By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It’s no secret that Roush Fenway Racing has struggled mightily to rejoin the conversation of being one of NASCAR’s elite teams over the last couple of years.
Roush was a perennial championship contending team year-in and year-out from the 1990s until the early 2010s. However, in the last two seasons the team has struggled to keep up with the powerhouse organizations in the sport: Hendrick, Penske, Gibbs and Stewart-Haas.
The organization, which has seen its marquee drivers (Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards) jump ship in recent seasons, currently sits at a 57-race winless drought, and with the way their cars performed in 2015, it looked like there was no end in sight to that losing skid.
However, Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway things finally look to be turning around for the team. At a 1.5-mile speedway, the type of track that RFR only scored one top-10 finish at in all of 2015, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. secured top-five starting positions for Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500.
“Obviously, this comes with a lot of work that Roush Fenway Racing has been putting into our cars for the season. Last season wasn’t a reflection of work ethic at all, it was a reflection of being a little bit behind,” Bayne said. “This season, we’re really looking forward to this low downforce package as we’ve talked about over the off-season.”
To put Friday’s qualifying effort in perspective, Bayne had just two top-10 starting positions in 2015, and both of those qualifying efforts came at restrictor plate tracks. Not diminishing restrictor plate track qualifying, but it takes the total package to be fast at an intermediate oval. The Roush Fenway Racing team finally has some real speed after unloading their Ford Fusions from the hauler. For Bayne, there is now added confidence in his team.
“This is motivating because we know we can do it now. We get the cars and the right pieces under us and we can do it as a team,” Bayne said.
In addition to Bayne and Stenhouse who will roll off from the grid in third and fifth respectively, Greg Biffle also qualified in the 14th position. If the team as a whole can find some race condition speed in Saturday practice, perhaps they can work on building some momentum going forward in 2016.
Image: NASCAR Media Group