Ford Performance NASCAR: Roush Fenway Racing Press Conference Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, September 27, 2019
EVENT: Bank of America Roval 400, Charlotte Motor Speedway

Roush Fenway Racing announced earlier this week that Chris Buescher would be rejoining the organization to drive the team’s No. 17 Ford Mustang in 2020. Owner Jack Roush, president Steve Newmark and Buescher held a press conference today at Charlotte Motor Speedway to talk about the situation.

STEVE NEWMARK, President, Roush Fenway Racing – “Our number 17 program at Roush Fenway has a long and what we believe storied history. We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had Matt Kenseth as an anchor brought us a championship and privileged to be able to pass that off to Ricky Stenhouse, who continued that and maintained that program in prominence. I do want to thank Ricky for being an incredible contributor to our organization for quite some time. He’s a first-class individual, passionate race car driver, and personally I am certain that he’s gonna be extremely successful in this series for many years to come. With that said, I do want to focus on what we’ve got going on for next year and that’s a homecoming of sorts for us and that’s bringing Chris back into the fold. As some of you are aware, Chris started with us under a driver development agreement when I think you were 16 years old back in 2009, and he kind of was shepherded up through the program, went into ARCA and won the ARCA championship. I believe the only driver maybe in the history to finish every lap in that series, progressed up to XFINITY, which was our program at the time. In his second year, he brought Jack his last NASCAR championship to date. I think he led the points for the last 24 weeks of that season, so we’ve been fortunate that was then able to go on and get some experience with a couple of other really solid organizations in this sport, and we had the opportunity to bring him back and what our hope is that we can reunite Chris and Jack and see if we can recreate some magic for the 17 team next year.”


American Muscle

CHRIS BUESCHER – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY? “I think, for me, it’s gonna be really exciting. Like Steve said, it’s a homecoming of sorts. I signed up 10 years ago to go into that driver development program with Jack and everybody at Roush Fenway Racing and, for me, that was a huge moment for myself. I really got going into stock car racing, had six late model races before that in stock cars. Other than that, was basically fresh out of Legends cars, so that was a big moment and then with everyone’s help and David Ragan’s help at the time, I was able to go and win a bunch of races, won a championship and worked my way up through the company and was able to be there for a long period of time. For this opportunity to come up now and be able to come back over, we were in the 17 number through our entire ARCA seasons, all but the last four races there, so that’s kind of a neat deal. I was definitely a Kenseth fan growing up and it was nice to be able to have him be somewhat of a mentor for a short period of time while I was over there. That’s really neat and I think performance-wise you’ve seen the organization really step up over the past couple of years now as I’ve been able to get invaluable seat time at Front Row Motorsports and at JTG Daugherty Racing. I’ve learned a ton and I’m ready to come back and try and pick up where their program is and try to help elevate it.”

JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing – “It’s not often in real life that you have a chance to re-do a mistake. I figure as I’ve looked back at the 32 years I’ve been involved with stock car racing that the decisions I’d made that I wish I could have made over and, fortunately, this is the one that I can make over. In 2015, he won the XFINITY championship or Nationwide championship at the time and he completed a lot of laps, led a lot of laps and was a good points racer as well as a good closer. When we looked at 2016 and what we had in front of us in terms of talent, I decided at that time that I would dilute my existing programs more than I should be starting a program for Chris, and I wish I had done that differently and we’ve got a chance now to build behind him. But Chris has spent the time in-between learning things and building his career, building a reputation for the kind of racer that he is on the race track. Certainly, he exemplifies and complements the number 17 car number that Darrell Waltrip initially and that Matt Kenseth more recently had used for their stock cars, and not that he’s in Darrell Waltrip’s fold, but certainly Matt Kenseth raced in the way that Chris likes to race. I think that will work out very well with Ryan Newman’s attitude towards racing and what he does with his car and the way he approaches this sport generally. Chris had won over 100 races in Legends racing before he made his move with Ken Ragan’s family back to be part of the things going on in Charlotte here. Of course, very quickly Ken got my attention and said, ‘You really need to look at Chris,’ and we got Chris on the development program and he raced for Front Row and did some other things that were outside the norm, and he contributed to those programs and made a name for himself. We’re really excited to build the program around him. We think that we’ll have a chance to make our cars better by having the similarity in the approach to the cars that we see in Ryan for what we saw in Chris before, and I think that some of the best days for Roush Fenway are in front of us.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

STEVE NEWMARK — DID THIS COME TOGETHER QUICKLY? JTG SEEMED SURPRISED BY THE MOVE. “I have spoken to Tad and I think your assessment is correct. It did come together pretty quickly. This wasn’t something that we’d been planning for quite some time. I’ve been fortunate to work with Tad quite a bit over the years and when I look at what JTG has done, I kind of believe that Tad is the model for what the type of owner we need to have in this sport. He’s built his race team. He runs it the right way. He’s continued to elevate it. He’s unbelievable with how he works with his partners and, to me, Tad is someone that we need to be celebrating and trying to emulate in this sport. I think Tad understands how this unfolded. The timing wasn’t ideal. We’ve been focused primarily for the last however many months on trying to get the 17 into the playoffs, and that was our focus. We weren’t looking at other things. Unfortunately, and it’s on the shoulders of Jack and the competition folks and myself, that we weren’t able to accomplish that goal and extract the potential from that program. Around the same time, we were alerted to something from Chris and his representatives about a residual option that Roush Fenway had retained from many years back, and so through some circumstances that arose between JTG and Chris, that option came about, so that was kind of put back on our plate. We talked to our board and Jack and John Henry at the Red Sox. They had a lot of discussions about what the right direction was and ultimately decided that it would be best for our organization to try to move forward and exercise that with Chris. So that did come together, literally just came together this week, and it was the next morning that we sat down and talked with Ricky and then I called Tad.”

JACK ROUSH – ANY DESIRE TO OWN AN INDY CAR TEAM? “I believe first and foremost that race cars have doors, and that if you don’t have the prospect of tying a manufacturer to the prospect of winning on Sunday and selling on Monday, you’ve really missed an opportunity to market what you’re doing with the race car that’s hard to overcome. I’ve never felt diminished nor have I missed anything by not racing Indy cars or open-wheel cars. I drag raced full-bodied cars. I road raced full-bodied cars, and I look forward to racing my stock cars for a long time to come.”

STEVE NEWMARK — HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO HAVE SOMEONE WITH CHRIS’ CONSISTENCY WHEN TRYING TO GET YOUR PROGRAM BACK TOGETHER? “I think there’s no doubt that’s important. We’ve seen the model that Ryan has employed with Scott Graves and that new team that we constructed around the 6 and how they’ve been able to have success with our cars and get it into the Playoffs. That said, we’re still not where we expect to be and where our goals are, which Jack has set a pretty high standard to be regularly competing for race wins and championships. But if we look at how Chris raced in our cars, the feedback that he was able to give, the impact he had in the simulator, the way he interacts with the crew chief, we just felt like where our program is today that that would fit in perfectly, and hopefully allow us to showcase Chris’ talent, and we think that with that model our expectation is that we have two cars in the playoffs and that next year at this time we’re focused on both of them making the next round.”

JACK ROUSH – “When you look at the high water mark for Roush Fenway in stock car racing, when we had five cars that was the best of times and four cars were great times, and the thing that was consistent with those timeframes and that success was the fact that our drivers pretty much agreed on what they wanted on their cars, or at least one car was dominant and competitive enough that everybody else came to heel and they lined up on that. And we got ourselves into a situation where we were really challenged. I had to stop and think if our engineers knew how to engineer, and if our fabricators knew how fabricate, if our wind tunnel program was working right because we had so much trouble getting the speed out of our cars, and with Ryan – and actually with Matt Kenseth’s help last summer – we identified some things we should be working on, which had not been on our radar screen, and we worked on those things and when we put Ryan in the car he fell right in line with what Matt Kenseth had thought was our priorities, and we see Chris falling in the same line. So, I look forward to having cars that are more similar for both drivers that we can develop from race to race by not having so many wrecks. Ryan has done really well this year in terms of keeping his car together and Chris has got a history doing the same thing, so we’re gonna work on our cars to make them faster and to not be repairing them when they’re damaged. We’re gonna work on a consistent car that they both like and I think we’ll have much better success.”

CHRIS BUESCHER – IS THIS YOUR DECISION OR WERE YOU OBLIGATED TO GO BACK TO ROUSH? IF IT WAS YOUR DECISION IS SEEING WHAT NEWMAN HAS DONE MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THERE’S MORE UPSIDE AT ROUSH THAN JTG? “First of all, JTG has come so far and we’ve had a terrific year. Nothing against anybody there. It’s been a terrific time. We’ve been able to elevate from where we’ve been the past couple seasons and I believe that program will continue to elevate. From my side of things, when my availability a couple weeks ago and everybody fires right off with the talks and stuff wasn’t in progress and that was no I. That was working through the channels and through the last couple months just got past a couple things that enabled an opportunity to basically come up with the opportunity to go back and for Roush Fenway to retain their rights from a contract that was in place when I signed 10 years ago. For me, it’s given the opportunity to have a homecoming of a lot of senses. It’s a place I spent a really long time. I have a ton of friends that are still at Roush Fenway Racing and in the entire Ford camp. I would say through the craziness that has come up in the past couple of days, it’s been absolutely incredible to hear from so many people that have so many well wishes and congratulations that are people I haven’t heard from in a really long time and I miss, to be honest. There are some really good relationships that you’re able to build over that seven years of being over in this organization, so, for me, that was something that has been really neat to see the outpouring and to have that support and have the backing from Jack and Steve and everybody over here that believes in me, that I can come back over here and get this job done. That’s what we plan to do. We plan to go out and follow suit of what you’ve been able to see Ryan and Scott do on the 6 side. Scott and I have a history together and some great stories to tell, and that championship in ’15 is a big thing as well, so try and take that mentality and follow suit and try to build up to something.”

SO IT WAS YOUR DECISION? “Yes.”

STEVE NEWMARK – WHEN CHRIS WAS ANNOUNCED AT BRISTOL IN AUGUST 2017 AN EXTENSION WITH JTG IT WAS SAID THEN THAT HIS OBLIGATIONS WERE FULFILLED TO ROUSH. TO CLARIFY, THIS WASN’T LIKE A RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL. WAS THIS A CLAUSE WHERE HE HAD TO TELL YOU GUYS THAT HE WAS AVAILABLE? “I’m gonna try to dance on the line here because I always try not to get in the contract terms because that’s generally between the driver and the teams, but the way this situation evolved is he had his contract with JTG and that was his contract, and it was only – we didn’t have a right of first refusal – it was only if certain circumstances came out where he was no longer under that arrangement with JTG that he essentially had to notify us and let us know his status.”

JACK ROUSH – YOU SAID A MISTAKE WAS MADE IN LETTING CHRIS GET AWAY. WHY WAS THAT MISTAKE MADE? “Because Chris had won all those Legends races and he won the ARCA championship, he was the ARCA rookie of the year the year before he won the championship. He finished as the first driver in ARCA history to ever finish every lap of every race of a given season, so he had a lot of things that really spoke highly for his potential. Certainly, Matt Kenseth came through the program, Carl Edwards came through the program, Chris had distinguished himself in that rarified air and the fact that I didn’t have the courage to go on and stress the organization and stress my other resources to make room for him was something I regretted.”

HAD CHRIS NOT BEEN AVAILABLE AND BEEN A FREE AGENT WOULD RICKY STILL BE WITH YOU GUYS? “That’s a really tough question. First of all, let me say about Ricky that Ricky’s time, his chapter of involvement with Roush Fenway will be remembered very fondly and with all the things that Ricky did. He initiated some things with marketing on our sponsors that were first times. He was certainly a great representative. He brought a level of intensity that is required and that very few drivers have, and he was true to himself in terms of reaching for his own race car for the things he thought would be best for him, and that’s a good fight and certainly respect that. We respect him and we’ll remember him fondly and very positively the time he spent with us. But the fact is over the last couple of years we weren’t realizing the improvements that we need to and I had to look at myself and the organization and say, ‘Are we just not doing what we need to do or is it time for Ricky to step off and to seek a better combination, a better package for himself with another program that might have a different look at the engineering or the aero program or the kinematics or any of the other things that affect a car’s ability to support a driver and the way he wants to drive the car?’ It’s hard to say if I would have made that change. Certainly I was thinking about what would be best for Ricky and what would be best for us, and it was on my mind.”

STEVE NEWMARK – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WAY THE PROGRAM HIS IMPROVED SINCE BRINGING MATT BACK LAST YEAR AND RYAN THIS SEASON? “I think everyone in this room understands that NASCAR is a team sport and it is more than just the driver that determines the success or failure. So when we had to do a really honest look at ourselves in the last few years, we realized that we needed to step up our game at every aspect of racing, and so we’ve overhauled our aero program over the last few years and taken a different approach there, brought in new talent on that front. Our pit crews, I think we’ve seen them excel this year and it’s been the best performance that we’ve seen, and then we’ve also focused on the driver side of making sure that we were able to bring in a couple senior veteran drivers who were able to really help us take all of those resources that we have and make sure we put it together in the right combination to extract the speed out of the car, and so I think that’s what Matt did. I think Matt was open when he started with us that the cars were off, and he helped us kind of dial it in in conjunction with all the other changes that were going on, and we saw him start to excel at the end. He won a stage at Indy, finished top 10 his last couple races, and then bringing in Ryan he just continued that. But it was not just the driver piece. We brought back Scott Graves, who as Chris mentioned was the championship crew chief, and you kind of put all that together and it’s like every other team out there is trying to figure out the right recipe. We hadn’t hit on that. We feel like we’re going in the right direction and there’s a lot of blue sky for both this year and next year.”

CHRIS BUESCHER – “I think there are so many combinations of things that have to be put in place the correct way to get the results. I think when you look at the organization you can definitely see it starting to trend in the right direction over the last couple of years now with help from drivers such as Ryan or Matt Kenseth, people that have a ton of laps in these big, heavy race cars that really have the experience and, for me, that’s hard to compete with from that side of things, but I think I’ve been able to be around long enough and learn a lot. To be honest, driving different race cars has helped as well through the couple years to be able to feel differences, try and find things that you like as a driver, things that you don’t like and things that may not necessarily drive good, but can equal speed and can definitely bring on better finishes. There are things along the way that you find that are able to help the program and finish better, so just with the different packages that we’ve had over the last couple of years I’ve been able to drive a bunch of different packages and it also just basically builds up your notebook and builds up what your knowledge level is of the cars and what you’re looking for as everything adapts with it, and so I think just having that and having these several years in this series now, to be able to lean on that, gives me confidence I can come over and be able to apply that and try to help add to the conversation and also just from being able to run consistently well and elevate our game and be able to close races out – not tear up equipment. I’ve had to work on way too many wrecked race cars early in my career and I learned that I don’t like being up until five in the morning trying to fix stuff, so I try and take care of it the best I can, and in a lot of situations – and I think that’s something that has stayed with me through my career the entire time, even as I’ve been phased out of working on them and told I’m not trusted to start turning wrenches anymore.”

IS THERE ANY PRESSURE TO BE LIKE MATT KENSETH WAS FOR THIS TEAM? “Yeah, I mean Jack Roush is sitting to my left. That’s pressure enough right there. With those names and the drivers that have been through the organization have had tremendous success. You look at Matt Kenseth, you look at Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, I mean there are tons of drivers that have done great things over there. We’ve been able to add to that. We’ve been able to go win races and add a championship, and, for me, that’s pretty neat for me to even be on that level and I want more. We’re ready for more and ready for more wins, want to get out there and get to the point where we can compete more regularly and that just starts with progress. You’ve got to run top 10 consistently before you can run top five consistently and then you get into that area and you definitely put yourself in position to capitalize and win some races.”


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