Jack Roush had high hopes for his two-car organization in 2020, but it’s been an “uphill battle all year,” said the Hall of Fame team owner.
The battle started with Ryan Newman’s violent accident on the last lap of the Daytona 500, forcing him to miss the next three Cup Series races. Then a global pandemic paused the sport and has affected how teams and drivers interact with each other – and that hasn’t been kind to Newman’s new Roush Fenway teammate, Chris Buescher.
“I’m obviously disappointed (with the season) because, at this late date, we still don’t have cars in the playoffs,” said Roush on Tuesday. “But this viral epidemic and the shutdown that has gone with it – the lack of practice time and the lack of a chance to get the drivers as close as they need to to the crew chiefs – have really hit us hard.
“Of course, Ryan lost time because of his accident at Daytona. He was coming into his second year with us, and we had hoped to capitalize on the first year, which has not helped us out as much as I’d hoped.
“Chris and (crew chief) Luke Lambert were new to one another, and they’ve had very little chance to build the kind of chemistry that it takes to really be successful at this level.
“We’ve had an uphill battle all year. We’ve had streaks of brilliance, (and) if we’d have had better track position, we might have been able to capitalize and gotten a win earlier. We missed a chance at Daytona. We missed a chance at Talladega. We hope that the next Daytona will be great for us. We can’t get both of them in at Daytona, but hopefully, we can get one of them in if Jimmy Fennig delivers the kind of cars he’s had for us in the recent past.”
Both Newman and Buescher need a win to make the playoffs – currently, they are too far back in the point standings to make it without one. Just three races remain in the regular season.
There is a positive spin for Buescher’s season, however. His five top-10 finishes are a personal single-season high, and if he were to score another top-five finish, that, too, would be a single-season mark. Buescher finished fifth Sunday on the Daytona road course, which he said was a much-needed boost for his team.
“It’s been well documented, a rocky year and not really what we had hoped. The current environment has stunted our growth as a team,” said Buescher. “Just the fact that we’re not able to go out and practice and go through changes. We’re not allowed to be around the crew chief and the team in the hauler during the weekend. (We) can’t go out to dinner.
“You can hardly build relationships, except just through screen to screen contact; so it’s been a tough year, but an awesome weekend at the road course. That should set us up for a much better starting position at Dover this weekend, and that’s always a help at a track that’s been pretty track position-sensitive as well lately. A lot of good from the (Daytona) weekend and a lot to look forward to.”
Though Newman made the playoffs last season, a Roush driver hasn’t been to victory lane since Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s two wins in 2017.
There will be no practice or qualifying for the rest of the year. Looking ahead to what will hopefully be a return to normalcy next season, Roush said two practices are better than one, and one is better than none.
“I would like for it to go back to the way it was so that teams that don’t have as proven and as effective computer programs to help them with the preparations … If you have more practice time and you have two bites at the apple, that would certainly help alleviate the need for having the latest cutting-edge computer programs to guide you,” said Roush. “It gives you a chance to build the chemistry between your driver and your car chief and your engineer and your crew chief. It does all those things that we’ve lacked this year.”