CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Roush Fenway Racing opened last season with the same optimism as every other team in NASCAR. It quickly became apparent the organization had fallen far behind the competition. Roush drivers failed to win a single Sprint Cup race last year and the organization didn't put a driver in the Chase for the first time since the playoff format began in 2004.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Roush Fenway Racing opened last season with the same optimism as every other team in NASCAR.
It quickly became apparent the organization had fallen far behind the competition. Roush drivers failed to win a single Sprint Cup race last year and the organization didn't put a driver in the Chase for the first time since the playoff format began in 2004.
A year later, the team is once again optimistic for a successful season.
The difference? A slew of behind-the-scenes personnel moves that the team believes will put them back in contention.
Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne both had offseason crew chief changes, and three key additions were made to the competition staff.
"Our expectations are to do significantly better than we did last year, and it was a disappointment," said team President Steve Newmark. "I think that although it was a disappointment, we were able to step back and logically say, 'Let's take emotion out of this and let's figure out how we get back up there because our goals haven't changed.' It's not like we've now lowered our goals and said we're going to be content to run here."
Among the additions made to the organization:
— Kurt Romberg joined the team as technical director of aerodynamics after spending 15 years heading that department at Hendrick Motorsports.
— Kent Day was named manager of simulation. Day, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, previously held technical director positions with Team Penske, Richard Childress Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.
— Vojin Jaksic returned to Roush Fenway Racing as research and development/special projects manager after serving in similar positions at Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Jaksic previously worked at Roush Fenway Racing from 2005 until 2011.
— Brian Pattie joined Roush as crew chief for Biffle after several years at Michael Waltrip Racing.
"We have continued to add talent from outside of our organization and some of these nuances, maybe for the general fan aren't of great interest, but they're very impactful for us," Newmark said. "The important thing is that those were additive. It wasn't as if we said we were going to replace these people and bring in new people — we have more hands on deck."
Last year wasn't a complete disappointment to RFR as Chris Buescher won the Xfinity Series championship and will move up to the Sprint Cup Series this season while driving on loan to Front Row Motorsports.
But on the Cup side, Greg Biffle finished 20th in the standings with only four top-10 finishes. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 25th in points and Trevor Bayne was 29th. Combined, the trio led just 43 laps all year.
"We were optimistic at the first part of the season it was painfully obvious we were a long ways off," Biffle said. "When you know six weeks from now, when I go to that race track, I don't have a chance of winning, that is difficult. Knowing straight up we are not going to have the fastest car unloaded off the truck for the entire weekend, we knew that wasn't happening, that takes a long time to climb that ladder."
Co-owner Jack Roush believes the problem stemmed from an organizational failure to adapt to the 2015 rules package. Decisions made in car builds and setups did not suit the drivers. With a lower-downforce package rolling out for 2016, all teams are starting over and Roush believes he has a system in place that will bring his organization back to the top.
"We are going to have less autonomy among the teams for making the decisions on traditional judgments based on what they see other cars doing and to be more of a science-led, engineering-led, technically-motivated organization," Roush said. "I think we've added some people who will bring us some inspiration. We've got still the DNA, it's still solid, and we're definitely anxious to get on with 2016."
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