Roush Fenway Racing still seeks speed
June 17, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Through the years, it's been a safe haven of sorts -- a place to go where at least one of the organization's cars would contend for a win, if not wind up in Victory Lane.
Roush Fenway Racing teams have more victories at Michigan International Speedway (13) than any other stop on the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The group's best-combined average finish (13.5) also has come on the 2-mile track located in Brooklyn, Michigan.
MIS has long been considered a Ford track, with the automaker leading the way in victories there.
But a look at the results from Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 paints quite a different picture. Roush Fenway Racing failed to place any one of its drivers in the top 10 at MIS for the first time since 2000.
In fact, not one of the group's three teams, with drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., even came close. Biffle, twice a winner in the last three stops at MIS before this year's event, finished 20th, the highest for the organization.
These are not glory days for the RFR camp. The Michigan misstep wasn't the only one this year, although at least one of its three teams has finished among the top 10 in all but four of this season's 15 points races.
"That was a big struggle," Edwards said after bringing his No. 99 Ford home in 23rd place at MIS. "It was pretty tough, but we worked hard and didn't quit.
"Fortunately, we have a win to get us in the Chase, but we've just got to get better as a group. That's the way it is."
Asked about his organization's position, co-owner Jack Roush said the group had been "probably challenged more than some of the teams have with the difference in the ride height."
"I know that's changed the dynamic of the underbody of the car and it's been a revelation," he said. "How low is low enough and how low is too low. Too low is higher than we thought it might have been a month ago and we're sorting that out."
Earlier this year, the organization released long-time lead engineer Chip Bolin; testing fills the calendar between race dates. The search for speed goes on.
"Virtually every week," said Roush of his teams' testing schedule. "Either a (Goodyear) tire test at a NASCAR race track … or a bootlegged race track test that's not on the circuit."
The parts and pieces are there, he said. Finding the right combination has not been easy.
Eleven more races remain before the 16-team Chase field is set, including eight tracks where the group has enjoyed one or more wins. Among those is a return to MIS.
Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are also in the Ford camp, and have combined for three wins this season. Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, is fifth in points while Logano is seventh.
Their success hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Certainly the Penske guys are running really well with very similar cars," said Roush, "and we've just got to get back to where we need to be."
Muddying the waters in the camp is the question of whether Biffle and Edwards will be back in '15. Both drivers are at the end of their current contracts.
"In due time we'll have announcements for 2015," Roush said. "We've got a lot of 2014 in front of us and we're obviously focused on that."