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Ford executive encouraged by changes at Roush Fenway Racing

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CONCORD, N.C. — The Global Director of Ford Performance says he’s optimistic Roush Fenway Racing will be more competitive this season because of leadership changes that “embrace becoming more of an engineering-led organization.’’

Roush Fenway Racing has been shut out of NASCAR’s playoffs each of the past two seasons and last won a race in 2014.

Ford’s Dave Pericak said Wednesday at the Ford Performance Technical Center that Roush Fenway Racing is in a better position to take advantage of Ford’s technical support after offseason changes.

“I think Roush has made all of the right, now, decisions and changes within their organization to truly embrace becoming more of an engineering-led organization and putting the technology into these cars as opposed to just bolting some stuff together and going out on the racetrack,’’ Pericak told NBC Sports.

“I think there has been a huge acknowledgement on their side that there has to be a shift within their own organization, a shift within their leadership. We’ve helped them on a technical side of things to get their equipment up to speed. I’m optimistic that this year you’re going to see all of that coming together and you should see better performance out of that Roush organization.’’

Roush Fenway Racing opens the season with new personnel in executive levels. The team announced in late November that Kevin Kidd, who had been the organization’s Cup team manager, would become the competition director, and Tommy Wheeler, who oversaw the production of the organization’s Cup and Xfinity cars, would be the team’s operations director. The team also announced that Robbie Reiser, who had been general manager, was being reassigned.

The organization also is smaller this season. Roush downsized to a two-car operation with the departure of Greg Biffle. The team will have Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne as drivers and loaned Chris Buescher to JTG Daugherty, a Chevrolet team, because there wasn’t a proper place to put him with a Ford team this year.

Stenhouse showed signs of progress early last season, climbing to 13th the points after the season’s fifth race before finishing the year 21st. Bayne placed 22nd and Biffle 23rd. The three drivers combined for zero wins, seven top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.

The top-five and top-10 results were an increase from the 2015 season. Roush’s drivers combined for four top fives and nine top 10s that season.

Roush is one of two Ford teams downsizing this year. Richard Petty Motorsports will field one entry this year instead of two. Pericak said such moves could help both teams.

“The downsizing that you’ve seen is a way for us to re-focus those teams and get back to the fundamentals and get them back on the right path,” Pericak said. “You don’t want to have so much going on that you can’t focus in areas that you need to focus and fix what you need.’’

Something else that could help Roush and RPM is the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing to the Ford camp. The move gives Ford two top-tier teams in SHR and Team Penske. Some of the information gleaned by those teams can be shared.

“I think when you look at that, it’s a very positive thing to bring that level of competition to your group, everyone is going to benefit from that,’’ Pericak said. “And the other thing we’ve been working strongly on is that one Ford approach, sharing where sharing makes sense.’’

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NASCAR America: Was Kyle Busch wrong to blame Joey Logano?

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It wasn’t so much that Martin Truex Jr. kept Kyle Busch from winning the championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

At least that’s not the way Busch saw it.

Busch felt he had the race car and the speed to track down Truex and eventually pass him – had it not been for Joey Logano.

An upset Busch said after the race to NBC Sports that he felt Logano may have impeded his progress but on Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both agreed that Logano did nothing wrong, that he was trying to win the race himself.

Here’s some of what the analysts had to say:

Jarrett: “It’s not just the four championship drivers that are out there competing, everyone else is out there and they have an agenda. Joey Logano has had a bad year by his standards, so he was trying to get everything he possibly could.

“But, here’s another thing I’ll say: Joey Logano really did nothing wrong there. And something that all drivers, not just Kyle Busch, that you have to think about … things that you might have done to rile a competitor, you never know when that might come back to get you.

“We talk about paybacks all the time. It doesn’t have to be somebody wrecking somebody to pay back, all they have to do in a critical situation is hold you up a little bit. I don’t know if that’s what Joey Logano was doing or not or just racing as hard as he could and that made it difficult for Kyle Busch to get by.

“… I think it was simply racing. It was unfortunate for Kyle, but it’s part of the way the playoff system works here in NASCAR.”

Here’s what Kligerman had to say:

“I think at that point of the race, there was still a chance for Joey Logano to rally and go challenge for a win. … That’s what you have to deal with, that’s what racing over 38 weeks is about in the Cup Series, racing 39, 40 cars every week. You have to race those guys. … Kyle Busch had one of the fastest cars, but was Joey Logano the only one that was really the problem. As they came to the end, Kyle Larson was in the picture a little bit. You can’t put the blame on Joey Logano. He was just driving his race.”

Hear more about what they had to say in the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first moments of retirement

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As soon as he crossed the checkered flag in Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. morphed from race car driver to retired race car driver.

And what better way to begin retirement than with a party, and that’s what Junior did with his team, friends and fans along the frontstretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both spoke about how Junior sailed on into retirement.

Among their comments:

Kligerman: “It was maybe an hour and a half and there was still this swarm of people around his car. He and his team were sitting there, drinking beer and hanging out, he was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. It was just incredible to see him just sitting there and taking in the moment.”

Jarrett added about the role and impact Rick Hendrick had upon Junior’s life and career both on and off the track: “Rick Hendrick came in and got in Dale Jr.’s life at a time that Junior really needed someone and needed that support, that father figure, if you will. Rick Hendrick is just so good at that. Rick’s been through a lot in his life, Dale Jr. has been that. The two of them together did a lot of real good things and were good for each other.”

Check out more of what Jarrett and Kligerman had to say in the video above.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Jarrett, Kligerman on role Sherry Pollex played in Truex’s championship

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman talked about the key role Sherry Pollex played in Martin Truex Jr.‘s run for the NASCAR Cup championship — not just in Sunday’s race, but through the whole season as a source of inspiration and motivation.

First, here’s some of what Kligerman said:

“She’s a massive inspiration. I can’t imagine what she’s going through. For what Martin and this team have all gone through, and to have the success they’re having on the track, and all this going on off the racetrack, it’s just incredible.

“To bring inspiration to people’s lives, that’s really impactful. They are going through a tough time and it’s easy to get down when you’re going through a tough time. But they’re using their success on the racetrack to bring inspiration to other people. That’s one of the best things you can possibly do, I believe.”

And here’s some of Jarrett’s insight:

“She’s just an amazing person and you can tell just the inspiration she has been to Martin Truex Jr. to just never give up and never waver.

“You never hear them talk about the struggles, only when they’re asked about it. They don’t talk about how difficult their life is, because they know others are probably struggling more than they are at times.

“But they’re such good people and it’s really good to see good things happen to good people that really give their all and are an inspiration to others.

“I don’t care who you might have been a fan of and pulling for … you had to feel good to have this end this way because they’ve been through a lot, and they’ll continue to go through that, but they have a championship to show for all those struggles, hard work and effort.”

See and hear more of Jarrett’s and Kligerman’s analysis in the video above.

Also, check out what Truex had to say about how important his father was to his development as a race car driver — and now a Cup champion — in the video below.

 

Roush Fenway Racing to field three-driver Xfinity development team in 2018

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Roush Fenway Racing announced Monday it will field a full-time driver development team next season in the Xfinity Series.

Ty Majeski, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe will share driving duties behind the wheel of the No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang.

In addition, Team Penske and Ford Performance will also collaborate in the venture.

Mike Kelley, who led Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to two Xfinity championships, will serve as crew chief for the No. 60.

“All three of these drivers have exhibited a great deal of potential on and off the track,” Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said in a press release. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch as they hone their skills together and grow into the next generation of champions in our sport.”

Here are the drivers:

* Majeski recently earned his fourth consecutive ARCA Midwest Tour championship, winning six of 12 races. He also competed in 32 Late Model races this year, winning 20 and finishing top-3 in 29. He’s also ranked the No. 1 iRacer in the world, with over 830 wins in 1,112 starts. He finished 10th Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his third Xfinity start.

* The 19-year-old Cindric has won races in rallycross, IMSA, ARCA, the NASCAR K&N Series and the Camping World Truck Series. In his rookie season in Trucks this year, he advanced to the championship round. In 2017, he had one win, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s.

* Briscoe had one win (season finale Friday at Homestead), 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes and finished sixth in the points standings in his rookie season in Trucks. He won the 2016 ARCA championship by more than 500 points over the series’ runner-up with six wins and led nearly 1,000 laps.