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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ‘pretty blindsided’ by Roush decision

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CONCORD, N.C. — The text message Tuesday night asked Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to be at Roush Fenway Racing at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“I’ve gotten plenty of those texts before, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Stenhouse said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But when Stenhouse’s agent called at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to say that they also had been called to the meeting, Stenhouse admitted he thought “it’s probably not very good.”

It wasn’t.

The team informed Stenhouse that he would not be retained after this season. His opening allowed Roush Fenway Racing to sign Chris Buescher for 2020.

“Didn’t know that it was coming,” Stenhouse said. “That’s part of it. People get fired every day from their jobs.”

Stenhouse said he was “pretty blindsided” by Roush Fenway Racing’s decision to release him after this season even though he had a contract through the 2021 season — although the team had the option to end the deal early.

Roush Fenway Racing officials cited a lack of performance as a reason for the move. Roush officials moved quickly once they found out that Buescher didn’t have an extension completed with JTG Daugherty Racing.

“I look forward to having cars that are more similar for both drivers that we can develop from race to race by not having so many wrecks,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday of a 2020 lineup with Buescher and Ryan Newman. “Ryan’s done really well about keeping his car together, and Chris has a history of doing the same thing.

“So we’re going to work on our cars to make them faster and to not be repairing them when they’re damaged.  We’re gonna work on a consistent car that they both like, and I think we’ll have much better success.””

Stenhouse admits he’s had bouts of crashing in his career.

I would say we’ve crashed, but I’ve lost brakes a lot of times, I’ve blown right-front tires a lot of times,” he said. “Obviously, those are wrecks. I’ve caused a couple myself, so, yeah, I definitely would say we’ve wrecked too much.”

Stenhouse said he’s gone through a variety of emotions since being informed of the team’s decision.

Over the past two days I’d say I went angry, sad, optimistic, looking forward,” he said. “Sometimes change is good and like I said, it just didn’t work. It hadn’t been working over the last couple years. We’ve had speed. We just haven’t had consistent finishes. I think that’s what sucks for myself is I feel like we’ve had plenty of speed to get the job done. It’s just a lot of things came down to us not getting those results. Ultimately, that’s what we’re here for is results, and they weren’t coming.”

Stenhouse joined Roush Fenway Racing in 2009, running seven Xfinity races that season. He won two Xfinity titles for Roush and two Cup races. When he talked about those years and Roush, Stenhouse’s voice quivered.

“I’ve got to look back on the 11 years that I had with Jack and winning races and championships and getting my first Cup win and being competitive – not as consistent as what we wanted, but the end of it all, I’m very thankful that Jack took a chance on a dirt racer from Mississippi to come drive his car,” Stenhouse said.

“It was fun, a little emotional with the relationship Jack and I have. It’s the only team I’ve ever been at, so I’m looking forward to see what’s next. Like I said, there’s a lot of work to do on that, but, all in all, I’m definitely looking forward to these last eight with the great partners that we have, everybody on the 17 team. I’ve worked with a lot of them since my Nationwide days, so it will be tough, but it will be a fun eight races with them.”

Stenhouse and Roush talked Thursday night for the first time since the team’s decision. Stenhouse called it a good conversation.

“I waited to have that conversation with Jack because having it Wednesday probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, but Jack and I, we’ve had some knockdown-drag outs in the 11 years we’ve had together, but it was a good conversation,” Stenhouse said. “I thanked him for all the good times and the fun times that we had and look forward to see what’s next.”

He also added to NBC Sports: “I still feel like I’ve got unfinished business in this series.”

Roush executive: Time with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had ‘run its course’

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Steve Newmark, the president of Roush Fenway Racing said the news that Chris Buescher will replace Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 in 2020 resulted in a “day of mixed emotions” for the team, later adding that its nearly decade-long relationship with Stenhouse had “kind of run its course.”

Newmark provided some details of the timeframe of Stenhouse’s eventual departure and Buescher’s return to the organization Wednesday night in a 30-minute interview with host Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Jack’s Garage.”

Some of the highlights of the interview:

–Newmark said the team’s direction (which was “difficult on a lot of fronts”) on choosing Buescher was finalized Tuesday night and led to a “flurry” of activity Wednesday, which began with the team informing Stenhouse of its decision. The team released the news publicly at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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–After a Wednesday night tweet by Buescher alluded to Roush exercising “an option” to return to the team where he raced before four years with Front Row Motorsports and JTG Daugherty, Newmark clarified that Roush retained “some residual rights that were triggered in certain instances.”

Newmark said the team was focused over the summer on improving Stenhouse’s results to make the playoffs, not in finding a replacement. But Newmark said “interesting circumstances” came up in recent weeks that led them to pursue Buescher.

“I think even we weren’t aware that those instances were going to arise here,” Newmark said. “But because of how things unfolded at JTG, it ended up we got a call recently from Chris and his representative saying, ‘Hey, as a heads up, these conditions happened, and we’re giving you notice that some of the rights that you had under this residual option are available.’

“At that point, we’ve always been interested in Chris and always continued that relationship. There have been discussions at the board level, and Jack really has put his heart and soul into trying to figure out what the best path for this organization is. And we spent some time the last week exploring different options and how to put this together and the implications.”

–Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the decision to go with Buescher “wasn’t predicated on any one factor,” but he cited Ryan Newman‘s success in qualifying the No. 6 car for the playoffs in his first year with Roush as among the factors.

“Ryan has 11 top 10s, and that whole team has put together start-to-finish races, and he’s averaging finishes of about 13.5,” which is his best average since putting up that same number in 2015.

Newmark also cited Buescher’s performance over the summer, with 16 consecutive starts where Buescher finished inside the top 20.

“So his racing style is conducive to how we’re constructed on our end,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When Chris was with us, he was one of the drivers that Ford relied on for simulators, just because of the quality of his feedback and the input he provided.

“I think all of those factors just went into saying ‘This is the right time to give Chris a chance and to see if we can put a team around Chris and have him in a position where he can excel similar to what Ryan Newman did this year.'”

The hiring of Buescher will end a seven-year run for Stenhouse in the No. 17 where he has two wins and failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.

“At the end of the day, we, as in Roush Fenway, didn’t do our jobs and didn’t fulfill our obligations to extract the most out of the 17 program,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think there was a lot of potential there with Ricky as a talented driver and overall, and we just weren’t able to put everything together to make it as successful as quite frankly (owner) Jack Roush expects it to be, which is competing for wins and champions. That’s on our shoulders and that’s obviously a tough decision to make. We determined it just kind of (had) run its course and it was probably time to make a change.

“On the flip side, there’s obviously quite a bit of excitement about bringing Chris back into the fold. It really is a homecoming, of course. He signed with us when he was 16 years old, 10 years ago, and had our last championship (Xfinity in 2015) and I think he’s always been someone we view as your quintessential Roush Fenway driver in how he approaches racing and everything he does. I think there’s a lot of excitement to have him back in the fold because we think he can excel with the organization going forward.”

JGR on verge of tying Roush for most national NASCAR wins

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Kyle Busch‘s Cup win Sunday at Pocono Raceway moved Joe Gibbs Racing within one victory of tying Roush Fenway Racing for the most national NASCAR wins all-time.

According to Racing Insights, Busch’s win gives Joe Gibbs Racing 324 victories across the Cup (166 wins), Xfinity (158) and Truck Series (none) compared to Roush’s 325 overall.

The totals from Racing Insights differ from the total provided on the website Racing Reference, which has Roush’s Xfinity win total at 137.

Racing Insights added one to Roush’s Xfinity total after it confirmed with Mark Martin that his 1992 Xfinity win at Rockingham came in a car owned by Roush, not himself.

JGR, which entered NASCAR competition in 1992, is in position to tie Roush thanks to nine Cup wins through 14 races this season and six Xfinity wins through 12 races.

Roush has not won in Cup since the July 2017 race at Daytona. It has not won in Xfinity since the February 2017 Daytona race and is not competing in the series this year for the first time since 1992. Roush has not competed in the Truck Series since 2009.

Here are the six all-time winningest NASCAR teams, according to Racing Insights:

Team  Owner Cup Wins NXS Wins Truck Wins Wins
Roush Fenway Racing 137 138 50 325
Joe Gibbs Racing 166 158 0 324
Hendrick Motorsports 253 26 26 305
Petty Enterprises 268 0 2 270
Richard Childress Racing 108 81 31 220
Team Penske 118 68 0 186

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Meet the ‘Gen 7 for NASCAR’ that could include shorter races and capped costs

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Are shorter races better? That’s a discussion taking place in NASCAR, along with the length of the season and other key topics.

“We have to keep (fans) engaged,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “We have to think about their attention spans. The races may need to get shorter.  That could be cost savings all the way around. Probably need to get shorter. 

“People say we need to race fewer times. I’m not sure that’s true. I used to tell (NASCAR Vice Chairman) Mike Helton, if he had three or four races a week, I’d be there for him. I don’t know if I’d say that today.”

Already this week, Kevin Harvick has advocated eliminating the Clash, and Denny Hamlin has noted one of the most popular events in the Olympics is the 100-meter dash instead of the marathon, a hint to shorter races

These comments have been made as the sport looks to cut costs for teams and energize fans who can become weary over a 38-race season that goes from February to November. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said last year that various ideas would be considered for the 2020 schedule and beyond. 

Car owner Roger Penske, whose organization is coming off Joey Logano’s Cup championship season, likens the sport’s look at race lengths to its focus on the next car, which is targeted to debut in 2021.

“I think we’re really talking about Gen 7 for NASCAR,” Penske said, using the term for the next car. “It’s not just the car or the engine. I think it’s the show, it’s the length of the races, it’s where we’re going to run, are we going to run more at night, short tracks. Let’s call it Gen 7 for NASCAR, not just the car.”

A shorter season could limit how many weekends NASCAR goes head-to-head against the NFL in the fall. Shorter races could provide the opportunity for midweek races. The belief from those advocating shorter races is that it would create a better show for fans.

“I think it’s an exciting time for us really in the sport,” car owner Joe Gibbs said. “You know, there’s times that you struggle, and I think we have struggled some, but I honestly think (NASCAR Chairman) Jim France is on board and after it.  I think we, having constant meetings with everybody has kind of put everything on the table. 

“We’ve got a great fan base, but I think everything is really out there, scheduling, everything that you’re talking about, cost savings, everything is on the table. And so sometimes when you go through a tough time, those wind up being the best times because it causes you to really think your way through things.”

Just as important to teams are the costs, which NASCAR continues to look to cut. There’s also been talk of some type of spending limitation for teams.

“You’re going to see other things happen with the cars, engine packages, that’s going to reduce the cost,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “So NASCAR is really on it. When you look at it, we talk about a spending cap. I don’t know how you regulate that with all we have going on. I mean, everything is on the table.”

Bob Jenkins, car owner for Front Row Motorsports, said cost containment can make an impact for his three-car organization.

“The ultimate goal has always got to be how can we do more with less with any team,” he said. “I think some of the larger teams have felt the financial pinch maybe more so than we have. When you’re in a constant evolution mode, it’s hard for us to keep up. We can make suspension changes a few times a year. Like Roger said, we can’t change cars every week.

“In previous years, we were always a generation or two behind and it shows on our performance. I think now when they come with these common parts that are produced by a third-party manufacturer that can’t be tweaked or re-engineered it only helps a team like us.”

Watch NASCAR Hall of Fame induction at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The 10th NASCAR Hall of Fame class will be inducted tonight, with the ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

This year’s five-member class is one of the most prolific and is headlined by four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon’s induction comes four years after he ended his full-time career at the end of 2015.

“It’s been a hell of a ride, I can tell you that,” Gordon said on Sunday prior to his induction into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame. “Each year that I’m out of being in a competitive environment I appreciate the career I had, the time that I came into the sport, the people I was able to connect with. The media, how the press treated me over the years and told my story. I now look back on it and go, ‘Damn, did all that really happen?’ It just seemed like it flew by in the moments that I was competing.”

Here’s who will join the Gordon in the Hall of Fame.

Alan Kulwicki – The 1992 Cup champion won five career Cup races before he was killed in a plane crash in 1993 on the way to Bristol Motor Speedway from a sponsor appearance.

Davey Allison – The son of Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, Davey won 19 races, including the 1992 Daytona 500 and was the 1987 Cup Rookie of the Year. Three months after Kulwicki’s death, Allison died from injures suffered in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jack Roush – Owner of Roush Fenway Racing, Roush has scored a record 325 victories across NASCAR’s national series. He won his first Cup title in 2003 with Matt Kenseth and won the 2004 title with Kurt Busch. Roush has five Xfinity championships and one Camping World Truck Series title.

Roger Penske – The owner of Team Penske, “The Captain” is a two-time Cup championship owner with Brad Keselowski (2012) and Joey Logano (2018). Penske built Auto Club Speedway and once owned Michigan International Speedway and North Carolina Motor Speedway. 

Click here at 8 p.m. ET to watch online.