Following a disappointing season, Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark says that the organization is chomping at the bit to get to the track.
“People in our organization are going stir crazy,” he commented. “Even though it is a long season I think we would rather be racing all season.”
Part of the organization’s desire to get back on track to improve on last year’s results. Despite placing two cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and having three drivers finish in the top-10 in the XFINITY Series, they didn’t perform up to expectations.
“If you had walked through the halls of Roush Fenway during the latter part of last season, there would have been a high level of dissatisfaction,” Newmark explained. “We set goals for ourselves and didn’t meet them. We spent a lot of time in the off-season doing some soul searching to figure out what we need to do to get back on top. I think we realize that sports are cyclical and teams go up and down but you don’t get back to the top just by waiting for inertia to take you there.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Jack Roush as he felt that they had a good year – but needed to improve and while looking over their performance, along with the aero map, ride map and analysis of tire data, they considered everything “to not screw up the things that were adequate or strong as we went after the areas we showed some weakness. I characterize our changes as tweaks”.
Newmark said they relied on their faithful team leader to Jack Roush to find the pieces to “revitalize, rejuvenate and reinvigorate” the organization heading into the season. Roush’s thought process was for Robbie Reiser, Newmark and the rest of the management team to “embrace change” and figure out what they needed to do.
Part of the change was hiring a pair of new drivers to the organization in the form of Elliott Sadler and Darrell Wallace Jr. from Joe Gibbs Racing as Newmark feels they’re great additions that “have already shown how they fit in”.
After running a pair of seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Wallace is excited about the opportunity to run the full XFINITY schedule in 2015.
“It is going to be a lot of fun this year racing with my teammates,” he commented. “We are going to go to Daytona and be successful, hopefully 1-2-3-4 and sweep the weekend. I am excited about the opportunity to keep going on. The first race I haven’t been to is Atlanta, so that will be a fun challenge for me. I am going to go out there and have some fun.”
For Sadler, it’s been like a family reunion so far as he crossed paths with a lot of the guys that he worked with when he was at Yates Racing near the beginning of his career.
“Being able to be back with Doug Yates and that Yates horsepower, to really get back with family that are all going for that common goal and pulling that string in the right direction and doing it together has been special for me,” he added. “I can’t thank Jack enough and everyone from Roush Fenway Racing for giving me this opportunity. We are working hard and going through some changes and the guys have really put their nose to the grindstone to make sure when we unload at Daytona we are as prepared as we can possibly be.”
Sadler and Wallace will join XFINITY sophomore drivers Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher as they both return to RFR for another season.
“I think having that rookie year out of the way and just learning everything I learned, going to all these tracks the second time will be huge,” Reed expressed. “I think there are a lot of thing I had to learn that I didn’t think I had to learn that I have learned the hard way. That will be huge to have some of that out of the way and start 2015 strong. Also to have Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association back on board is huge. To have that commitment from our partners is amazing.
“I echo what these guys have said. Having such a strong lineup next year and such a great group of teammates to bounce ideas off of and share with will be huge. I am excited to have Elliott on board. There is so much experience there – I am not calling you old or anything man – there is just a lot of experience there and I am excited to learn from them in 2015.”
On the Sprint Cup Series side, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are locked in for another year, while Trevor Bayne makes the move up from XFINITY. The previous Daytona 500 winner admitted that it’s been a bit of wait to get a full-time Cup ride, but is thankful for the experience that he was able to gain the past two years with the Wood Brothers. In making the move, though, Bayne will return the No. 6 to the RFR Cup fleet.
“What an opportunity it is to bring that back, especially with a full time sponsor with AdvoCare,” Bayne comemnted. “To make that step and be full time at the Cup level, I can’t think of many sponsors that make that step. What a great year we have to look forward to. Elliott said I am not allowed to say excited but I am really pumped up about what we have going on here. I think Roush Fenway Racing is turning a corner and hopefully we turn it pretty fast here and can go contend for some wins here this year.”
Meanwhile, Stenhouse hopes to build on last year’s sophomore season with new crew chief Nick Sandler on the box; Sandler worked as the race engineer on Carl Edwards’ team the previous couple of seasons under the direction of Jimmy Fennig.
“(Previous Crew Chief) Mike (Kelly) is still a big part of our team and that was really important for me to have him stick around,” Stenhouse said. “It means a lot to me personally but also to the team. He sets a great example to our crew guys and we have some younger crew guys that really look up to him. I think everyone really appreciates his dedication. With Nick and Mike working together and with leadership from Jimmy I think we will have a great season. I am ready to get it going.”
They also went and hired a series of crew chiefs from other teams – Mark McCardell, Kevin Kidd and Phil Gould, along with “a lot of others” – to further improve their staff.
“One of the great things from our perspective is we were able to do that while still retaining the anchors of our organization that have given us so much success in the past,” Newmark stated. “Guys like Robbie Reiser, Bob Osborne and Jimmy Fennig are all still around.”
In continuing to work hard, Roush stated that they are very happy with their relationship with Ford and how that has grown even stronger.
“Jamie Allison was a man on an island as the racing director of Ford and he had six people with him that were managers with the support of Raj Nair and Mark Rushbrook from a technical side,” Roush commented. “He has 14 managers now to help him identify the things that the teams could do better and the things the other teams are doing that we might not be mindful of from an operational point of view. The support from Ford has been good, the partnership has been good.”
The result have been a more energetic shop with a lot of excitement heading into the year. That is something that Newmark recognizes other teams have at this time a year, as well, but feels that performance will live up as a result of the significant improvements needed.