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Jul 27, 2014 - 12:06 PM
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2014 Indianapolis (Brickyard 400) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Roush Fenway 2015 Driver Line-up
Posted by: ASkyler on Jul 27, 2014 - 12:04 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Indianapolis (Brickyard 400) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Roush Fenway 2015 Driver Line-up


Roush Fenway Racing announced their driver lineup in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2015 earlier today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which includes Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne in a three-car program. Owner Jack Roush and President Steve Newmark spoke about the lineup before today’s driver’s meeting.

JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing - WHEN WAS THE DRIVER LINEUP FOR NEXT YEAR FINALIZED? "Recently. We’ve been discussing the Trevor Bayne program for a period of time. That’s come to fruition with AdvoCare. Ricky Stenhouse is in the middle of a commitment he’s made to us and we’ve made to him for a period of time. Sponsors are still in a state of flux on all the programs. We’re not prepared to talk about those today, but it’s Ricky Stenhouse led by Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne for Sprint Cup for 2015."

WHAT WERE NEGOTIATIONS LIKE WITH CARL EDWARDS AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NOT HAVING HIM GOING FORWARD? "Carl has been a cornerstone of our success here in the last 10 years. He’s one of the drivers who have come to our program initially. We’ve had 48 drivers in 27-and-a-half-years that have driven our cars and he, along with Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, have certainly left his mark. We’ve enjoyed the time with him and enjoyed his success and wish him and his family success going forward."

WERE THERE EFFORTS TO RETAIN HIM? "We made him an offer, but I believe his decision was not based on - NASCAR racing, Cup racing is a big-time sports entertainment thing today. Like football and baseball and basketball, athletes move around. We wish it wouldn’t happen, but there’s curiosity about what another team’s situation would look like and I think that although I shouldn’t speculate, I think Carl wanted to try something different before he saw his career get in its middle term and its final years."

 

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SO YOUR HOPES WERE TO KEEP HIM? "Our hopes were to keep him and we were not successful with that."

WHEN DID CARL TELL YOU HE WAS LEAVING? "I don’t remember the date. I didn’t write it down. It was some time ago he let us know he was in serious discussions with another team and he’s not indicated who that is and I’ve not been told by him or anybody else. It’s speculation where he’s going, but I don’t know for certain."

HOW LONG AGO? "It was more than a month ago."

WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK FOR ROUSH FENWAY RACING GOING FORWARD WITH TWO YOUNG DRIVERS? "It doesn’t look different than when Mark Martin stepped away and we were left with Greg and Carl to go forward. We’ve been in this business, as I said, for 27 years counting and we have made it our habit, our practice, our preference to bring drivers in. We’ve brought in 23 drivers that had never been part of NASCAR before and 19 of them are still in this sport and 17 of them have won races, so we’re pretty much on time. We’ve got a great field of rookies coming with Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher. They’ll be in our Nationwide program next year. There’s also some more room in there. We may have more rookies, but Ricky and Trevor and Greg are gonna be great. I’m real excited about that for next year and not less excited than I’ve been at any time in the past."

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS THAT CARL DIDN’T STAY? "It’s just a reality of the business we’re in. I have no emotion either way on that."

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED -- YOU HAVE THE UTMOST FAITH IN RICKY STENHOUSE DON’T YOU? "Ricky Stenhouse is gonna be as good in this business as anybody has been. The detoxing of the success he had with the Nationwide cars are different. They’re lower power. The momentum is different. You use your brake differently. You use the accelerator differently. I sat with Mike Kelley, the crew chief, and looked at the corners around the race track. This is only Ricky’s second time at Indy here. This race track, with these four corners, is different than any other track we go to and he’s got some of it right for the time being and he’s got something to work on and improve for the race today."

WHAT REASONS DID CARL GIVE YOU FOR NOT COMING BACK? "He didn’t give me his reasons. You have to ask him about that."

DID YOU ASK? "I did not ask."

WHEN WAS HIS DECISION MADE KNOWN TO YOU? "It was more than a month ago."

DO YOU FEEL HIS DECISION IS A REFLECTION ON YOUR PROGRAM OR ARE THERE OTHER FACTORS? "I think, as I said earlier, that his moving at this time like Kevin Harvick’s move and Tony Stewart’s move from their teams previously is just a reality of the times that we’re in and with the importance that everybody sees of really optimizing their productive time as a driver."

DO YOU HAVE SPONSORSHIP FOR BIFFLE? "We have many sponsorship opportunities and I’m not prepared to discuss those. You can ask Steve Newmark about those. He’ll have a timetable on that."

CARL HAS BEEN THE LEADER OF THIS TEAM AS FAR AS WINNING RACES. DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A HOLE THAT CAN BE FILLED BY ONE OF THESE THREE OTHER DRIVERS? "Certainly the focus of our leadership is gonna be with Greg Biffle and the things that he does with the race car and the leadership he provides for the engineering initiatives we take. We had that split with Carl and Greg together this year, so that will be a little different next year, but Ricky is ready to step up. Trevor, of course he’s a Daytona 500 winner and he drives his car with great enthusiasm in the Nationwide Series. We’re not gonna be in a bad place next year, it’s just gonna be a little different."

STEVE NEWMARK, President, Roush Fenway Racing - "The only sponsor announcement for today is that Fastenal is shifting over starting in 2015 to be the anchor partner on Stenhouse’s program."

AND HE HAS CARGILL SIGNED AS ANOTHER PARTNER? "Today, we’re just trying to talk about the driver lineup. I know there has been a lot of intrigue and speculation about it, which is fair when you have two marquee drivers up for renewal, so we wanted to do you the service of letting you guys know what the status was as soon as possible. That’s really the focus - the 2015 Cup lineup, other than the Fastenal announcement, which they wanted to do simultaneously with the driver announcement."

WHY WAS NOW THE RIGHT TIME? "It was a combination of factors, some of it I won’t go into. We interact with our sponsors and talk to them because everybody understands how this business works, so it was sponsor input, driver input, team input and we just settled on Indy as being the appropriate time as opposed to dragging it out later in the year."

STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- IS THIS A DISAPPOINTING DAY FOR THE ORGANIZATION? "It’s always disappointing when you lose a driver that you bring up through the organization. I think everyone is aware that we pride ourselves on being a driver development program. It’s in our DNA and our heritage. In an ideal world all the drivers and crew chiefs and the over the wall guys that we bring up through the system you would retain forever. The reality of it is that that doesn’t happen for a variety of factors - some of it is space constraints and some of it is just other circumstances, so I think that we recognize when you take the approach that we do, which is generally not going out on the free-agent market but trying to develop from within, that these type of circumstances are gonna happen. The key is just to make sure that you have a very fertile playing field behind that and group coming up and we feel that we do when you look at Ricky and Trevor, Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher. That’s just the way we operate and we’re pretty proud of how that has worked for us in the past."

WHAT WAS FORD’S REACTION TO CARL LEAVING? "I think you’ll probably have to ask Ford on that, but Ford is a tremendous partner of ours and we consult with them on everything that we do, whether it’s competition or business, but the reality of it is that Ford very much allows us discretion in how we operate with our drivers and any discussions with drivers and contract negotiations, all of that goes on solely between the team and the driver. Again, we keep Ford informed just because of how they’re so intertwined with everything that we do. You’ll hear Jack say that Ford has been part of his family for his entire career."

WHY DID YOU RE-SIGN GREG? "Our goal when we bring drivers up through the system is to retain them - to have them start with us, to win championships and then to retire with us, so this is all part of the process. I think if you talk to Greg and Jack they would tell you that they have some unfinished business. They set out a while ago to be the first tandem to win the Truck, the Nationwide and the Cup championship. They’ve knocked off two of those, so they’re still going after the third piece of that triple crown, so they have unfinished business."

DID CARL GIVE YOU ANY SPECIFIC REASONS FOR LEAVING? "I think we all recognize that Carl is a private person. I’ve spent a lot of time with him and have just the utmost respect for him, both personally and as a competitor. I think he keeps a lot of his reasons to himself. The only insight that he shared with me and that we talked a lot about is that the reality of sports today is that athletes don’t generally stay with one time for their entire career. I think he was reflecting on what was going on in other sports and including our sport, and I think he just thought that when he retires at some point off in the future he didn’t want to wonder what it would be like to be in a different situation, so that was the primary discussion that we’ve had and I think you guys know Carl very well. He’s extremely thoughtful and I think he really kind of evaluated everything that was going on and that was just the decision that he made."

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF ROUSH FENWAY? "I think it’s just consistent with the approach that we’ve always taken in that we’re gonna continue to try and develop young drivers, and that extends beyond the drivers. We do that with crew chiefs. If you look at our crew chiefs that come up through the system, engineers, over the wall guys, and that is just part of our culture and part of the way that we operate and we’re very confident that that will continue to breed success as it has for the last 27 years."

STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- THIS IS THE SECOND DRIVER WHO HAS BEEN WITH THIS ORGANIZATION FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME THAT IS MOVING ON. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO RETAIN THOSE PEOPLE FROM BEGINNING TO RETIREMENT? "I think we’re pretty proud of the fact that we’ve actually had longevity with a lot of our drivers. You look over our history and when we’re retaining drivers for over a decade we feel pretty proud of that. The reality of it is as you’re growing drivers from within and moving them up, there is gonna be turnover. We’ve seen in the past, I think if you look across the Cup lineup around nine of the drivers that have driven in Cup have come up through our system, so I think that’s just a reality of the way that we operate as opposed to relying on the free-agent market primarily to refill and restock."

SO YOU’RE DOING THE WORK FOR EVERYBODY ELSE IN DEVELOPING DRIVERS. THAT’S AN EXPENSIVE ENDEAVOR. "I don’t think that we view it that way. We’re pretty proud to have had Carl as part of our program for a decade. We’ve had a lot of success. He’s contributed quite a bit to our organization, so it’s not a one-way street. He has helped a lot to make the 99 a better team, a stronger team. We’ve had a lot of victories and competed for championships, so I think we view that as a successful relationship."

WILL THE 99 AS A CAR NUMBER NOT RUN IN 2015? "From a car number perspective, I know Jack is pretty excited to bring the 6 back out on the track and that’s obviously already been announced with AdvoCare, so, right now, unless something unusual happens, you would have the 99 not running full-time next year."

WILL YOU LOOK AT ANY OF YOUR NATIONWIDE GUYS TO RUN SELECT CUP RACES NEXT YEAR? "Those decisions are made by the competition guys in the fall. I think it’s too early in the year to do that evaluation, particularly when both Chris and Ryan are rookies and just getting their feet wet in the top series."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN ABOUT EMPLOYEES AT THE COMPANY? WILL YOU KEEP EVERYBODY? "Like every race team you make that analysis as you get towards the end of the year, but fortunately for us this doesn’t change the composition of the number of teams that we have in Cup next year. In a perfect world, we would have been four teams but we’re comfortable that we will continue at least with three teams at this point for the Cup level."

IS 3M ONE OF THE COMPANIES YOU’RE TALKING TO? "We’ve got a number of partners that we continue to discuss that are on the 99, and you look at Zest, Fifth Third, Kellogg’s, 3M and we’ll continue those discussions and at the right time we’ll have announcements about those partners."

DID IT SURPRISE WHEN CARL SAID HE WAS LEAVING? "Carl and I have had a constant dialogue every since I’ve come on board and he’s been very open and forthcoming with us behind closed doors. I know that he’s very adamant about not discussing this stuff in the media, but that doesn’t mean that he’s keeping it to himself. We’ve had an ongoing dialogue and I think we’re both aware of our positions throughout this period."

SO YOU COULD SEE THIS COMING? "We kind of knew the direction that we were going and we continued to have those discussions and as Jack said a little while ago the decision was conveyed to us that that was gonna be the direction in 2015."

STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED -- WHY IS IT BETTER TO BRING UP YOUNG TALENT AS OPPOSED TO GO AFTER FREE-AGENTS? "I guess one correction is I don’t think it’s just teams that kind of grow drivers internally that lose them. I think free-agents moving teams is just really the way of the business. You look at Peyton Manning or LeBron James and we can even look at our industry the last few years and you’ve got Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman switching teams. You’ve got Logano moving, Kenseth, so I think it’s just a reality of sports today. I think in a perfect world, based on the way that we view things, drivers and athletes would come with a team and they would stay there from when they develop through retirement, but I think we recognize that the business reality of today’s sports world just doesn’t lend itself to that."

SO HOW DOES IT CHANGE DEVELOPING SOMEONE WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MIGHT LEAVE ONE DAY? "When we’re developing a Ricky Stenhouse or Trevor Bayne, Ryan Reed or Chris Buescher we’re not thinking at that point that in a decade from now we may have a break. What you’re focused on is giving them the resources, the training, the development to win races and compete for championships. I think we would view it as a success if we could have 10-year runs with all of the drivers that come up. They could have multiple championships and multiple victories at NASCAR’s top levels."

DO YOU EXPECT ANY AWKWARDNESS MOVING FORWARD? "We expect this to be completely seamless and I will tell you for those of you guys that know Jimmy Fennig and the 99 team that they are laser-focused on one thing and that’s winning the 2014 championship. So I don’t envision any of that. I think this is very amicable. I know Carl has talked to the team and had an open dialogue, so I think everybody is very comfortable with the situation and I don’t view it as an issue going forward."

DO YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH JIMMY FENNIG? "All of our crew chief decisions, engineer decisions, as you guys know, they’re made much later in the fall when Robbie Reiser and Jack sit down with those guys and they have a dialogue about what 2015 will look like."


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