Driver Changes, Wienermobiles And Regression: Recapping Roush Fenway’s Busy 2018

For better or for worse, Roush Fenway Racing had a busy 2018.

Following a resurgent 2017 season that saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earn his first two victories and Trevor Bayne log six top-10 finishes, expectations were high for the No. 17 and No. 6 teams entering the 2018 campaign. However, things didn’t go quite as planned for RFR in what was one of team’s more disappointing seasons in recent memory.

But that doesn’t mean 2018 wasn’t a compelling year for Roush Fenway. With 2019 just around the corner, we decided to look back at some of the highs and lows of an interesting season for one of NASCAR’s most storied outfits.

PERFORMANCE (OR LACK THEREOF)
Let’s be honest: Roush Fenway really doesn’t have the equipment to compete with some of NASCAR’s elite teams on a weekly basis. But as we saw in 2017, all you need is teamwork, preparation, good drivers and a little bit of luck to find success on the track.

Yet for one reason or another, the results simply weren’t there in 2018.

Stenhouse was just OK this season, finishing with five top-10s, including three top-fives. But the 31-year-old finished with zero wins in 2018, a disappointing follow-up to his breakout 2017.

As for Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner endured his most trying season since becoming a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.

The 27-year-old competed in just 21 of a possible 36 races, finishing with zero top-10 finishes. His time inside the No. 6 Ford drastically reduced after Matt Kenseth returned to Roush in late April.

Bayne currently is a free agent.

BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Kenseth’s return to RFR was one of the feel-good stories of the NASCAR season.

A 39-time winner in Cup, Kenseth began his career with Roush in the late 1990s and became one of the most accomplished drivers in team history, including winning the 2003 Winston Cup championship. So, when Kenseth — who some expected to retire after last season — announced he was returning to Roush, fans understandably were excited.

The Wisconsin native ultimately drove the No. 6 in 15 races, finishing with just two top-10s.

Kenseth, 46, currently is a free agent.

But while he has no plans of returning to NASCAR anytime soon, and retirement seems like a real option, Kenseth has made himself available to Roush Fenway should it find itself in need.

DARLINGTON STANDOUTS
The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is NASCAR’s annual celebration of stock car racing’s rich history and culture. With a majority of drivers featuring unique and/or throwback paint schemes, the Southern 500 is one of the most anticipated events on the NASCAR calendar.

And while this year’s Southern 500 saw no shortage of excellent paint schemes, Roush Fenway arguably sent the best to South Carolina.

Kenseth partnered with Oscar Mayer to run a wiener-themed Ford, while Stenhouse honored longtime Roush driver Chad Little by sporting an eye-popping John Deere scheme.

While a Darlington victory wasn’t in the cards in September, Roush Fenway nevertheless had a strong showing. Kenseth finished sixth and spent much of the race near the front, while Stenhouse came in 17th.

ROCKET MAN LANDS WITH ROUSH
The No. 6 Ford will have a new full-time driver in 2019.

Ryan Newman announced he was joining RFR in late September. The former Richard Childress Racing driver brings a wealth of experience to Roush Fenway, including 18 Cup wins and a reputation for being one of the sport’s toughest drivers. Joining the 41-year-old on the No. 6 team will be one of the most qualified crew chiefs in NASCAR.

Newman finished with nine top-10s in 2018, although he failed to reach victory lane.

The Indiana native hasn’t missed a race since becoming a full-time Cup driver in 2002.

Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

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