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Is This the Beginning of the End for Roush Fenway Racing?

June 5th, 2014 at 2:04 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

Roush Fenway Racing has been a premier team in NASCAR since the team was created back in 1988. That’s when former road racer Jack Roush called ASA star Mark Martin up and asked him to drive a Winston Cup car for the team. Martin had previous Cup experience but never anything like the opportunity he would be given at Roush Racing.

'Mark Martin Pit Stop: NASCAR Photography By Darryl Moran' photo (c) 2009, Darryl Moran - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The team shot out of the gate in 1988 and performed well. The team won their first race at Rockingham in 1989 and by 1990 they were championship contenders. They’ve been championship contenders ever since. The team grew to a two car operation by 1992 and by 1996 were a three car team and then a four car team by 1998. Through the years the organization has had as many as five race teams. All the time Roush Racing had become a perennial powerhouse team and showing no signs of slowing down.

One of Roush’s biggest competitors’ throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s was fellow Ford team Robert Yates Racing. RYR, which fielded a two car operation from 1996-2007 had some success as well. Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500’s with the organization as well as the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship.

Robert Yates Racing always had one thing over their competition. Horsepower. Team owner Robert Yates was a premier engine builder throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s. He built engines for some great race teams including DiGard Racing which won the championship with driver Bobby Allison in 1983. Yates bought legendary team owner Harry Rainer’s team in 1988 and would be a premier car owner from that point forward. Until 1999 the team had never won a championship. Neither, at that time, did Roush Racing. 

That would all change though in 2003 when Matt Kenseth won the championship for Roush Racing. It was long overdue. The organization had finished second several times but the championship always seemed out of reach.

Meanwhile, turmoil had come to Robert Yates Racing. By 2003 the organization had began to struggle. Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett were the drivers there and but the organization had just won only one race and changes were made to the organization. The team made several personnel changes to try and get better throughout the 2003 season but the struggles continued.

During the 2003 and 2004 off season the organizations decided to merge engine departments. Ford’s Racing’s Field Manager, at the time, Robin Pemberton brokered the deal intending for it to help both organizations. . The deal would combine Robert Yates Racing horsepower with the great fuel mileage that the Roush Engine department got. The deal seemed to work. In Daytona in 2004 the Ford’s had horsepower they needed and both Roush and Yates seemed to benefit from the move.

However, as the season continued the move seemed to benefit one side more than another. Roush went on to win the 2004 championship with driver Kurt Busch while the struggles at Yates continued. The engine move seemed to be the beginning of the end for Robert Yates Racing.

Roush, meanwhile would continue to thrive. From 2004 to 2009 Roush Fenway Racing would win 49 races. The team also formed an alliance with Boston Red Sox owner John Henry being the first team to do such a merger and became Roush Fenway Racing.

Meanwhile, Robert Yates Racing struggled. They would win only two races in the 2004 season and Dale Jarrett recorded the team’s only victory in the 2005 season in an epic finish to the October race at Talladega Superspeedway. By the 2009 season the team had virtually disappeared ending a great run for the organization.

The situation is similar to what we’ve seen in recent years at Roush Fenway Racing. Prior to the 2013 season, the Roush/Yates Engine program not only powered all the Ford teams, but also began to power Roger Penske’s two Sprint Cup Series entries.

Since then Roush has became the second team at Ford. The once dominate horsepower was now part of Team Penske, a team that was coming off their first championship in the 2012 season. Roush Fenway Racing once had an advantage over some other teams just strictly on horsepower now that advantage is gone and Team Penske has taken advantage of it.

Now there are rumors surfacing that Carl Edwards may be headed out the door at Roush Fenway Racing and be heading to Team Penske in a third entry in 2015. If that’s the case, what a slap in the face that is to Roush Fenway Racing and what does that mean to the organization? Their lead driver would be leaving for a “better opportunity.” Does Carl Edwards know something that the general public doesn’t?

There is also the rumor that Richard Petty Motorsports may be on their way out, a team that has a technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing. If that’s the case, that can’t be a good situation for Roush Fenway Racing can it? Does Richard Petty Motorsports see something we don’t?

It makes you wonder the fate of Roush Fenway Racing. Will Roush Fenway Racing bounce back or will they suffer the same fate as Robert Yates Racing? That remains to be seen.

Tags: Carl Edwards, Ford Racing, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Robert Yates Racing, roush fenway racing, Team Penske

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