ROUSH FENWAY RACING
Drivers: Trevor Bayne, No. 6; Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17
Crew chiefs: Brian Pattie (Stenhouse Jr.), Matt Puccia (Bayne)
2017 standings: Stenhouse Jr., 13th in final standings (eliminated in Round of 12); Bayne, 22nd in final standings
What’s new: Not a lot, a welcome change for Roush Fenway Racing which has undergone organizational-wide tweaks in recent years. No new drivers, no new crew chiefs and no change in the number of full-time vehicles in the team fleet. In fact, the only real change here is a positive — Roush enters 2018 on the heels of a multi-win season, with Stenhouse Jr. winning twice in 2017 and advancing to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
What to watch: How Roush Fenway builds off the success of 2017. The team won for the first time since 2014 with Stenhouse Jr. emerging as one of NASCAR’s best drivers at Daytona and Talladega. The team’s superspeedway cars are among the fastest in the garage, thanks to the work done at the shop by Jimmy Fennig and his team. Roush is as stable as it has been in a long time.
Key question(s): Can Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 17 team show the ability to win at tracks that don’t require restrictor plates? How can Bayne and the No. 6 team break through for more top-five finishes and be in contention more for victories?
Trevor Bayne, No. 6 AdvoCare Ford: Bayne’s third full-time season driving the No. 6 in 2017 didn’t produce the same jump in numbers he saw between Year 1 and Year 2. Two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes wasn’t what Bayne or his team had in mind; neither were the five DNFs by way of crash, a four-time increase from 2016.
A key to watch for Bayne is the midseason stretch. The 26-year-old logged seven top-15 finishes in the first nine races last year, but then just one of the next 13. The success of teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brings added optimism to the No. 6 group.
“Last year, we went into the season with a lot of changes and we had a lot of goals on the board to try to make the Playoffs,” Bayne said. “I think where we fell short were playoff points. So we kind of look and say, ‘You’ve got to get at least five playoff points per race if you’re gonna be a (playoff) contender without a win.’ That was a lot more than kind of what we anticipated, so that’s where we fell short. The way you get those is by running in the top 10 and by being faster and more competitive.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Fastenal Ford: Last year was the breakout season Stenhouse Jr. had been building toward since his first full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2013. With an assist from Jimmy Fennig managing and molding the team’s superspeedway program into one of the best in the sport, Stenhouse posted career-highs in wins, top-10s, laps led, average start and average finish in 2017. He will be a favorite to win both races at Daytona and the spring race at Talladega prior to the Playoffs beginning in September.
It’s the intermediates that remain a question, however.It’s the intermediates that remain a question, however.
“I think there’s a lot of things that are looking good for us in 2018,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I think my team has confidence in what we’re gonna be able to do. Not looking for our first win is nice, not having that riding on your back. That seemed pretty tough to deal with for a long time and now I don’t have to answer those questions, but now it’s, what other race tracks are we gonna win at? I definitely want to win at other race tracks, but going into the (Daytona) 500 I feel a lot more confident than I ever have.”king good for us in 2018,”