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Sunday, February 16, 2014
Cup preview: Roush Fenway Racing

By John Oreovicz

One in a series of 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team previews ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500:

Jack Roush and Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards and Jack Roush ended up in Victory Lane together twice in 2013, including this spring visit to Phoenix.


Principal owners: Jack Roush, John Henry

Manufacturer: Ford

Engine source: Roush Yates Engines

Alliances: Team Penske, Front Row Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports

Drivers (crew chief): Greg Biffle (Matt Puccia), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Mike Kelley), Carl Edwards (Jimmy Fennig)

2013's top finisher: Biffle, 9th

2013 grade: B-plus

2014 preseason grade: B-plus

2014 outlook: Despite placing Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and guiding Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to Rookie of the Year honors, Roush Fenway Racing still came away disappointed with its 2013 campaign. Edwards led the point standings heading into the Chase, but a slow start in the playoffs compared to eventual 1-2 finishers Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth left him and RFR too big of a deficit to recover from. The team improved its form on short tracks, but it appeared to come at the expense of performance at 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, which have long been RFR's strong suit. The only major personnel change is reuniting Stenhouse with Mike Kelley, who served as crew chief for the driver's pair of Nationwide Series championships. RFR hopes to crown its first Sprint Cup champion since Matt Kenseth (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004) won back-to-back titles for the team, and a strong performance this season could be key in retaining Biffle and Edwards, who are both in contract years.

Quotable: "We impose standards for ourselves that are higher than what we achieved in 2013. It's our expectation that we're not only competing for wins on a weekly basis, but at the end of the season that we're right there in the hunt for the championship in both the Nationwide and Cup series. There's a high level of dissatisfaction with last year because we weren't there. The true measure of an organization is how do you respond to a situation like that, and, watching this offseason, I haven't been more proud to be associated with this organization watching Robbie Reiser and that team relentlessly pursue what has ailed us. We made some changes and there's a lot of optimism about where we're headed. My hope is next year, I'll be able to say, 'Yes, we did meet the standards that we set for ourselves, we were there at the end,' and hopefully secured championships in both the Nationwide and the Cup series." -- Steve Newmark, president


Greg Biffle

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford): "To make the Chase is the first goal, and making a run at the title is the second. When you fall short halfway through, or three-quarters of the way through the Chase, it takes a little bit of wind out of your sails. We never go out on that racetrack without the motivation to win, but it's a bit of an emotional letdown when you're not in contention for that championship. We needed to pick up our short-track program, because we knew that was a weak spot. The problem is we lost what we feel is our stranglehold on the intermediate tracks. I wasn't happy about the trade, because there are more intermediates than short tracks. It's frustrating because if that's your bread and butter, and you roll off the truck 32nd or something and don't improve, I think it caught us off guard."

2014 goal: Win his first Sprint Cup championship.

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal/Aflac/Subway Ford): "Whatever format we have, we're going to go out and try to win every race and win a championship. It's as simple as that. There's no reason a Roush Fenway Ford shouldn't be celebrating in Las Vegas as the champions at the end of this year. Jack Roush, Robbie Reiser, Jimmy Fennig, all the engineers -- that is their No. 1 mission. After the 26 races last year, we were leading the points and had just won at Richmond, and we felt like we could do it. But we fell flat in the Chase. We've just got to step it up in a couple of ways, and everybody has been working really hard."

2014 goal: Make every point count and win Sprint Cup championship.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Nationwide/Zest Ford): "They asked me about a sophomore slump in Nationwide, and we went from our rookie year to winning a championship and winning two races. I'm not worried about it this year because I thought our freshman year in the Sprint Cup kind of sucked, in my eyes. I think we definitely learned a lot and will be able to use that and apply it to this year, which should make it ten times better. Across the board we were all disappointed last year about our results, though not about the effort our guys put in. We saw where we needed to improve, and we're working really hard this offseason. The guys are really pumped up, and I think our work is going to pay off."

2014 goal: Earn first Sprint Cup race win and make the Chase.