Roush Fenway works its way through transition
August 26, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
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BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Roush Fenway Racing began the week with cornerstone driver Carl Edwards formally announcing he would represent Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 and beyond.
The team would later announce a new "anchor" sponsor for Greg Biffle (Ortho) on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, then end a week of transition with a first for the 2014 season -- all three drivers finished in the top 10.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Edwards posted finishes of sixth and seventh, respectively, and Biffle notched his fourth consecutive top-10 with a 10th-place finish in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at the 0.533-mile high-banked track.
Biffle's run, in which he had his bumper cover hanging off at one point and bumped Justin Allgaier three times under caution perhaps to demonstrate a point, comes on the heels of reiterating his commitment to Jack Roush.
"We're making improvement and we're on our way to get back to winning races," Biffle said. "It's gonna take another five or six races."
The team has long known Edwards would not return, and publicly announced a three-driver 2015 lineup of Biffle, Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne in late July.
Stenhouse's showing in particular was impressive. His No. 17 Ford was fast enough to lead final practice Friday afternoon, but issues getting through technical inspection did not allow the driver enough of an opportunity to lay down a fast lap in qualifying. He started Saturday's event 21st.
"We've got a lot of work do to, but definitely really pleased with how we finished," Stenhouse said. "We'll get better and keep working on it. Our pit crew did an awesome job on pit road, and (crew chief) Mike (Kelley) made a good call to take the wave around (early in the race) to get back on the lead lap."
With Edwards already locked into the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field and Biffle currently in on points, the momentum appears to be most important for Stenhouse.
Filling the seat formerly occupied by Matt Kenseth -- who coincidentally left for JGR following the 2012 season -- has been a tough slog for the two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion.
He has two top-fives and eight top-10s in 65 career Sprint Cup starts. Saturday showed that he can run up front, something he'll be called to do more of next season.
"That felt really good to pass some cars. It was a great night. We needed it. We had a decent week at Michigan (last week), so we'll just keep trying to build on it."
That goes for the driver and organization alike.