatherman. He raced in 15 ARCA races in 2015, recording a victory and 13 top-10 finishes. 

Reed knows that Roush has stuck with him, much like he stuck with drivers like Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. when he struggled in the XFINITY Series. Though his upswing may not have come as fast as Stenhouse, there is reason for optimism on the No. 16 team in 2016. 

On Sunday morning, just hours before the Brickyard 400, Roush Fenway Racing officially announced Carl Edwards’ departure from the organization. Edwards’ story is well known. He snuck into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage area to hand out business cards, and after racing for the Mittler Brothers, Cousin Carl caught the eyes of Jack Roush.

Over the past several seasons, the team’s performance has depreciated, and it has shown since Edwards finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings in 2011. With Edwards departing the only team he has known in NASCAR’s top-tier division, Roush has to move on – whether they want to or not.

“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,” Roush said on Sunday morning.

Replacing Edwards will be Trevor Bayne – the 2011 Daytona 500 winner. Bayne has struggled with his health over the past several years, and announced late last season that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a disease that disrupts the nervous system. Fortunately, the 23-year-old doesn’t have any serious symptoms of the disease, and it will not have an effect on his career. He’s been racing on a part-time schedule for the Wood Brothers – a Roush satellite team, but with Advocare moving up the ranks with him, Bayne will be able to race full-time at NASCAR’s top division.

This will leave Greg Biffle as the team’s lead driver. Biffle has struggled on a higher level compared to Edwards this year. He has just five top-10s along with a pair of top-fives. With 3M likely resigning as Biffle’s primary sponsor, Roush does have some long-term security. However, as a 44-year-old, he might be nearing the end of his prime.

“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,” Roush said. “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 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.”

 “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 (Stenhouse Jr.) is ready to step up.”

Now, Stenhouse will be the team’s No. 2 driver. Like Biffle, he has struggled this year as well. In a season in which he has been reunited with Mike Kelley – the same crew chief that led him to two Nationwide Series titles, the sophomore driver has four top-10s, but sits 27th in points. However, the team has faith in him – just like they did with Edwards and Biffle over a decade ago.

Roush has certainly struggled with consistency this season. Their strength has moved away from the intermediate tracks, and is slowly reeling towards the short tracks – the minority of the schedule. Edwards has been the team’s lead driver since Matt Kenseth made the move to join Joe Gibbs Racing after the completion of the 2012 season. However, neither Edwards nor Biffle have been able to step up to the plate. Although he has to wins this year, the 34-year-old has struggled, and he understands that.

"Right now, the mission is to win this championship, this race. This is my decision. It's a decision I made, and I didn't take it lightly,” Edwards said. “Sometimes you just want to make a change, and opportunities present themselves and you say, 'Hey, what was that like to not take that opportunity?'"

It is likely that Edwards will be joining Joe Gibbs Racing – a Toyota organization – in a fourth vehicle. The team has run a fourth car in the past with David Gilliland and Joey Logano in 2008, as well as Elliott Sadler in select races last season. However, they have never run a fourth car on a full-time basis after starting the No. 11 team with Jason Leffler in 2005 before Denny Hamlin took the reins of that car.

As he stated, Edwards’ deal has been completed with another organization. Although he did not admit to signing the Missouri-native, team owner Joe Gibbs, admitted to having discussions to start a fourth team. If this were to happen, Edwards would be driving a non-Ford owned car for only the second time in his career. The lone occasion which he didn’t race a car with the blue oval on the nose was in 2002 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Gateway with Fred Bickford where he raced a Chevrolet.

“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,” said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing.

For the future, Roush does have some promising drivers moving up the ranks. Chris Buescher, winner of the 2012 ARCA Series title, is racing the team’s No. 60 car in the Nationwide Series, and sits seventh in points. Buescher is a candidate for Bayne’s part-time ride at the Wood Brothers and would be the ideal scenario for both sides. However, Ryan Reed is also in the Nationwide Series. Reed has struggled slightly more than Buescher, but is starting to gain momentum after being labeled one of the series’ most frequent crashers earlier in the year.

The Roulo Brothers team in the ARCA Series – Roush’s satellite team in that division, has Kyle Benjamin and Kyle Weatherman in their stable as well. They are expected to move up the ranks like Buescher and Reed over the next few years – giving Roush some stability for the future.

“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,” said Steve Newmark, President of Roush Fenway Racing. “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.”

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