Ricky Stenhouse Jr. now the ‘old guy’ as Roush Fenway undergoes ‘culture shift’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. “never really thought it would happen.” Entering his ninth season in NASCAR, he’s now the “old guy” at Roush Fenway Racing.

“I’ve been at Roush Fenway the longest now,” Stenhouse said last week at the NASCAR Media Tour, three months after he turned 29. “I signed with Roush in 2007, so it’s been a while. It’s been a journey that I’ve enjoyed. It’s a new chapter for me now to kind of take the reins and make sure we lay the buggy in the right direction.”

Stenhouse is the lead driver after the previous “old guy,” Greg Biffle, amicably parted ways with the team the day after last year’s Cup Series finale. Biffle, 47, left after driving for Roush since 1998, when Stenhouse was 11 and teammate Trevor Bayne was 7.

Now Roush will only field Stenhouse and Bayne, making its Cup Series operation a two-car effort for the first time since 1995.

“I feel good about that and Trevor, along with me, we’re gonna have to make sure that when we come back from the weekend we let them know what direction we need to go to make our cars better and better every week,” said Stenhouse, who has yet to win in four full-time Cup seasons with Roush. “I think we started last season fairly strong and we fell off. That was something that we weren’t able to maintain and that’s something we’ve got down in our notes.”

Stenhouse earned a career-best four top fives last season before finishing 21st in the standings.

Bayne, entering his third season with Roush, said the car reduction and personnel changes in the offseason is a small part of a “culture shift” within the walls of the team that hasn’t won a race or made the playoffs the last two seasons.

“I feel like we did not keep up the way that we wanted to (last year),” Bayne said. “So what we have to learn is … ‘How do you stay motivated and make the gains from Michigan to Homestead that you make in the off-season, that you show up to Atlanta and Daytona with?’ That’s what we have to do as a team. We have to stay motivated.

“I think the guys are motivated, but we have to continue to communicate better. You’ve heard this a lot at Roush Fenway Racing in particular is a culture shift and a communication shift. I think that’s taking place. You don’t have a culture shift by replacing one or two people or by hiring new personnel. The culture shift has to be ingrained into every single person in the organization, and I think we’re getting closer and closer to being to that point where everybody believes that we can do it at Roush Fenway Racing.”

Another part of the culture shift – or culture maturation – is Bayne and Stenhouse putting aside any teammate rivalry, which was highlighted by Roush’s social media team anytime the drivers would be near each other on the track

“I think Ricky and I have kind of realized in the last couple of years of being teammates at the Cup level that it’s not Ricky versus Trevor anymore,” Bayne said. “It’s Roush Fenway Racing versus everybody else.”

Two years removed from its last Cup win, Roush Fenway will begin finding out if its “culture shift” will stick with the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

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NASCAR America: Dale Jr.’s aggressiveness at Sonoma pays off, will need it at Daytona

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Dale Earnhardt was very aggressive in his final Cup start at Sonoma Raceway, and while it may have resulted in his Lap 14 accident in Turn 11, it also helped produce his third top 10 of the year and his second in a row.

“I think being offensive is better than being passive on a road course, nothing wrong with that,” said NASCAR America analyst Max Papis, who also broke down what caused Earnhardt’s bizarre spin early in Sunday’s race that also involved Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson.

“You’ve got to commit, usually the pass has happened before you actually arrive at the corner,” Papis said. “He thought that was a good opportunity, (then) committed. ”

NASCAR America’s analysts also discussed Earnhardt’s upcoming start at Daytona, which likely will be his final Cup start there. The track may be his best shot to earn a win and a spot in the playoffs.

The analysts believe the aggressiveness that was on display at Sonoma will be necessary for Earnhardt to pull a win out at Daytona.

Earnhardt’s year got off to a rough start in the Daytona 500. He was leading the race when Kyle Busch lost a tire in Turn 3 on Lap 105, spun and collected Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones.

Earnhardt was near the front at Talladega in May late in the race when he was forced to pit for a loose tire with less than 15 laps to go.

That leaves the 14-time most popular driver with just two more chances to win a restrictor-plate race, the format he’s earned 10 of his 26 Cup Series wins.

“They’ve got to find a way to give him a car where he can be aggressive Dale Jr.,” Jeff Burton said. “What makes him so good at Daytona and Talladega is that he doesn’t hesitate. He’s the guy setting the tempo, he’s the guy forcing the issue. … He can’t drive with caution, he can’t drive worried about if ‘is my car going to stick?’ He’s got to stick it in there and know it’s going to stick. He hasn’t had that the last several plate races.”

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Daytona

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NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway this weekend with the Cup and Xfinity Series.

Cup teams will compete in the Coke Zero 400, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBC and the Xfinity Series holds the Coca-Colca Firecracker 250, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Coke Zero 400

Forty cars are entered into the 17th race of the Cup season. That would make it the sixth race this year to have the most possible cars in the field.

Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back in the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Brendan Gaughan will drive the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ryan Sieg will drive the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing in his third start for the team.

Kurt Busch won the last trip to Daytona, leading only the last lap of the Daytona 500 after multiple leaders ran out of gas in the closing laps. Brad Keselowski won last year’s Coke Zero 400.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

There are 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this race, including four full-time Cup drivers. They are Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Joey Logano.

There is no driver announced for the No. 93 Chevrolet owned by RSS racing.

Ryan Reed won the February Xfinity race at Daytona after being involved in two crashes and leading nine laps. Aric Almirola won last year’s July race after a caution on the last lap forced NASCAR to review video and loop data and determined him the winner over Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch can afford to lose interim crew chief for Daytona

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Kyle Busch may have yet another view in his ear this weekend when he races in the Coke Zero 400.

Interim crew chief Ben Beshore may be suspended for the race after two unsecured lug nuts were found on the No. 18 Toyota after the Sonoma race.

The possible loss of Beshore comes after Busch’s usual crew chief, Adam Stevens, was suspended four races for a wheel falling off Busch’s car following a pit stop at Dover.

Daytona will be the fourth race of that suspension. NASCAR America’s analysts discussed the impact of the possible suspension for Busch, who is still looking for his first win since July of last year.

“They’re not making mistakes, they’re just finding themselves in difficult positions,” Dale Jarrett said. “This is certainly another one of those, going to a race track Kyle Busch can win at. But who you have on that pit box means a lot as for performing all through a race.”

Said Jeff Burton, “The frustration level is mounting, obviously. Kyle Busch is expecting to win races. … I think if you’re going to lose your crew chief, this is probably the race you want to lose it for. Going to Daytona, you pretty much have a plan going there. The pit strategy will be interesting with the stages, but if I was going to a race track, this would be the race I’d feel most comfortable without my crew chief.”

Watch the above video for the full segment.

Eddie Pardue named crew chief for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 car

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The Circle Sport/The Motorsports Group announced that Eddie Pardue is the new crew chief on its No. 33 Chevrolet effective immediately.

Pardue, who was the team’s head of engineering, will lead the effort on Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s car this weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This will be his first Cup race as a crew chief since 2008, when he led Greg Biffle in one race at Auto Club Speedway. He has three wins in 338 races as crew chief in the Xfinity Series dating back to 1998.

The former competition director for Red Horse Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, Pardue replaces Pay Tryson, who has been released from the team.

Tryson directed Boris Said at Sonoma Raceway, where he finished 29th. Earnhardt has been in the No. 33 in every other race. His best result in his first 15 starts was 26th in the Daytona 500.

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