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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Penske Racing takes the Ford leadership role away from Roush Fenway

Photo by Matt Myftiu
Jack Roush, second from left, has a lot to figure out to get his teams back in contention in 2014.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- For nearly two decades, saying the word Ford in relation to NASCAR's Cup series has instantly
brought up images of Jack Roush and his fleet of cars.

Sure, there have been others contributing to Ford's success along the way (Robert Yates Racing, for example), but the team that won the most races and competed for titles on a regular basis was Roush.

Times have changed.

In 2014, Roush Fenway Racing is in a difficult spot. Not long after its arrival in the Ford Camp, Penske Racing has eclipsed Roush Fenway as the dominant Ford team. Brad Keselowsi and Joey Logano are locked into the Chase and running up front every week (even the third car Penske had this week for Juan Pablo Montoya did better than all the Roush cars, and it was his first time in a stock car in 2014.

The former "house of Roush", aka Michigan International Speedway, can no longer be called that name. Greg Biffle finished 20th, Carl Edwards 23rd, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 27th.

So the problems for Roush are two-fold. Not only is Ford in general lagging behind Chevy in overall performance, Roush is also lagging behind Penske.

Edwards has a win earlier this season and will make the Chase, and he said he is thankful for it (and he should be; as another one is not likely to come before the Chase).

"That was a big struggle," he said Sunday after the race. "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."

That's putting it kindly.

It's no surprise that the 2015 lineup at Roush Fenway is still in flux. Sunday's race was a microcosm of their season. Nobody expects the Roush teams to do much this year, and if they do it is an anomaly. Basically the reverse of Penske and the top Chevy teams.

Jack Roush is a smart man, but he's got a lot to figure out. Unfortunately for him, it's not a quick process to get better in this sport.

As Brad Keselowski put it after finishing 3rd on Sunday, "I think what you're seeing now if probably the top 5 or 10 and is what it's going to be when it comes down to money time in the Chase."

He's right. The chances of someone turning on a dime and all of sudden being dominant (like Tony Stewart did in the Chase back in 2011 after barely making it in) are pretty slim.
Miracles can happen, but it's more realistic that Roush's woes will have to be addressed in the offseason.

And any hopes of another Cup title coming Roush's way in 2014 are little more than a pipe dream unless things drastically change in a quick manner.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.



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