The Decline of Roush Fenway Racing

It’s no secret that Roush-Fenway Racing is struggling. Their flagship driver, Carl Edwards, bolted for Joe Gibbs in the offseason. Ricky Stenhouse Jr, the 2 time Xfinity series champion, is looking more and more like a bust. Trevor Bayne, who once seemed so full of promise after winning the 2011 Daytona 500, has failed to crack the top 15 in 3 years, including this year’s rookie campaign with Roush. Greg Biffle, the team’s resident veteran and most competitive driver, appears ready to retire once his contract ends. Just ten years ago, Roush was the best team in Nascar. Its 5 drivers all qualified for the Chase and combined for 15 wins. What happened?

Kurt Busch (MSC)

 

Roush’s historic 2005 season was a curse in disguise. After all 5 of the team’s drivers qualified for the Chase, Nascar took steps to prevent that from ever happening again. Nascar restricted teams to running a maximum of 4 cars. This rule change affected exactly one team–Roush Racing, which was forced to shrink to 4 teams after 2009. The 2005 season was also Kurt Busch’s last ride with the team–after being pulled over for reckless driving in Phoenix, Busch was suspended and later fired and missed the last 2 races of the year. Busch bolted to Penske and Roush replaced him with the less successful and less flashy Jamie McMurray. The team’s fortunes slowly waned–Jack Roush had to get an investment from Fenway Sports Group(the owner of the Red Sox and Liverpool) in 2007.

Ragan

David Ragan at Roush (HJE)

 

Roush’s decline didn’t come just from a shrinking team. Jack Roush, traditionally regarded as an astute judge of talent, misfired on several of his picks for drivers. Jamie McMurray spent three years driving for the team after Kurt Busch left. While Busch won 12 races and a championship during his tenure, Jamie Mac took just two races and never finished in the top 15 in the points. McMurray showed flashes of potential, always threatening to break out, but he never did. After Mark Martin left the team, Roush replaced him with up and coming driver David Ragan. Ragan was selected because of his performance in The Gong Show, a televised competition between the development drivers in the Roush stable. Although Ragan won the competition, he had little success in the Sprint Cup–in 5 seasons with Roush he finished outside the top 20 in points 4 times and posted just 1 win. Ragan and McMurray’s failures sent Roush into a bit of a skid–after 2011, Roush fired Ragan and shut down the #6 car, shrinking his team to just 3 drivers.

The 2011 season, where Carl Edwards finished 2nd to Tony Stewart in points, was Roush’s best season in the last 5 years. Since them, the team has continued to stall. Longtime flagship driver Matt Kenseth left Roush for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, the same year that Nascar introduced the new Generation 6 cars. While Kenseth thrived with a the new cars and a new team, Roush struggled. Although the team’s new driver Ricky Stenhouse won Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, he regressed dramatically in 2014, even failing to qualify at Talladega. Carl Edwards, the team’s best racer, followed Kenseth to Gibbs for the 2015 season. Greg Biffle, the face of the current team, continues to age and become less competitive.

Unless Roush can turn it around, the team could end up following a similar path to Robert Yates Racing. One of Nascar’s strongest teams for 20 years, Yates fell off a cliff in the mid-2000’s as driver Dale Jarrett grew older and the team failed to find any young talent to stay competitive. Yates eventually shut its doors in 2009. Hopefully for Roush, the team can turn it around and return to Nascar’s highest levels.

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2 thoughts on “The Decline of Roush Fenway Racing

  1. Wow…when mentioning Roush’s diminishing eye for talent, you mention McMurray but not Bayne or the clowns he’s got running for him in Xfinity? McMurray’s struggles at Roush weren’t due to talent – he’s currently seventh in points 3/5 way to the chase. McMurray has said many times that Jack himself demeans drivers and makes the working environment uncomfortable.

    In Xfinity, just look at some of Roush’s misfires. Stenhouse wrecked so many cars early in his career that he briefly got yanked from the ride. Then he took advantage of mediocre competition and won two N’wide chips, which incorrectly led people to believe he’s talented. Trevor Bayne won a crapshoot two car tango plate race in 2011, has done NOTHING since, and for some reason people are now surprised that he’s embarrassing himself in Cup. Colin Braun was a bust. Erik Darnell has fizzled out. Now look: Chris Buesher is alright, but does he scream ‘Future Cup Star’? Bubba Wallace is only in his seat because of the diversity program. Elliot Sadler is blah. Ryan Reed is the worst – a hilariously poor talent who’s in his seat because he has diabetes and brings a diabetic sponsor.

    When an organization is struggling, hopefully they have youth and promise to look forward to in the future. But rather than try to lock up young talent (Roush passed on Chase Elliot), he’d rather put Diversity puppet Bubba Wallace and a sponsor bringing Ryan Reed in his cars. Buesher has surprised me this year but he’s not doing anything Stenhouse didn’t do. Hendrick has Chase Elliot as its future. JGR has Erik Jones. Penske has Ryan Blaney. Roush has nothing.

  2. Reblogged this on Daytona Nights and commented:
    I think the author is very accurate on what is going on with Roush Fenway Racing. They really haven’t made any huge strides in the past years. I’m hoping they can make some noise with Greg Biffle in the 2015 season.

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