For Roush Fenway Racing, improvement isn’t just the same old song

Members of the Roush-Fenway Racing team meet with the media Wednesday in Charlotte. (Greg Engle)


Members of the Roush-Fenway Racing team meet with the media Wednesday in Charlotte. (Greg Engle)
Members of the Roush-Fenway Racing team meet with the media Wednesday in Charlotte. (Greg Engle)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark concedes that, in January, every executive of every organization competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be singing the same tune.

In other words, in January, before any cars actually hit the race track, everyone is excited and optimistic about the coming season.

This year, however, to hear the drivers and principals of Roush Fenway tell it, the happy talk isn’t just lip service. To be sure, Newmark’s attitude stood in stark contrast to the substandard performances turned in by all three RFR NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers last year.

“In the halls of Roush Fenway the last few months, there has been a level of enthusiasm and energy that is unparalleled since I have been in this sport,” Newmark said on Wednesday during the Roush Fenway stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.”

“It has been well documented, some of the changes we have been undergoing with adding new talent, restructuring how we operate, all with an effort to improve the performance on the track. When you see the effort and energy put into it, it has far exceeded our expectations.”

RFR has upped its engineering effort in a sport that has become increasingly engineering-oriented. Crew chief Brian Pattie was recruited from now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing to work with Greg Biffle. Matt Puccia, Biffle’s crew chief in 2015, has moved to the No. 6 Ford of Trevor Bayne.

And to a man, the Roush drivers believe the new low-downforce competition package NASCAR has adopted for all open-motor race tracks this year will benefit the entire organization.

“I think it will be a great season for us,” Biffle said. “We were trending in the right direction at the end of 2015, and we know with these changes we will continue that.

“The low downforce was two of our best races in the Cup Series for Trevor, Ricky and myself (during trial runs at Kentucky and Darlington). We all ran good (at those two tracks), and that will be the package for 2016 so we think that will be good for us.”

But in order to improve, RFR will have to find a way to get its cars to do a better job turning through the corners.

“Greg and Trevor and I are all asking for the same thing, trying to get our front ends of to turn a little better,” Stenhouse told the NASCAR Wire Service. “Our horsepower’s good. It takes every part of the car to get it through the corner, and for whatever reason, our limiting factor is getting our front end to turn.

“That’s been kind of an issue since I’ve gotten into the Cup car (in 2013) at Roush Fenway, and it’s gotten a little bit worse as we’ve gone. But then last year is the first year that I’ve actually seen it and felt it get better in the race car. That’s where, I think, a lot of the positive things are coming from, and us as drivers actually felt a lot of the gains we had last year — but still knowing that we need a lot more.”

Cassill fills out Front Row Lineup

An appropriate addendum to “Ford Wednesday” on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour was the announcement that Landon Cassill will join Front Row Motorsports as the driver of the No. 38 Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, competing alongside rookie teammate and defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chris Buescher.

Cassill, who won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2008, already has 187 Sprint Cup starts to his credit, with his best finish a fourth at Talladega — the same track where Front Row won its only Sprint Cup race to date (2013 with driver David Ragan).

“It was really great to see a lot of smiling faces when I went to the shop, when they found out I was going to be the driver,” Cassill said on Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I’m really proud that I can bring some energy to the team.”

Front Row will have a strong alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, which owns Buescher’s contract and has a vested interest in his development as a Cup driver. The relationship with RFR should benefit Cassill’s effort, too.

“I’m really excited to work with (Buescher) and kind of see how they work at Roush,” said Cassill, who drove for Hillman Racing last year. “I think (the Roush effect) is going to be a huge step, and I don’t know whether it’s going to be instantaneous or whether it’s going to take time, but there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s going to be better, because they have more tools.

“You can draw a line down the middle of the paper and see where it’s going to be a better deal.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.