Team Preview: Roush Fenway

    Roush Fenway Racing is leading the charge for Ford this year as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins its first full year of racing its new car.

    This year, the team returns with four seasoned drivers, including three NASCAR champions, and one driver who can now shrug off the rookie label he carried last year.

    2003 Cup Champion Matt Kenseth leads the pack as he tries to capture his first win with the new car. He posted an average finish of 14.5 with the car in 2007 as he captured nine top 10s in 16 starts. His best finish, of third, came in the final COT race at Phoenix International Raceway.

    Kenseth begins 2008 with a new crew chief, Chip Bolin, after his crew chief Robbie Reiser was promoted to GM at Roush Fenway Racing. The driver of the No. 17 entry, who posted the best 2007 points result of the Ford team, isn't too worried about the transition with either the new car or his new crew chief.

    "(The car is) just different than what we've done before, but it'll be fine. It's still a stock car," Kenseth said of the car. "You're still trying to do all the same things to it, you're just trying to figure out how to do it better than everybody else. There are different areas you can work in and different areas you can't work in from before, but, overall, I don’t know if it's gonna make the racing that much different."

    Kenseth has been able to work with Bolin and the new car as the team has run in several testing sessions in the pre-season. He doesn't see a difficult transition as Bolin's not new to the team, but rather just in a new position.

    "We've been working together for a long time and he's been a very, very huge piece of the 17 team since its inception, so I feel good about everything," Kenseth added.

    While Reiser's departure from the crew chief position with the No. 17 team may put a little bump in the No. 17 team's path to success this year, Kenseth feels it will be better for the organization as a whole as they compete with the dominanting force of Hendrick Motorsports and the developing Toyota powerhouse of Gibbs Racing.

    "You just have to figure out how to do things better than they do it. You've got to try to make your cars better. You've got to try to call races better. You've got to work on the whole thing, from driving the car to setting it up to pitting it, to everything," Kenseth said. "I think our production will go up as a company with (Reiser) in that role. We've been needing somebody like him, in my opinion, in that role for a long time. I think it's gonna be better for everyone at Roush Racing.

    "There are definitely some differences around the shop. Things are definitely getting run different than what they did before. I haven't noticed a change as far as performance or morale or anything like that yet, but certainly I think he's dragging it in a different direction and I think we'll definitely be better in the long run."

    The first matter of business may be capitalizing on 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Champion Carl Edwards' success with the new car from 2007. He was the only driver within the organization to win a race with the COT, capturing two wins with the car in the 16 races with it.

    Edwards was the only driver, outside of Hendrick's operation, to capture multiple wins with the new car in 2007. He also gave Roush Fenway Racing it's highest average finish with the car - 13.9 in 16 starts.

    "I'm looking forward to these cars because everyone is so close and I believe that it opens the opportunity for the drivers to be able to make a little bit bigger difference. I think that's gonna be a pretty good thing. Overall, I'm excited about these cars - more than I thought I would be. After running them I'm excited."

    In pre-season testing, Edwards was the fastest Ford at both Las Vegas and California, while Kenseth was the fastest Ford in drafting at Daytona, and only Ford to be in the top 10 in drafting speeds.

    Communication between their two teams and the two drivers may be the key to helping bring Roush Fenway Racing back to championship contention this season. And in that arena, Reiser may face his biggest struggle in his new approach with the organization.

    In the closing months of last season, Edwards and Kenseth were involved in a heated on-air confrontation that offered a glimpse of a struggling organization.

    After the incident, in which he approached Kenseth, argued with him and also raised a fist as if to punch him, Edwards revealed some insight into the organization's struggles.

    "Matt Kenseth and I have not spoken -- I don't think Matt's voluntarily said two sentences to me in the last six months, you know. We just don't talk a lot. We don't know one another well enough. And it's my opinion that that's what's precipitated this stuff is that lack of communication," Edwards said after the altercation.

    Edwards then revealed how he thought other teams, including Hendrick Motorsports, have a better spirit of cooperation than his current organization.

    "Hendrick Motorsports and those people that we compete against do a better job of having team spirit than we've done lately," Edwards said. "I'm just as guilty of that as anyone. As a team, we need to do a better job working together."

    If Reiser can pull the team together, he'll not only have Kenseth's lucrative Cup experience to work with and Edwards' recent success with the new car, but also input from 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion and 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Champion Greg Biffle, returning star Jamie McMurray and sophomore sensation David Ragan.

    With this stable of drivers, this Ford team should be able to give Chevrolet, Toyota and Dodge a run for their money.

    While Roush Fenway Racing is the biggest Ford team, they may be able to look to two other Ford teams for a little support in 2008, especially that of Yates Racing's two-car team headed by David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil.

    This smaller organization recently became Roush Fenway Racing's race shop neighbor as the team moved its operations next door. Yates also purchases its cars from Roush, as well as receives engineering help from the team.

    Gilliland is looking forward to working with Roush this season and seeing where it will take his team.

    "I think with the engineering support and the new cars that we're getting, I really feel like it's gonna help us be a contender week-in and week-out, and it's worked out great so far," he said. "We've been to Daytona and Vegas so far testing and I feel like we've had two very good tests."

    Kvapil and Gilliland posted the fastest single car speeds for Ford at Daytona testing and were right in the mix with the Roush Fenway Racing cars at Las Vegas and California.

    Woods Brothers is one other team this season that will operate Fords full-time. They will field the No. 21 entry with three different drivers including Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader and Jon Wood.

    Past Team Previews
  • Penske Racing
  • Joe Gibbs Racing

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