The Rise and Fall of Roush Fenway Racing

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.

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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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Kenseth left Roush before Edwards did but the real fall of RFR goes back to when Mark Martin left and Geoff Smith did everything to keep him there knowing Mark was the backbone of the team.

    I agree with Echo, Stenhouse is a bust and Trever Bayne is living off his surprise Daytona 500 win, Send down to a lower series or fire Ricky and put Bubba Wallace in the 16 and Buescher should have gone into the 6. Dump the 17 car and go back to your original number Jack.

    Either way I doubt RFR will be around by 2020 with Stewart – Haas becoming a Ford team and if the Petty team is smart they will
    find away to work with Penske or SHR. Roush/Fenway is a sinking ship.

  2. I have been a fan of Roush Racing since 1986. I see the start of the downfall being laid right at the feet of the Fenway Group. Jack has always been the type of owner to get whatever is needed to go fast and win. It appears to me that when the Fenway became part of the equation that money was an object. They always seemed to behind the curve… not setting it. It shows from how Jack and brought up the simulation programs many times. You look back to when the Gen 6 car was announced, all the major teams were developing right way. But not RFR, they were waiting for the rules package to be finalized- some might see that as financially sound- I see it as letting the competition get way ahead of you and being able to influence NASCAR on the development of the car. With all that, comes sponsors not very happy about not being up front and contending. Just look at the press release that 3M put out when it announced it was going to Hendrick- they wanted to be with a winning team- not running midpack.. To me that was a direct shot at the day to day management of RFR- and President Steve Newmark. WIth the lose of their most senior driver and the lose of Matt and Carl beforehand- RFR is just now rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. My prediction is this team will not be at Daytona in 2019- could even be 2018.

  3. Kenseth left and joined JGR before Edwards. Then Carl finally saw the writing on the wall and left for Gibbs. Stenhouse has shown nothing for Jack’s teams. He has been content running near Danica every race, almost like he doesn’t want to show her up. He will never be a real challenge in Cup so why not move him back down and let someone else have a chance, nothing lost in that move. Sad mess Jack got himself into for sure. Biffle should have been let go two years ago.

  4. The slide actually started when Geoff Smith retired as general manager Since that time Roush has had a much harder time getting and keeping sponsors. Hard to believe this is the same organization having had the highly competitive Roushketeers!

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