Here's what Jack Roush said about his team's 2015 lineup; and what it really means
The only thing he knows for sure is Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne will be driving for him. Beyond that it's a mystery.
His two star drivers, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, are in flux -- still negotiating their futures as they have been for months.
The story goes back and forth ... Biffle is leaving, Biffle is staying, etc., etc.
Similar story for Edwards, although the talk is more about leaving than staying most of the time.
But why is this happening? Well, it's pretty simple -- the Roush Fenway Racing team is not what it used to be. Sure, Edwards and Biffle are excellent drivers and capable of winning many races a year and competing for titles. But when the Chase arrives each year and the title is on the line, they are not the drivers to beat. And Fords are not the cars to beat, at least lately -- It's been pretty much a domination by Chevy (and Jimmie Johnson in particular).
Here's what Jack Roush said Friday at MIS when he was asked about his team's 2015 plans and its current struggles.
"In due time we'll have announcements for 2015. We've got a lot of 2014 in front of us and we're obviously focused on that. If you looked at our year we've 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. 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. We're committing to test as much as we can. We've got a test going somewhere virtually every week, either a tire test at a NASCAR race track - a sanctioned test - or a bootlegged race track test that's not on the NASCAR circuit, so we're testing. We're running our eight-post machine in the lab real hard and we're taking very careful note of the ride height changes on the race track and where we seem to have our challenge and our best result returned. I think that most of the answer for the things that we need are in our box of parts - it's the bump stops, it's a rubber, it's those spring combinations - it's the roll bars. We don't seem to have a kinematic problem. We don't seem to have a fundamental error problem. Certainly the Penske guys are running really well with very similar cars and we've just got to get back to where we need to be. This business cycles. We've had times when we've been the cars to beat for an extended period of time to everybody's frustration and now we're just struggling to get back to where we need to be."
That's a long and complicated answer, because the Roush situation is long and complicated.
Here's my translation of what he said.
To me , "in due time" translates to Roush doesn't know what is going to happen next year with Biffle and Edwards. And if he knows they are leaving, where does that leave him in terms of sponsor money and new drives in the 16 and 99 cars -- could Roush be a two-car team next year if no money can be found and the two big drives leave? Not likely, but that would be a big fall for a team that was once the biggest in NASCAR, running five full-car teams.
"We don't seem to have a fundamental error problem": This is a good and bad statement. On the positive side, it means the cars are capable of being improved to the point where they run up front more often. But on the negative side, if there is no fundamental problem why are the Roush Fenway teams not up to speak with Penske's operation or the Hendrick-level teams?
"We're just struggling to get back to where we need to be." -- To Jack's credit this is a very honest statement, and Jack is right, they do have to get the magic back.
The danger of not getting back to where the team needs to be is they will lose their best drivers, and then not be able to attract big-name free agents due to no longer being a desired landing spot/top-level team.
I'm not saying Roush won't get his ship in order -- he's had ups and downs in the past and returned to form -- but he needs to do it quick because people in the NASCAR world have short memories.
Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu.