Steve Newmark

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.”

Ryan Newman joins Roush Fenway Racing for 2019

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RICHMOND, Va. – Ryan Newman will drive the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing next season, the team announced Saturday at Richmond Raceway. The team declined to reveal sponsors for the car.

Newman takes over the No. 6 car that Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne shared this season. Bayne told NBC Sports last week at Las Vegas that he’s looking for a ride in any of NASCAR’s three national series

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, said that Kenseth talked with the team and said he was not prepared to run full-time next season. The team plans to talk to Kenseth about a future role with the organization.

“He came and sat down with me and said, when he was looking at everything, talking to his family, considering at what stage he is in his life, meaning he’s got four young girls, he’s been on the road for almost 20 years, kind of sacrificing a lot of family time, that he just wasn’t prepared to run full-time,” Newmark said of Kenseth. “He said he owed it to his family.”

Roush Fenway Racing becomes the fourth organization to employ Newman. The 40-year-old drove for Team Penske from 2000-08, winning 13 races. Newman ran for Stewart-Haas Racing from 2009-13, winning four times. He has been at Richard Childress Racing since 2014, wining once (last year at Phoenix).

Newman made the playoffs three of his five years with RCR. He did not make it this year.

“Ryan Newman has been one of the most fierce drivers we’ve faced on the race tracks,” car owner Jack Roush said.

Said Newman: “I look forward to the opportunity of driving with the ultimate goal of winning. I’m in a position where I never wanted to stop, never wanted to quit, never wanted to retire and wanted to win a championship. I look forward to this opportunity, obviously finishing out this year strong as we both can in our respective positions, but at the same time with enthusiasm for the Daytona 500 and 2019.”

Newman enters tonight’s race at Richmond 17th in the points.

Roush Fenway Racing has yet to win this season after winning two races last year. The organization has two victories since 2015. Despite the struggles, Roush is confident in his team’s ability to be more competitive.

“We’ve been on a path of constant improvement,” Roush said. “We were improving and changing our cars in ways that had some benefit before Matt got involved, but Matt brought to us a sense of what was happening on all four corners of the car. He sat in the car initially and said it didn’t feel right, and he identified the issues he had with what was happening with the front of the car and the back of the car.

“There were questions that were on the list of things we were going to explore that we hadn’t prioritized that we prioritized at his suggestion. That’s manifested … in having extremely competitive cars at Bristol and Indy.”

That has Roush excited about the future.

“The wins are just around the corner,” he said. “The cars are much improved. I expect them to be more improved when Ryan has his criticism and constructive suggestions to what we can do as we get into next year.”

Friday 5: Could further limit on Cup drivers in Xfinity take place?

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For the second week in a row, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will run a race without any drivers who score points in the Cup series.

Cup regulars are barred from competing in Dash 4 Cash races, which pay $100,000 to the top Xfinity drivers in each of four events.

The result last weekend at Bristol was a race where Xfinity drivers battled for the win and to be eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus tonight at Richmond Raceway. Ryan Preece won the race and the bonus at Bristol. He isn’t entered for tonight’s race. Competing for the Dash 4 Cash bonus will be Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Spencer Gallagher and Daniel Hemric.

Along with Dash 4 Cash races, any driver who scores Cup points is barred from competing in the final eight races of the Xfinity season (regular-season finale and seven playoff races). Cup drivers with more than five years of experience are limited to seven Xfinity races in a season.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, hinted earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that more changes could be made to limit Cup driver participations in Xfinity races.

“We’ll continue to monitor what do our fans think, what do our partners think in terms of what they’re seeing on the race track and the storylines,’’ O’Donnell said.

“It’s one thing to say we like this, but fans need to turn out, ratings need to be there and those sorts of things. Only one race, but we saw some really good indictions in terms of the TV rating for that event. That’s something that we’ll continue to monitor, but our gut tells us that’s the direction we want to continue to go, even more so in 2019 and beyond.’’

2. Dominance

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have ruled the beginning of the season, combining to win five of the first eight races and finishing runner-up four times.

The two also have combined to lead 37.2 percent of the 2,645 laps run this season.

Busch heads into Saturday night’s race at Richmond having scored six consecutive top-three finishes, including back-to-back wins at Texas and Bristol.

The last time two drivers won three Cup races in a row in the same season was 2015 when Busch won Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis, and Joey Logano won Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega in the playoffs.

3. The race within the race

While multi-car teams garner much attention, single-car teams shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s a look at how single-car teams have performed relative to each other in the first eight races of the season.

Not surprisingly, Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr. have been the top-finishing single-car team in five of the first eight races. Darrell Wallace Jr.’s Richard Petty Motorsports team has been the top finishing single-car team twice, and the Wood Brothers and Paul Menard have been the top-finishing car in class once.

Menard has finished second among single-car teams five times. Wallace, Leavine Family Racing’s Kasey Kahne and Germain Racing’s Ty Dillon have each finished second in class once.

The last two races have been good to single-car teams. Nine single-car teams finished in the top 22 at Texas, led by Wallace’s eighth-place finish, Dillon’s 13th-place finish and Matt DiBenedetto placing 16th for Go Fas Racing.

Three single-car teams placed in the top 20 at Bristol — Menard was 13th, Wallace 16th and Landon Cassill gave StarCom Racing its best career finish at 20th.

4. No need for announcement

When teams announce long-term sponsor extensions, it can come with news of an extension to the driver’s contract to match that time.

The news this week that Roush Fenway Racing had extended sponsor deals through 2021 with Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank and Sunny D didn’t include any news about Stenhouse’s contract.

Didn’t need to.

“Ricky’s contract was already extended that far and we didn’t need to do anything else on that front,’’ Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, told NBC Sports.

5. HUGE news!

Matt Tifft wrote those words in a tweet this week followed not by a sponsor announcement or anything related to racing but that doctors say the area of his brain where a low-grade tumor was removed in July 2016 is stable. He now only needs to have an MRI checkup every six months instead of sooner.

Tifft enters tonight’s Xfinity race at Richmond 11th in the points.

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SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Roush Fenway Racing not planning to expand for 2018 season

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Roush Fenway Racing is planning to field one Xfinity and two Monster Energy Cup teams next year, a senior executive told SiriusXM Radio on Tuesday.

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, noted on “Tradin’ Paint’ that the organization’s 2018 plans could change.

Roush Fenway Racing cut back from three to two Cup teams before this season. The organization opened the year with two Xfinity teams but suspended Darrell Wallace Jr.’s team last month because of lack of sponsorship.

“I think our objective right now and plan is to stay two (Cup) and one (Xfinity),’’ Newmark said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “On the Cup side, that’s clearly our direction. I think even if sponsorship came for the third team, I think right now we feel this process has worked.

“We made a very painful decision to cut down to two this year, and we had the option to stay at three but decided that the most important thing is to put our cars in the best position to win. To do that, we thought that it was best to consolidate to two teams but maintain the same size engineering staff and R&D and laser focus that on the two cars.’’

The result is that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has won two races and qualified for the playoffs. Those wins are the most for the organization in a season since 2014.

If Roush Fenway Racing stays at two Cup teams next year, it leaves a question about its driver lineup.

The team also has Chris Buescher, who has been loaned to JTG Daugherty this season after being loaned to Front Row Motorsports last year. Roush Fenway Racing leased its third charter, which was from the No. 16 team, to JTG Daugherty for Buscher’s ride this year.

“Obviously, the way we’re structured right now Ricky and Trevor are the anchors of this organization,’’ Newmark said. “That’s going to be our focus. My hope is that five years from now those guys are the grizzly old veterans of the sport at that point.

“Chris has done a great job. We’re fortunate that he and Tad (Geschickter, owner of JTG Daugherty) have struck up a great relationship and he’s getting some great experience there.’’

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