Roush Fenway Racing shrinks again, this time to two teams

NASCAR’s former leader Bill France Jr. was fond of saying something to the effect of, “You either grow or you shrink; nothing stays the same.”

In the case of Roush Fenway Racing, the team is once again shrinking for 2017.

Back as recently as 2005, the team Jack Roush founded was coming off back-to-back NASCAR Premier Series championships in 2003-04. The five Roush drivers won 15 races in 2005, and all five made it into the field of what was then a 10-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

But that was arguably the team’s peak.

NASCAR instituted a cap on team size to just four cars in 2010, so Roush Fenway became a four-car team that season.

When Matt Kenseth left after the 2012 campaign to join Joe Gibbs Racing, the Roush organization downsized again to three cars for 2013.

And with Greg Biffle leaving the team at the end of the 2016 season, the team announced on Tuesday that it would campaign just two cars next year, one each for returning drivers Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Roush Fenway will lease the charter it used on Biffle’s car this year to JTG Daugherty Racing, who next year will add a second car for Chris Buescher.

The moves were not unexpected given the relative performance woes by the Roush organization in recent years. The team failed to place a single driver in the Chase this year or last and hasn’t won a race since 2014.

Stenhouse is winless in 148 career Cup starts, while Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500, his only victory in 130 starts.

While Roush, along with the long-defunct Robert Yates Racing, used to be the big dogs in Ford Motor Co.’s NASCAR lineup, Team Penske has taken over the leadership position since switching from Dodge to Ford in 2013.

And with the four-car powerhouse Stewart-Haas Racing team switching from Chevrolet to Ford next year, the balance of power almost certainly will shift even further.

As for Roush Fenway, they are realigning internally again for 2017, with Kevin Kidd serving as competition director and Tommy Wheeler serving as the team’s operations director and former Stenhouse crew chief Nick Sandler taking the position of director of engineering.

“We have been able to shore up our plans for 2017 and we feel that this will continue to move us in a direction that will yield improved performance and results,” said Roush Fenway co-owner Jack Roush in a statement released by the team on Tuesday. “We saw improvement in our cars and made substantial gains in our performance at times last season, and we will continue to build on that by maintaining a robust engineering group in order to take the next step by consistently running up front.”

The No. 6 team will once again be led by chief Matt Puccia. Brian Pattie, who was Biffle’s crew chief last year, will take over that role with Stenhouse in 2017.

Former competition boss Robbie Reiser “ will remain with the organization in a yet to be determined position,” the team said.