Roush Fenway Racing continues struggle chasing speed ... and victories

Good news for Roush Fenway Racing: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne have finished an average of 4.5 positions higher than they did in the first four races of the 2016 Cup season.

Bad news for Roush Fenway Racing: The team hasn’t won a Cup race since June 22, 2014, at Sonoma — back when Carl Edwards was still in the mix. He’s gone now as the conversation continues to grow about the team’s ability to stay competitive in the Cup Series.

It’s no secret they are struggling. A lot of variables come into play: They’ve lost some fine drivers over the years, including Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Edwards. They all moved onto other teams. Martin did it later in his career, but Kenseth and Edwards left for Joe Gibbs Racing in their prime — auspicious moves for them, not so much for RFR.

And with the retirement of Greg Biffle after the 2016 season, the team is down to two drivers. Stenhouse has yet to win a Cup race in 152 starts. Bayne, then driving for the Woods Brothers, won the Daytona 500 in 2011. The dramatic finish included Edwards — then racing for owner Jack Roush — pushing him to victory in the last lap. It was a feel-good story about a good guy, but one that has taken on the decided theme of a one-hit wonder. He is now 1 for 134.

“I don’t even think about Roush Racing winning a race,” FOX Sports NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds told me during Speedweeks. “I don’t think about them being a championship contender. Just be competitive.”

Further complicating the narrative is that outside of Roush Fenway Racing, Fords are doing well in the Cup Series. Ford Performance and Roush Yates Engines have been to Victory Lane three times already — Joey Logano in the Clash at Daytona, Kurt Busch in the Daytona 500 and Brad Keselowski in Atlanta.

If you want the glass to be half full, the team’s average finish this season is 16.88, better than the 20.39 average of the entire 2016 season. Stenhouse finished fourth in Phoenix last weekend, the team’s best result in the short sample-size.

If you want the glass to be half empty, there are goose eggs in each season’s victory column since 2014, and to be clear, Martin, Edwards and Kenseth aren’t coming back.

In an effort to shake up things, the team announced a number of organizational changes last November, moving Kevin Kidd, the Cup team manager, to competition director. Tommy Wheeler, who oversaw the production of the team’s Cup and Xfinity cars, became the team’s operations director. Robbie Reiser, the team’s general manager, was reassigned.

“I see a lot of different press releases from the organization giving someone a different title, but it’s like they keep moving the same apples around in their basket,” McReynolds said. “They don’t go out and get any new apples. Fresh apples.”

Draw your own comparisons and conclusions. To suggest the team is struggling is not apples and oranges.

Joey and Kyle again

Perhaps Joey Logano and Kyle Busch should seek couples counseling.

You feel for them. Two crazy kids in this mixed-up world of NASCAR, just trying to move along without getting in each other’s way.

A week after Logano wrecked Busch in Las Vegas, setting up a brief but wild melee, Logano undercut Busch’s chances of winning in Phoenix. This time it was simply car trouble, causing a caution that brought the field back to Busch.

And then in a roll-of-the-dice strategy, Ryan Newman’s crew chose not to pit with the leaders. He stayed out in front to win for the first time in 127 starts.

All together now:

Thanks, Logano!

“We just blew a right front,” Logano said. “Probably just overheated the bead. I am sure that is what it was. There is not much you can do when the right front blows out. “

But the dismay evident from Samantha Busch, Kyle’s wife, in the pit box told the other side of the story. As soon as the caution came out, she dropped her head in frustration, knowing her man was in for a fight, this time in the car.

He lost the battle, finishing third.

“My guys gave me an awesome Skittles Camry and there’s nothing else I could ask for from them,” Busch said. “We were in the right position and we were in a great spot to win the race today, but unfortunately it just didn’t happen for us and that’s racing.”

Yes it is.

Onward to California this weekend.

gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com; @georgediaz on Twitter

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