If you look at Roush-Fenway Racing for the 2013 season it is clear the organization has taken a hit. They have lost perhaps their most steady driver in Matt Kenseth, who is leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Kenseth's departure leaves a big void in the organization. His #17 Ford will be driven by rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr in 2013, the two time reining NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion. Stenhouse is a nice driver but he is a rookie. He may be able to fill Kenseth's shoes but it may take a year or two. Can Ricky Stenhouse Jr really make the Chase in 2013?
The last time a rookie driver made the Chase was Denny Hamlin back in the 2006 season. Matt Kenseth's #17 team from 2012 will move to Carl Edwards' #99 car for 2013. Stenhouse will have first year crew chief Scott Graves turning the wrenches on his team in 2013. The last time a first year crew chief and first year driver finished in the top ten in points was 2002 when Ryan Newman and Matt Borland did it. He is being given a pit crew that was with a team that missed the Chase in 2012. Can Ricky Stenhouse Jr really make the chase? The odds are against him.
If you look at who can make the Chase for Roush Fenway Racing, there are two drivers left for the organization. One of the drivers is Greg Biffle. Biffle has made the Chase in four of the last five seasons and after a season in which Biffle finished fifth in the point standings and won two races, the odds he makes the Chase are pretty good.
That leaves Carl Edwards. Edwards is coming off easily his worst season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He will be getting a new crew chief in Jimmy Fennig. Fennig has been a crew chief in the Cup Series since 1987 when he started working for Stavola Brothers Racing with driver Bobby Allison. Fennig is old school and his resume is one that cannot be argued with. Fennig has won 36 races in his Cup career including two Daytona 500's and the 2004 championship with driver Kurt Busch. Edwards will also get one of the best pit crews in the business with Matt Kenseth's "Killer Bees" who are still very good and perhaps the best pit crew in the organization.
In order for Roush-Fenway Racing not to take a step back next season Edwards has to make the Chase, win a bunch of races and compete for the championship just like Kenseth did in 2012. If Edwards fails to do that people will be questioning whether Carl Edwards can be a lead driver at an organization or just an overpaid one who can win a few races here and there.
Joe Gibbs Racing courted Edwards hard in the 2011 season to drive their #20 Toyota. When Edwards signed with Roush-Fenway Racing, reports had the contract around 20 million dollars a season. One has to think that hamstrung Roush-Fenway's ability to sign Matt Kenseth to a long term contract.
All that added with the fact that a rookie driver is coming to the organization makes the 2013 season the biggest season in Carl Edwards' career.
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