After several weeks of continuous questions about the importance of winning, Hendrick Motorsports backed up its consistent efforts with Jeff Gordon taking his 89th career victory — and first of the 2014 season — at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night. This makes Hendrick the fourth organization that has joined the two-drivers-with-at-least-one-win club, which leaves one winning team with a single driver to visit victory lane: Roush Fenway Racing.
With several teams not even getting a sniff of a trophy, it would seem that Roush isn’t in a very dire situation. But aside from the wild one-two finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. have noticeably been absent from the front few positions during a majority of each race though.
Many of Roush’s strongest performances have been at intermediate tracks in the past, especially when it had come to their aerodynamic and fuel mileage capabilities and strategies. At Kansas only Edwards found his way up front, on three occasions — all of which were short lived. In fact, overall for the entire 2014 season, all three drivers have combined to lead only 189 laps.
While perhaps impressive for others, it is very uncharacteristic for this team.
In addition, news of the contracts for Edwards and Biffle being up at the end of the year simply cannot be helping matters. Both have kept quiet regarding the details amid talks, which is typically the norm and should not be a major concern at the moment. What could be, however, is the organization’s future after the next series of contracts are finished.
On the Nationwide Series side, Trevor Bayne has shown consistency but not many front-running moments during his tenure, and Ryan Reed has endured his share of struggles. On a brighter note, former ARCAchampion Chris Buescher has been coming along nicely in recent weeks, and there is the promising teenager Kyle Benjamin honing his skills in the ARCA ranks on a part-time basis. Jack Roush, oftentimes a master at developing drivers and bringing them up the ladder, could prove once again that the future is stable.
Roush Fenway Racing has been the top-finishing Ford team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings every year since 2001, when the Robert Yates Racing tandem of Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett was still intact. In 2014, it looks to be on the verge of being overtaken by Penske Racing. That statistic poses an intriguing conundrum regarding whether today’s top teams will gradually fade away or sell off their team to someone of no relation like the Yates, Junior Johnsons, Bud Moores, or Junie Donlaveys of the recent past — just to name a few — that have come and gone.
The other possibility could be a completely different structure to the organization. Richard Petty Motorsports still has the same face representing its teams, but is entirely different from its Petty Enterprises days. Wood Brothers Racing still has most of the major players involved with the team, but competes at a reduced frequency from before.
Most of today’s top names Jack Roush (or even co-owner John Henry), Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Roger Penske and Joe Gibbs are not the youngest owners out there by any means; they probably will not be around at some point within the next couple decades. There’s hope for some organizations in terms of continuing on after the inevitable exit of their current figureheads, but others could conceivably follow in the footsteps of Yates before them.
Many teams, such as Joe Gibbs Racing, have options in place for the continuation of the team in the form of son J.D. Gibbs, but what about some of the others? Roush’s son, Jack Roush, Jr., is more involved on the sports car side of things. Sadly, Rick Hendrick’s (perhaps) intended next-in-line, son Ricky Hendrick, is no longer with us after a tragic plane crash in 2004. Several of Roger Penske’s children have become entrepreneurs themselves, but have not really been involved in NASCAR team operations. Richard Childress Racing could be the most promising with his son-in-law Mike Dillon and grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon heavily involved in numerous roles.
Will the organizations of this era eventually go by the wayside like many from the past, or will we see transitions more equivalent to changes at the top of a typical corporation or franchise in years to come? We may not know the definite answer right now, but the results turned in today could definitely steer them in a specific direction down the road.