Michigan notebook: ‘Silly Season’ moves, Dale Jr.’s dream 2014
ROUSH STILL MUM ON ’15 — There’s still no official word on what Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lineup will look like in 2015 beyond that Trevor Bayne will drive the No. 6 RFR Ford full-time. Team drivers Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are in the final year of their respective contracts and may or may not be back with the team next season. The conventional wisdom is that Biffle flirted with Michael Waltrip Racing but couldn’t bring sponsor 3M with him, so he will remain at RFR, while Edwards is likely headed to either Joe Gibbs Racing or Penske Racing.
Asked about the team’s plans during a Friday morning media availability at Michigan International Speedway, RFR founder and co-owner Jack Roush said, "In due time we’ll have announcements for 2015. We’ve got a lot of 2014 in front of us and we’re obviously focused on that."
Roush did acknowledge the team’s season has been a disappointment so far. "Certainly the Penske guys are running really well with very similar cars and we’ve just got to get back to where we need to be," Roush said. "This business cycles. We’ve had times when we’ve been the cars to beat for an extended period of time to everybody’s frustration and now we’re just struggling to get back to where we need to be."
JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT — Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s charmed season continued Friday, when he qualified third for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. It was Earnhardt’s best qualifying effort of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which will run its 15th race Sunday.
"I’m real happy with the qualifying effort obviously, especially in the transition from the second round, to the last round. We’re making some good gains on how we need to adjust the car to find the balance we need as continue to cycle the tires each qualifying run," said Earnhardt, the winner last week at Pocono. "That is something we really needed to improve our qualifying efforts. The car has real good speed."
On Saturday, Earnhardt, crew chief Steve Letarte and the rest of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team have two practices with which to fine-tune the setup for Sunday’s race.
"We’ll get a chance tomorrow to really work on our race trim package for the Cup car tomorrow," said Earnhardt. "We ran a little bit of race trim this morning. The track wasn’t ideal, but we understand some balance things we need to work on, and some things we can do to ease the work load tomorrow. So that’s good. We’ll see how the car feels in practice, and how confident we are. That determines how we will start the race, and how well we can do Sunday."
MWR, MOFFITT HOOK UP — Brett Moffitt, who qualified 18th and finished 22nd in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut two weeks ago at Dover International Speedway, will spend some more Sundays behind the wheel of the No. 66 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota before the year is out. During a press conference Friday at Michigan International Speedway, MWR executive vice president of business development and general manager Ty Norris said the team has signed Moffitt to a multi-year contract, although no schedule has been set for the remainder of the year yet.
MWR shares the No. 66 with Jay Robinson Racing, and Moffitt will run races for both teams beyond this weekend, according to Norris.
"What we decided to do is put him (Moffitt) in a contract without trying to nail down a schedule at first," said Norris. "After this event we will probably try to run him at least three or four more times this year out of the MWR camp. I don’t know how many times he’ll run the 66 any other time. He might run another four or five races this year at least, but it will have to be the right place at the right time with the right resources supporting it. He probably won’t run again until at least August because at the same time Jeff Burton is going to run for us at New Hampshire and we’re still trying to figure out the whole schedule of the 66."
Clearly, the MWR camp is very high on Moffitt, 21, a native of Grimes, Iowa.
"You’ve seen a lot of young drivers come through — he’s as good as any of them," said Norris of Moffitt. "He raced against Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson and some of those guys in the K&N East Series. We feel that given the right opportunity just like those guys have received great opportunities, he could show to be very fast and a very competitive race car driver at the Sprint Cup level."
Moffitt said he’s thrilled to have something concrete, even if schedule details remain to be settled.
"It’s a really big step in my career and I’m really excited to get this going," said Moffitt. "It’s a weight lifted off my back and off my shoulders as far as every year I don’t really know what I’m doing so it’s nice to have something done and complete that’s for the next several years and it’s just a lot of stress gone. It’s nice to know I have something."