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NSCS: Roush-Fenway Racing 2014 Preview

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By Joseph Wolkin-NASCAR Columnist and Editor (@JosephNASCAR)

December 26, 2013

WHITESTONE, N.Y.–¬†Roush-Fenway Racing is known for being the leader of the Ford Racing camp. Though the team has just two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships since their inception in 1988, the team has become a well respected organization in the sport.

In 2013, the team recorded three wins, but it was between two of their three Sprint Cup Series drivers. The organization struggled to get adjusted to the new Generation Six chassis. However, mid-way through the season, each team began to piece together solid finishes.

They started out the season on a bright note with Carl Edwards winning at Phoenix. The win was Edwards’ first since 2011 at Las Vegas. Edwards was able to maintain a top-five position in the points standings until the Chase for the Sprint Cup where he fell victim to bad luck on numerous occasions.

With two wins in 2013, Edwards is looking to take over that momentum into the 2014 NASCAR season. 2013 was the first time that Edwards did not run a single NASCAR Nationwide Series race for the first time since he entered the Sprint Cup Series in 2004. For some reason, Edwards statistically performed better in the Sprint Cup Series when he was contending for Nationwide Series championships in 2007-2010 (with the exception of 2009). It will be interesting to see if Edwards will run at least a partial schedule in the Nationwide Series.

The extra track time could definitely help him, especially if he wants to contend for a championship. As one of the most talented drivers in the NASCAR garage, Edwards is expected to have a 2008-like season sooner rather than later. After going through two crew chief’s in 2012, Edwards has found a great combination with veteran crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, who won the 2004 Sprint Cup Series championship with Kurt Busch.

Expect Edwards to run a lot better in 2014, earning multiple wins in a year where the team is expected to make great improvements now that Ford has adjusted the body style of their race cars. Fastenal, Kellogg’s, Aflac and UPS are each returning in 2014, even though Geek Squad is not. If Edwards does not win several races in 2013, he might want to test out free agency depending on his contract with RFR. However, that is unlikely as Edwards should have a breakout year in 2014.

Greg Biffle’s team will not be having any major changes in 2014. He will continue to work with Matt Puccia as his crew chief for the fourth consecutive season.

Biffle, alike Edwards, needs to perform well in 2014. We have seen two sides of Biffle in the past. There has been the Biffle which has contended for four championships (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012), and there has been the Biffle that is good, but not great.

In a contract year, Biffle has the option to test out free agency. However, he probably will not opt to do that considering how well he has done at RFR. He is still attempting to become the first driver to win a championship in each of the top-three NASCAR divisions, and that is quite possible if he can stay strong throughout the year. Besides that, he is the veteran driver of RFR and has more experience over the two other drivers combined.

2013 was a decent year for Biffle. The only thing that plagued him in 2013 was the inconsistency which was brought on by some bad luck combined with severely ill-handling cars such as the incident at Kansas during the Chase for the Sprint Cup where he could not find a good handle all weekend long.

During the 2014 season, Biffle is expected to run well at the intermediate tracks. He was able to capitalize at Michigan in June, but other than that, he did not compete for wins that often. If Biffle can stay up front at tracks such as Phoenix, Michigan, Pocono, Dover, Texas, etc., he might be able to contend for a championship once again. This driver has the potential to be a top-five contender in 2014 as long as everything goes his way.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the youngest driver in the RFR stable, is looking for a breakout sophomore season. The two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, Stenhouse ran pretty well during 2013. Even though he barely finished inside of the top-20 in points, Stenhouse did something most rookies, let alone veterans could do. He finished his first Sprint Cup Series season without a single DNF.

Stenhouse was extremely impressive at Kansas early in 2013, leading 26 laps during that race. However, the only laps he led after that were during the two races at Talladega.

The key for Stenhouse’s success in 2014 will be consistency. No one is expecting him to win a championship right away. His rookie year was impressive considering he was able to run decent throughout the year. For a while, it looked like he would be able to contend for top-five’s during the second half of the season, yet he did not record his first top-10 until Richmond in September.

Expect Stenhouse to have a top-15 caliber year in 2014. If he is able to contend for a win or two, it would be considered a successful year. However, Stenhouse is surely capable of contending for top-10’s on a weekly basis, especially at intermediate tracks. His performances on the larger tracks in 2013 was rather respectable with nine top-20 finishes in 12 1.5 mile track events.

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year will also have a new crew chief in 2014. Scott Graves will no longer work with Stenhouse. Instead, Mike Kelly, will work with Stenhouse after being separated from each other for a year. The combination of Graves and Stenhouse did not click like expected. Now, the team is bringing back the same crew chief that brought two championships to Stenhouse’s resume. Kelly and Stenhouse have worked great together in the past, which can certainly help the No. 17 team during the 2014 season.

Also, expect Trevor Bayne to run some races in a fourth Sprint Cup Series car for the organization in addition to his full-time gig in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and part-time role at Wood Brother’s Racing in 2014. Bayne was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis over the summer in 2013, but will not be sidelined by the disease.

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