Opinion: Two Steps Back
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 8, 2017 | 7:29 P.M. EST
Both Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports are taking the less is more approach to 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)
By scaling back, two prominent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams hope to move forward.
Both Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports are taking the less is more approach to 2017 as both organizations search to once again become relevant.
Jack Roush’s team has not been to Victory Lane in the Cup Series since 2014 and it's been difficult for long-time fans to watch transpire. In 2005, Roush had five cars in the Chase and was the dominant team of the garage area.
But RFR became a victim of its own success when NASCAR mandated a four-car team maximum after the 2009 season. Slowly but surely, performance began to wane and an exodus of top drivers like Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards eventually gutted the organization.
After suffering through a particularly frustrating season in 2016, Roush officials began a rebuilding effort that included parting ways with veteran Greg Biffle and scaling back to a two-car stable with drivers Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The plan is to bring back 2015 XFINITY Series champion Chris Buescher, who ran last year with affiliate team Front Row Motorsports and will spend 2017 at JTG Daugherty Racing as a teammate to AJ Allmendinger, as a third Cup driver in 2018.
Roush officials insist the decision was one that will pay dividends down the road.
“I think there’s a renewed energy and an excitement,” team president Steve Newmark told Motorsport.com. “I think that part of that is we had to pick the path that we were going to go down and follow that. That uncertainty in any organization causes concern. Now that we know this is the direction that we’re going, I think there’s a lot of excitement and energy about it. We’ve got to deliver on the track. We believe that we’re poised to do that next year. We know we’re going to be judged on that.”
The story is similar in nature at RPM, where a single entry will be run this year.
Brian Scott, who piloted the team’s No. 44 ride as a Cup rookie contender last year, announced his retirement from racing in November. Scott took family sponsorship dollars with him and RPM could not find suitable funding to keep the car on track in 2017.
So only Aric Almirola in the iconic No. 43 will carry the RPM flag this coming season in a move the organization hopes will both increase the potential for success while laying the groundwork for the future.
“A concentrated effort on one team will position us for improvement while giving us adequate time to reestablish our two-car team in 2018,” said RPM CEO Brian Moffitt.
In both cases the idea that taking a step - or two or three – back in order to reassess and plan for the future seems sound. But the reality in today’s ultra-competitive world of NASCAR Cup racing that may be wishful thinking.
It’s a difficult proposition to remain competitive let alone to fall behind and catch back up. While RFR and RPM are retooling, the powerhouse teams like Hendrick, Penske, JGR and Stewart-Haas are getting stronger.
The plight of both RPM and RFR has another interesting wrinkle in that both teams are part of the Ford camp. The blue oval manufacturer has always preached the mantra of “One Ford” in its NASCAR efforts, which would imply all organizations under its umbrella share in the same support of resources.
But it’s obvious as Team Penske prospers and succeeds while others inside the Ford camp struggle that simply is not the complete case. Now with SHR coming to Ford, how much attention will the manufacturer provide either RPM or RFR?
The aspirations of both organizations to get off the matt and rise back to competitiveness is admirable. However the execution of overcoming the many challenges that lie ahead will be great.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.