On Wednesday morning the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series drivers fielded questions from the media during the Sprint Media Tour’s stop at the Roush Fenway Racing shop. Answering questions were Nationwide Series drivers Chris Buscher, Ryan Reed and Trevor Bayne and Sprint Cup drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with RFR Director of Competition Robbie Reiser. Here’s a transcript from the press conference:
STEVE NEWMARK, Roush Fenway Racing President
“I do need to acknowledge one conspicuous absence that you will see when we have our drivers out here and that will be Jack Roush. I think most of you guys who are familiar with the sport know that Jack is fairly unique as an owner in that he is 24/7. He’s at every race. He comes with the team on Thursday, departs Sunday and on Monday and Tuesday he’s at our shop in the production meetings, the technical meetings, he’s at our shop meeting at 6:30 a.m. and he will not be here today. The interesting thing is that Robbie Reiser, Evan Lyall and I for the past several years have been badgering him to take a vacation, take some time off, do what normal people do and he always kind of dismissively looks at us and says, ‘Hey, this is my passion. This is what I want to do. I don’t have any desire to go on vaction.’ So we’ve been very unsuccessful in twisting his arm, so what we realized a couple months ago is that we were using the wrong tools in our arsenal and that we had a secret weapon in our arsenal that we weren’t aware of because a couple months ago his grandkids went ahead and planned a vacation for him, didn’t tell him. Just went ahead and said, ‘Hey, you’re coming with us on a Disney vacation,’ and lo and behold he has gone off and done that.
“Most of you are familiar that two of our three cars made the Chase. The third team won the rookie of the year award. We secured a number of wins, including our 315th in the NASCAR Series, which is a team record. As part of that, we secured the historic 1,000th win for Ford, which appropriately happened up at Michigan. We had a couple wins at short tracks, which was important for us because that was an area that we focused a lot on for improvement over the last few years, and then notably we also at the end of the regular season were in first place. Now I give you those statistics not for purposes of patting ourselves on the back, although I think we recognize that for some teams those would be good statistics and might be a banner year and would be considered a successful year, but, in fact for us, those are not the statistics by which we measure our performance. Instead, I’ll tell you the very simple numbers by which we measure our performance and those are 9, 13, and 19. That’s where we came in in the Cup standings last year, and I can tell you that if you went to Roush Fenway, walked the halls, and talked to any employee regardless of where they are on the org chart that they would tell you that that result is actually not acceptable. Over Jack’s 25-plus years in the sport– Jack and everyone at Roush – we have established standards for ourselves that we impose on ourselves that are higher than that, and it’s our expectation that we’re not only competing for wins on a weekly basis, but at the end of the season that we’re right there in the hunt for the championship in both the Nationwide and Cup Series. There’s a high level of dissatisfaction with last year because we weren’t there, so what I can tell you is the true measure of an organization is how do you respond to a situation like that, and I will tell you that watching this off-season I haven’t been more proud to be associated with this organization watching Robbie Reiser and that team relentlessly pursue what has ailed us. We talk about a short off-season, but these guys had no off-season. It was 24/7 and we made some changes and I think what you’re gonna see and you’re gonna hear from the drivers up here is there’s a lot of optimism about where we’re headed and I think a lot of that is because of the efforts we made in the off-season. Now when you impose these standards on yourself, they’re high standards, but that’s kind of what we feel is appropriate. And my hope is next year when we’re back here, and Jack goes through is laundry list of statistics, I’ll be able to come up and say, ‘Yes, we did meet the standards that we set for ourselves and we were there at the end and hopefully secured championships in both the Nationwide and the Cup Series.”
HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ABOUT HAVING A CHANCE TO DO THIS ON A MORE CONSISTENT BASIS? “Very excited, obviously. It’s an honor to be in the iconic 60 car, first of all. There’s so much history there going back to the Mark Martin days, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got to thank Robbie Reiser and Jack Roush, who is retired, I guess, at this point, for giving me the opportunity to be here. It’s gonna be a lot of fun this year. I have a very limited number of races last year, but was able to learn a whole lot during that period, so we’ll have a good chance to build on all we had last year and go out and try to get some wins and compete for rookie of the year.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS YEAR. “First of all, just to be up here is a dream come true for me. It’s something that I’ve thought about since I was a little kid and now for it to be a reality is pretty unreal, and to be able to contend for a championship and go out there and try to get my first win this year is gonna be a huge deal. To be able to compete not just for a championship and wins, but also for a cause that means so much to me and have Lilly Diabetes and American Diabetes Association support that, I don’t know what else I could ask for. I’m just so excited to be here. I can’t ask for anything else.”
YOU HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED A FAVORITE FOR THE NATIONWIDE TITLE THIS YEAR. THINGS COULDN’T LOOK BETTER FOR YOU AS WE HEAD INTO 2014. “I think we’re in a really good situation. To have AdvoCare on board as a company that’s such a great fit for me and my lifestyle. I use their products for training all the time and I kind of inherited 400,000 fans with all their distributor base, so that’s really awesome to see. Obviously, last year they were able to build a champion and we’re hoping to continue that this season. Robbie Reiser and Jack have given us all the tools that we need to be able to contend for a championship and now we just have to make the best of them. Last year I felt like we had some areas that we needed to work on, but this off-season they’ve really focused in on those areas and tried to pinpoint where it was that we needed to be better, so going forward I think it is going to be a great season for us. Chad Norris and I have worked together in the past. We had a win at Texas a couple years ago, so it’s not starting out completely fresh, but you do have a new group of guys that you get used to and we’re really pumped to get this season started. I can’t wait to go to the track with these guys. Obviously, we went to Daytona a couple weeks ago and felt really good about our test. I think our No. 6 AdvoCare Mustang is gonna definitely be penciled in to be a contender for the championship this season.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.
HOW DO YOU BUILD ON LAST YEAR? “We’re really looking forward to having Mike back on the pit box with me. Mike Kelley and I get along so well and have that good chemistry that you need in a race team, so I’m really looking forward to getting to the track with him. To have Nationwide jump on board for all of Speedweeks and for seven races this year is a huge honor for me. After being the Nationwide champion for two years in a row I’m glad that we’re able to keep that partnership going. They’re a huge part of that and I really enjoy working with everyone at Nationwide. I think it’s gonna be a good start to the season with them on the car and hopefully we can continue that good season starting at Daytona all the way through.”
WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN TO GET TO THE NEXT LEVEL IN THE CHASE? “We did really well in the regular season last year. We won a couple of races, but for Robbie Reiser, Jack Roush, Jimmy Fennig and our whole team our mission is to win the championship. We want to take this group up here and the group at the shop and put Fords in victory lane, but, more importantly, win championships with our cars. We’ve got Fastenal, Kellogg’s, UPS, Subway, a lot of great sponsors, so we’re ready to go.”
YOU WON EARLY LAST YEAR. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO DO THAT AND TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF? “It doesn’t seem like maybe it was as important last season as it may be this season, but we’ve yet to see. But for us it was huge. Jimmy Fennig is a really special guy. He’s done so much and for him to continue to be in the crew chief role and to continue to dedicate his life to this it was huge for us to get off to a great start. Hopefully, we can do that again this year.”
ARE YOU STILL DRIVEN TO WIN ALL THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN NASCAR? “Yeah. Winning a title, whether I’ve won the other titles or not, I think the goal of any driver is to win a Sprint Cup title. We’ve come very close a few times. I feel like this year we’re really aligned well. Maybe the new format will play into our hands a little bit. I’m excited because we’re moving into our eighth year with 3M as a full-time sponsor and even longer than that with being a partner of Roush Fenway, so I’m really excited about that. We’ve been able to make the Chase five of the last six years and want to continue that good run and make a strong run at the title this year.”
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO TRY AND END THE YEAR AT THE HEAD TABLE IN LAS VEGAS? “We’ve been working really hard on it. There are a lot of people talking up here about what we’re doing and where we’re going, but at the end of the day this thing is about winning races and winning championships and putting ourselves in that position. Our off-season has been no different than anybody elses. We’ve been working on everything that we can work on. We haven’t really pinpointed anything I’d say that we needed to improve on, we just need to look at our whole program and improve on the things that we do well and improve on the things that we don’t do well. That’s pretty much what we’ve done this off-season.”