NASCAR Notes: The Sprint Cup Class of 2013: Roush Fenway Racing
By Dave Grayson
Roush Fenway Racing, (RFR), will open the 2013 season with three teams featuring a driver that many think is ripe for winning his first championship, a second driver that wants to put 2012 behind him and get back to the championship trail and a third driver who has already become an extremely high profile Rookie of the Year candidate.
GREG BIFFLE. #16 FORD. CREW CHIEF: MATT PUCCIA.
The Biff is coming off a very strong 2012 season. He finished fifth in the final standings based on a pair of wins, 12 top five finishes, 21 top tens, 3 poles and a very healthy average finish ratio of 10. What Biffle wants the most from 2013 is to capture a hat trick in NASCAR championships. He already has titles in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series on his resume. A lot of observers are saying that 2013 just might be the season he collects that elusive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
There are plenty of positive aspects for Biffle this year. He’s signed with RFR through the 2014 season so there won’t be the distraction of contract negotiations anytime soon. Crew chief Matt Puccia, who joined the team last summer, returns to the top of the pit box. That’s also a major positive because it’s evident that both this driver and crew chief are reading from the same page. On the sponsorship side of business 3M, and their corporate brands including Post It, Scotch Brite and Blue Tape are reported to be on board for 35 races.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. #17 FORD. CREW CHIEF: SCOTT GRAVES.
The two time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion officially becomes a full time Sprint Cup driver this year in RFR’s #17 Ford, the ride recently vacated by Matt Kenseth. In a recent television interview, with ESPN2′s “NASCAR Now” program, Stenhouse made a very astute observation regarding his move from the Nationwide Series to the Cup level saying “it’s like going from middle school to high school.”
Stenhouse is one of two drivers that are extremely high profile candidates for the 2013 NASCAR Rookie of the Year title. The second driver is Danica Patrick. Both recently announced that they are dating and are already being billed as “the first couple of NASCAR.” The two of them going after the ROY title could provide another level of cuteness to this story.
The sponsorship profile appears to be just a little of the shy side for the #17 team, but it’s likely RFR’s marketing reps are already addressing that issue. Best Buy will be on the car’s hood for 12 races, Zest soap will sponsor six races. Fifth Third Bank will be the primary sponsor on the hood four times, while NOS Energy Drink and Valvoline will sponsor one race each.
CARL EDWARDS. #99 FORD. CREW CHIEF: JIMMY FENNIG.
During the final race of the 2011 season, Carl Edwards wound up losing the Sprint Cup championship by one point to Tony Stewart. When the 2012 season began, Edwards was heavily favored to be a title contender. It just didn’t happen. His 15th place in the points kept him out of the official Chase line up. He finished the season win less with a 16 average finish ratio. The highlight of this team’s season was their three top five finishes.
Edwards seems determined to put last year out of his mind even though it’s been a source of constant reference many times this year. He seems to have that glint of determination in his eyes and a renewed confidence level. That’s going to be a major positive for the new year. So is the arrival of Jimmy Fennig to the team’s pit box. A veteran and championship crew chief, Fennig has an abundance of knowledge and patience. Many observers are already saying this driver-crew chief combination is going to be a difference maker this year.
The sponsorship program for the #99 team will also require some overtime effort by the RFR marketing team. Fastenal returns to sponsors 16 races, Best Buy has signed for four races and United Parcel Service will sponsor one event. Still outstanding is an announcement regarding the plans of long time team sponsors Subway, Aflac and Kellogs/Cheez-It.