2017 NASCAR Team Recap: Roush Fenway Racing

Logan Whitton/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

For the final five days of 2017, Kickin’ the Tires will recap each of the top 10 teams in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, laying out their year in statistics and storylines. 


The Breakdown

Wins: Two

Playoff Berths: One

Highest Points Finisher: 13th

Driver Results:

  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th in Points – Two wins, Four top fives, Nine top 10s, 56 laps led, six DNFs)
  • Ty Dillon (22nd in Points – Zero wins, Two top fives, Six top 10s, Eight laps led, Five DNFs)

Two restrictor plate wins and a playoff berth added highlights to another year defined by small steps in the right direction for Roush Fenway Racing (RFR).

In their second year as a slimmed-down duo, RFR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne arrived at Daytona International Speedway in February with their sights set on victory lane and a berth in the playoffs.

While they were far from favorites to clinch spots in NASCAR’s postseason, the thought was no longer a silly one. After trudging through the 2015 season as a trio with Greg Biffle, RFR proved to be fringe playoff contenders in 2016.

Stenhouse and Bayne both contended for spots in the top half of the field early in the year, with Bayne staying in the mix for a postseason berth on points up until a late crash in July’s trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway derailed his chances.

The 2017 season started in similar fashion for both RFR drivers. Bayne and Stenhouse combined to score 13 top-15 finishes in the opening nine races of the season, lifting both drivers into the top 16 as the field headed to Talladega Superspeedway in April.

It was there, in the heart of Alabama, where Stenhouse finally completed Roush’s ascendance back to the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the first time since 2014.

With a drive reminiscent of the sport’s all-time greats on restrictor plate tracks, Stenhouse maneuvered his way around Kyle Busch late and fended off a run from the 2015 Cup Series champ while coming to the start-finish line to claim his first-career win.

The moment was monumental for RFR, and it served as a brief moment of justification for the team’s downsizing and sacrifices in the years that preceded it. A second win in the summer trip to Daytona for Stenhouse proved all the sweeter, setting the fifth-year veteran up for his first postseason run.

That left just Bayne to try to make his way into the playoffs on points. Unfortunately for the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, the run wasn’t meant to be.

Bayne left Talladega 16th in the standings, and a week later at Kansas Speedway the Tennessean found himself inside of the playoff grid in 14th. But from there on he began to drift backwards.

After scoring eight finishes inside of the top 15 in the season’s opening 11 races, Bayne went on a torrid summer stretch – failing to crack the top 15 again for 12 events.

The slump derailed Bayne’s playoff pursuit, trapping him as far back as 20th in the standings while a litany of surprise winners popped up and restricted the number of playoff positions available on points. A couple of solid runs – fifth and seventh, respectively – at Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway gave Bayne hope for the final weeks of the regular season, but he proved unable to win his way into the postseason in the final two preceding races at Darlington Raceway and Richmond Raceway.

With Bayne eliminated, Stenhouse was left to carry the Roush banner in the playoffs.

To his credit, the Mississippian did so suitable, surviving the Round of 16 before being eliminated by a pair of crashes in the Round of 12.

While they were quickly taken out of title contention, both RFR drivers put together a group of strong runs in the postseason. Bayne surged to a year-best third at Talladega before finishing sixth at Martinsville Speedway, and Stenhouse ended his season with four-consecutive finishes in the top 15.

All told, both drivers saw career-best seasons in 2017.

Stenhouse hit or tied career highs in wins (2), top fives (4), laps led (56), average finish (17.1) and lead-lap finishes (24). Bayne ended his year with a personal best 19.5 average finish, matching his career high in top fives (2) and setting a new top mark with six top 10s.

For the second-straight season, RFR made incremental steps in a positive direction. The onus is now on the team to continue that trend into 2018, where both Bayne and Stenhouse are feasible playoff contenders.

 

Team Recaps: 

Germain Racing (Dec. 27)

Roush Fenway Racing (Dec. 27)

Richard Childress Racing (Dec. 28)

Wood Brothers Racing (Dec. 28)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Dec. 29)

Hendrick Motorsports (Dec. 29)

Team Penske (Dec. 30)

Stewart-Haas Racing (Dec. 30)

Joe Gibbs Racing (Dec. 31)

Furniture Row Racing (Dec. 31)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *