Fifteen seasons ago, Jack Roush was in the middle of what would be back-to-back championships for his teams at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level. In 2010 and 2011, Roush Fenway Racing placed two cars in the top 5 of the final point standings and earned nine total wins. Ever since, though, the team has been on a slide to mid-pack mediocrity. The team winning percentage since 2012 is .017, a 60 percent drop from the win rate in the seven seasons prior (.043).
There’s hardly an idea that has yet to be tried at the longtime Ford team in its bid to reach the relevance it once enjoyed. Last season, former champion Matt Kenseth came back in a part-time role to help look for answers. A couple of finishes showed progress, but RFR never proved to be a lasting threat down the stretch of the season.
Now, it’s Ryan Newman’s turn. The 41-year-old will drive the No. 6 this season for RFR after five seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “I’ve always been a big appreciator of the history of our sport, and I think that a big part of that has always been Roush and Roush Fenway Racing, and what Jack’s done and contributed to all forms of motorsports but specifically in the Cup garage here,” Newman said when the partnership was officially announced.
Newman, an 18-race winner in the Cup series, readily handles the role of promoter despite continued questions about the performance of the RFR program that haven’t been fully resolved. Newman’s confidence, he says, is bolstered by the fact that Ford had the fastest car all season in Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, and the manufacturer also had eventual title winner Joey Logano in a Ford at Team Penske.
“From my standpoint it’s about people,” Newman says. “Ford has proven this year, if you look at the results, to have the right people in the right places to be successful and the win column says that.”
Team co-owner Roush is thinking the same way. “The wins are just around the corner, and the cars are much improved,” Roush says. “I expect them to be more improved with Ryan, as his criticism and his constructive suggestions do what they can do as we get into [this] year.”
Roush points to Newman’s background that includes an engineering degree as a reason why the veteran driver can boost the two-car RFR team alongside teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He also notes that Newman has a defensive driving style that could help when the team uses creative ways to gain track position.
“Whenever you raced Mark [Martin] you knew what to expect. Whenever you raced Matt [Kenseth] you knew what to expect,” Roush says. “And whenever you raced Ryan you could know what to expect there as well. I look forward to that working in our favor, as it has worked to our negative side on a few occasions over the years.”
Newman arrives at RFR after scoring just nine top-10 finishes at RCR last year. He also recorded zero top-5 finishes for the first time in his full-time career. He hasn’t won multiple races in a single year since 2004.
Can he stop the slide?
“I’m in a position where I’ve never wanted to stop, never wanted to quit, never wanted to retire and want to win a championship,” Newman says. “So I look forward to this opportunity.”
Vegas Betting Odds to win 2019 Cup Championship: 300/1 (per Sportsbook.ag)