Roush revival: Roush Fenway Racing heads to Bristol ready to turn season around

Jack Roush (Getty Images)

Jack Roush (Getty Images)

One of the most storied organizations in auto racing, Roush Fenway Racing boasts two championships and 135 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Recently, RFR has hit some rough roads. The Concord, North Carolina-based team has failed to win a race in nearly 10 months — not since Carl Edwards conquered Sonoma last June. Edwards won twice last year as RFR’s ace driver, but moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015. No member of RFR’s current stable of drivers – Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne – has visited Victory Lane since 2013 when Biffle won at Michigan (June 16). This season, only Biffle has a top-10 finish in the first seven races, a 10th-place showing at Daytona.

But, the perfect track may have popped up on the schedule for RFR to turn its performance around – Bristol Motor Speedway.

Biffle, Bayne and Stenhouse will attempt to tame “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” in Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes (1 p.m. ET on FOX), a track where RFR ranks tied for second in the record books with 11 wins.

Stenhouse has been particularly strong at Bristol. He finished a career-best second to Edwards in last year’s spring race to cap off a RFR sweep of the top-two positions and returned in August to post a sixth-place showing.

“We are looking forward to Bristol this weekend,” said Nick Sandler, Stenhouse’s crew chief. “It is one of Ricky’s favorite tracks and he had his career best Sprint Cup finish there last year so I think the entire No. 17 (team) is looking forward to the race this weekend. The key is to have a car that can run the top and bottom. Our short track program has been strong.”

Despite still searching for his first Bristol win, 14-year NSCS veteran Biffle has been strong at the Tennessee track, claiming the series’ fifth-best driver rating (93.5) and sixth-best average running position (13.0) among active drivers there. Bayne will be making his second NSCS start at Bristol, but the Knoxville, Tennessee native is familiar with his “hometrack” through XFINITY and developmental series experience.

“We run hard at Bristol, which is always fun and exciting,” Biffle said. “You race right up against the fence, as fast as you can go. Track position is key – you’ve got to be up front and stay out front.”

RFR picked up some momentum last week at Texas Motor Speedway where it unveiled the latest version of its Gen-6 Ford. All three of RFR’s drivers finished in the top 20 for the first time this season, but the results still do not match up to the organization’s standards.

“You have to get that little momentum every now and then,” said Bayne after tying his season-best finish of 18th at Texas. “Momentum isn’t gonna make faster race cars, but it just gives the guys that have been working their butts off for the last two years a little bit of hope.

“We need that, so it’s really good for us… Obviously, 18th isn’t where we want to be at this point in the season, but for where we’ve been it’s an improvement and we’ll keep getting better.”

Finish them … again: Jones goes for second straight XFINITY Series victory at Bristol

With 26 laps to go in Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, 18-year-old Erik Jones, competing in just his ninth NASCAR XFINITY Series race, had Sprint Cup Series stars Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. bearing down on him from the high side on the final restart.

He never panicked.

Instead he stayed true to the moniker used by one of his No. 20 Toyota’s sponsors – Mortal Kombat X.

Jones “finished them.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver cleared Keselowski and Earnhardt on Turn 2 with 25 laps to go and held them off the rest of the way for his first XFINITY Series victory.

“This is just amazing,” Jones said after the race. “We beat Cup guys tonight! Just a really cool day and something I’m really proud of not only for myself but everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s a great feeling knowing you had to work for it, that it was not just handed to you.”

Jones, who also has four victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, broke Chase Elliott’s record for most national series wins before the age of 19. He will compete for his second XFINITY Series victory in a field that includes defending series champion Elliott, as well as Sprint Cup Series regulars Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

Jones started sixth and finished eighth in his lone start at Bristol last fall.

“Bristol is a track that I definitely consider more in my forte of tracks I grew up running,” he said. “It’s always exciting to get back there and it’s kind of our first short-track race of the year too. It’s going to be interesting to see where our program stands on that side of things, which is always nice to check out. I’m looking forward to it.”

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