Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Tense Times Ahead for Roush Fenway and RCR

With the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup “regular season” already past the halfway point. For fans, the drama is only beginning. For those on the Chase bubble, stress and anxiety will only increase with each passing week.

For three-time winner Kyle Busch and points leader Kevin Harvick, breathing comes a little easier knowing they’re going to compete for another championship. For surprisingly successful rookie Chase Elliott, there’s enough of a cushion that only a drastic change in fortune will keep him from making NASCAR’s playoffs.

Not every driver is in such an enviable position. For the following drivers and teams, there will be some tense times ahead.

Roush Fenway Racing: While the organization has improved over 2015, Roush Fenway is still a step or two (at least) behind the other big teams. None of their three drivers, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. or Greg Biffle would qualify for the Chase if we were heading to Chicago. Of the three, Bayne is the closest in 18th spot, only 19 points removed from the final Chase spot (currently held by fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney) while Biffle is nearly 100 points back. There was some excitement in the Roush Fenway camp during the Sprint Showdown, but they are still lacking performance during the regular season.

Clint Bowyer: Everyone knew that 2016 would be a lame duck season for Bowyer at HScott Motorsports. Still, everyone was expecting more out of Bowyer. He has struggled throughout the season, with only two finishes in the Top 10 and has failed to finish on the lead lap in eight of his 15 starts. Currently 23rd in points, Clint’s only hope seems to be an unlikely win.

Danica Patrick: Coming into 2016, Patrick’s performance was once again under a microscope. Could this be the year she put up the numbers that allowed her to live up to the hype? The stats say “No.” Her average finish (23.5) is only slightly better than her average start (26.8) and certainly not enough to she can make up the 99 points that stand between her and Blaney. A win seems unlikely for her as well, as she has yet to record a top-10 finish.

Richard Childress Racing: This might be a surprise, seeing that RCR currently has two drivers (Austin Dillon – 12th and Ryan Newman – 15th) who would make the Chase on points if the postseason began today. However, neither driver has been making too much noise with their performance (Dillon’s third-place Talladega finish notwithstanding). With Kasey Kahne just outside the cut-off point (11 points behind Blaney) and with Hendrick resources behind him, expect him to dislodge one of RCR’s potential Chase contenders before Richmond.

EMAIL: john.milner@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Kennedy Set to make XFINITY Series Debut at Iowa

Ben Kennedy is set to make his first career start in the XFINITY Series for Richard Childress Racing on Sunday afternoon at Iowa Speedway in the American Ethanol E15 250.

He’s off to a blazing start. In both practices, the 24-year-old finished at the top of the board. At the end of opening practice, he ran 132.448 miles per hour, then topped the pylon in final practice at 133.809 miles per hour in the No. 2 Ruud Chevrolet Camaro.

“I think we have a really good car,” Kennedy said. “I’m really honored to be here with Richard Childress Racing to make my NASCAR XFINITY debut.”

Kennedy, who has bounced around multiple organizations in the Camping World Truck Series this season, has tempered expectations heading into Sunday’s race.

“I’d be pretty happy with a top 10, and not trying to do anything crazy,” he said.

Last week, it was announced Ben Kennedy, Sam Hornish Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Michael McDowell will share seat time in the No. 2 RCR entry.

Kennedy has made three starts in the NCWTS Series at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway, with one top 10 to his credit.

He will line up sixth on Sunday afternoon.

The race can be found on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 1:30 PM ET

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ryan Newman Bets on RCR and Earns Chase Berth

By Matt Weaver (RICHMOND, Va.) — @RyanJNewman gambled during the off-season by joining Richard Childress Racing and it paid off on Saturday night in Richmond as he clinched the 15th spot in the inaugural Chase Grid playoff format which kicks off next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Veteran driver @JeffBurton had piloted the RCR No. 31 entry since 2005 and took it to four victories but had not made the Chase since 2010. Newman inherited that ride once his contract was not renewed by Stewart-Hass Racing last season and when Burton simultaneously opted to step away from full-time competition.

In their final season together, Burton, the No. 31 team and crew chief Luke Lambert endured a frustrating season in which they finished 20th in the final standings with only six top-10s to their credit. In the very first season with Newman behind the wheel, the team made the Chase with 10 top-10s (and counting) with an average finish of 14.1 — considerable improvement over the course of just one season.

“I’ve got to thank these guys at RCR and ECR -– all these guys have gotten better throughout the season and I don’t know where we finished tonight (ninth) but we’ve shown a lot of consistency and I think that will pay off at times in the Chase itself.”

With that said, Newman says he and his team are not feeling complacent merely making the Chase. He recognizes the need to continue improving just as they have from week one up until the end of the regular season on Saturday night.

“We’ve got to make some cuts and show what we’re capable of,” Newman said. “We’re not going to be the best car out there right now, leading laps or whatever, but we’re going to get top-10s by the end and keep ourselves in contention and we’ll surprise some people.”

As for the decision he made during the off-season to join Richard Childress Racing, Newman said he had no doubts over what the No. 31 team, Lambert and himself could achieve in their first year together.

“I wouldn’t have joined this team if I didn’t think they had the potential — if we had the potential to be in this position,” Newman said. “Now it’s time to capitalize.”