Robbie Reiser

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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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Davey Allison’s legacy lives on through family and friends

Kelly Crandall / NBC Sports
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CHARLOTTE — The four of them sat on a makeshift stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and were ready, if not appearing a bit apprehensive, to turn around.

There was the son who lost his father before the age of 2, Robbie Allison. Next to him sat his grandfather, 1983 Cup champion Bobby Allison. Then came a former crew chief and a close friend of both Allisons, Larry McReynolds. Finally, another friend, and son of a famous car owner, Lorin Ranier.

But the group did turn and watch as a car cover was removed. With it went the butterflies, replaced by broad smiles and a rush of memories at the sight of the No. 28 Ford Thunderbird driven by Davey Allison in his rookie Cup Series season for Ranier-Lundy Racing. The car proudly taking its place with the rest of those deemed iconic enough to be on Glory Road.

“It was just such a great feeling,” Bobby Allison said of seeing the car. “I was really bonded with the car all the way through. I had driven for that team (Ranier Racing) earlier and then (Davey) got in the car, and it was the black-and-white deal and evolved from that into the black Havoline special, the Texaco star. Just so many good things about it. The good wins that he had. Just made me feel great.”

Pride emanated from all four individuals throughout the event. Especially Bobby, who not only raised Davey with his late wife, Judy, but raced against him from 1985-88. Bobby took a few trips up Glory Road to get a good look at the car and shared his favorite memories of Davey with those who asked. Or at least the ones he can remember.

Bobby carries around a picture in his pocket of the 1988 Daytona 500 that he won with Davey finishing second to remind himself that, “Yeah, that did happen.” (Bobby lost his memory of the win in a crash at Pocono Raceway a few months later.)

Robbie Allison has his own brief memories of his father, who won 19 Cup races in 191 starts, including the 1992 Daytona 500, before his untimely passing in a July 1993 helicopter crash. Robbie, like many others, also repeatedly has heard how his father was destined to become a champion.

Davey, Robbie said, “definitely was as good a father as he was a racer.”

With his car now displayed in the Hall of Fame, it provides Robbie and the others a chance to explain why Davey was as good as many say.

“You have to think about how he grew up,” said Ranier, who shared a picture of the two from when they were teenagers. “His father was an iconic driver, and Davey took advantage of his position, meaning he wasn’t just floating around saying, ‘Hey, Bobby Allison’s my dad, and I can do whatever I want.’ He went and worked his ass off and learned and understood why his dad won races.

“He knew why (Bobby) won and then he just kind of adopted that to himself. Also, too, (Davey) kind of saw the mistakes that his dad made, and he tried not to do that. He had a really cool upbringing to become a great driver, and he was talented. So you mix all that together.”

RICHMOND, VA ? March 7, 1993: Bobby Allison (L) joins his son, Davey Allison, in victory lane at Richmond International Raceway after Davey won the Pontiac Excitement 400 NASCAR Cup race. It would be the younger Allison?s final Cup victory. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA March 7, 1993: Bobby Allison (L) joins his son, Davey Allison, in victory lane at Richmond International Raceway after Davey won the Pontiac Excitement 400 NASCAR Cup race. It would be the younger Allison’s final Cup victory. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

McReynolds knew Davey as well as anyone.

The two were friendly long before McReynolds became his crew chief and their relationship went far beyond the NASCAR garage. Davey and his wife, Liz, were close friends with McReynolds and his wife, Linda. Robbie Allison and Larry’s son Brandon were born a few months apart and later baptized together. The Allisons were named Brandon’s godparents and the McReynolds the same for Robbie.

Friday, Larry showed up at the Hall of Fame proudly wearing a leather jacket that had been given to Davey’s team many years ago. McReynolds shared the sentiment that Davey was not only talented but a student of the sport.

“He lived, ate and slept racing,” McReynolds said. “I said it at his funeral that we miss him, we’re grieving, but if there’s anybody that’s left this earth that had his priorities in order, Davey Allison was that guy. He enjoyed getting away and doing a little bit of hunting and fishing, but for the most part, especially during the racing season, he would live, sleep, and eat these race cars pretty much from the beginning of February to the middle of November and even during the offseason. It was never good enough, and that’s rubbed off on me.”

The allure of Davey Allison also came in how he was described as a genuinely kind-hearted person off the track.

“It’s funny because when people think about Bobby back in the day, Bobby was a very popular driver, he won like Most Popular Driver (six) times,” Ranier said. “People liked Bobby, but they loved Davey. You know what I mean? They just loved him.”

As did all those in attendance. The group of four along with those who accompanied them were the last ones to leave the Hall of Fame after taking one last look at the car. They did so sharing a common hope for the future.

To McReynolds, Davey Allison’s car being in the Hall of Fame is hopefully just another rung in the ladder. He deserves Ranier said, to climb that ladder to induction into the Hall of Fame. It would give him a permanent place in the Hall alongside his father Bobby, who continues to wait for that day.

“Oh yes,” Bobby said of wanting Davey in the Hall of Fame. “Yes. There’s so many good guys out there, but Davey accomplished so much in that short period of time. Including the Daytona win, the wins around the other big tracks around the country. I’d love to see him in there.”

Report: Roush Fenway relieves Robbie Reiser of general manager duties

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On Tuesday, Roush Fenway Racing relieved Robbie Reiser of his duties as general manager, according to Motorsport.com.

NBC Sports contacted Roush Fenway Racing seeking comment, but the requests went unreturned.

The move comes after Roush failed to win a Sprint Cup race or qualify any of its three full-time cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the second year in a row.

Roush has not won a Sprint Cup race since the 2014 Sonoma race (Carl Edwards).

Motorsport.com reported Reiser was offered a position in the team’s car production department, but that a decision hasn’t been made.

Reiser was in the position since the end of 2007 after transitioning from being a crew chief. Reiser has been with Roush since 1999. He won the 2003 Sprint Cup championship as crew chief for Matt Kenseth.

Roush continues to feel the fallout from its disappointing last two seasons. On Monday, Roush announced it was mutually parting ways with Greg Biffle, the longest-tenured driver in Roush’s history. Earlier on Tuesday, Zest, which had sponsored Roush cars since 2012, announced it was withdrawing from the sport.

In October, Cheez-It announced it was withdrawing its sponsorship from Roush and NASCAR.

Robbie Reiser to serve as interim crew chief for Greg Biffle at Pocono, Michigan

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Roush Fenway Racing announced Friday that the organization’s general manager, Robbie Reiser, will serve as interim crew chief for Greg Biffle‘s team the next two events.

NASCAR suspended Biffle’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, for two Sprint Cup races because of a P3 penalty for body design violations found after last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Reiser is a former Sprint Cup crew chief, having served several years as crew chief for former RFR driver Matt Kenseth, including winning the 2003 championship.

“Having Robbie Reiser on the box to call the race certainly makes good sense,” Biffle said Friday at Pocono Raceway. “He has done a good job on the box and has won a title. That is not a disadvantage to us.

“That is really where the crew chief is important, calling the race, being on the box and making the right pit calls and decisions. I feel like we have somebody that can do that job and I think we will be fine with that.”

 

 

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