Roush's Flagship Team: Is there cause for concern?

Posted by imelda sovzky on Monday, February 6, 2012


With the exception of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. running the Daytona 500, there are currently no plans for Roush-Fenway Racing to run the #6 car full time, despite the fact the car is guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races of the season. A lack of sponsorship dollars has forced one of the top teams in the garage to cut back it's schedule dramatically. The RFR team that was a four car operation last season and has now downsized to three cars - #16-Greg Biffle, #17-Matt Kenseth, and #99-Carl Edwards for 2012.  The #6 team that shut down just so happens to be Roush-Fenway Racing's flagship car.
    
Jack Roush began Roush Racing in 1988 with the #6 Stroh Light Ford Thunderbird, and driver Mark Martin. The team won its first race in 1989 at Rockingham Speedway and continued with much success, contending for championships year after year, including 1990 when a 26 point penalty after a race at Richmond cost Martin his one of his best chances at a championship.
    
#6 Taurus driven by Mark Martin in the 1989 Season
The bulk of the #6 car's success came while Valvoline was the primary sponsor from 1992-2000. With Valvoline as his sponsor, Mark Martin won 27 of what is now 40 career wins. In that nine year period, Mark's average points finish was 4.0, including two runner-up finishes - 1994 and 1998 respectively.
    
For 2001, Roush signed Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and its Viagra brand to back the #6 car. 2001 was a career low for Martin, who failed to win a race and finished outside the top-ten in points for the first time since 1988. 

After three more wins and one more runner-up points finish from 2002-2006, Martin announced he was leaving Roush Racing to run a part-time schedule at Ginn Racing for 2007. 
    

David Ragan photo - motorsport .com 
To replace Martin, Roush signed newcomer David Ragan as the driver of the #6 AAA Ford Fusion. Ragan didn't have much success in 2007, having lost the Rookie of the Year title to Juan Pablo Montoya, though he did finish third in the fall race at Richmond.
    
Not many people expected David Ragan to have the breakout season he had in 2008. Ragan had six top-five's, fourteen top-ten's, and nearly made the Chase, having been mathematically eligible heading into the regular season finale at Richmond. Ragan finished 13th in the point standings in 2008, his best finish to date.
    
With major sponsor UPS leaving Michael Waltrip Racing to sponsor the #6 car for 2009, and high expectations following the 2008 season, there was a high amount of pressure on David Ragan. The pressure turned out to be too much for the third year driver, as Ragan wound up 27th in points. 2010 wasn't much better, with Ragan only scoring one more top-five, and one less DNF, leading to a 24th place finish in points.
    
Heading into 2011, there was no question David Ragan needed to have a season like he had in 2008, or better to keep UPS as a primary sponsor. While Ragan had four top-five's, eight top-ten's, and even his first career win at Daytona, he had a career high five DNFs, which led UPS to stop its sponsorship with the #6 team, and instead back Ragan's Roush teammate Carl Edwards on a limited basis.

With the #6 team being shut down, many people are questioning the state of the sport. Should more teams be concerned with their performance in order to please sponsors? Are sponsors setting the bar too high? 

With the driver piloting the #6 car at Daytona just happening to be the defending Nationwide Series champion, we are all left wondering if the sport we care about is in a more dangerous state than we let ourselves believe. Has NASCAR lost its appeal in the eyes of sponsors? For the sake of the sport, let's all hope not.


By Paul Oliveri




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