Tag:Talladega Superspeedway
Posted on: October 26, 2011 4:48 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 5:04 pm

Report: Knaus told Johnson to damage car

By Pete Pistone

It's not often you hear a crew chief instruct a driver to damage a race car but that's exactly what Chad Knaus did to Jimmie Johnson last Sunday at Talladega.

According to a report by SB Nation, Knaus told Johnson prior to Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 to damage the Lowe's Chevrolet in a post race victory celebration had the team won.

The article goes on to describe the conversation (here's an audio clip) between the crew chief and driver:

"If we win this race, you have to crack the back of the car," Knaus could be heard telling Johnson on the recording. "Got it?"

"Really?" Johnson replied, sounding surprised.

"Yes," Knaus said. "Got it? You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?"

After Johnson responds with apparent silence (he can't be heard saying anything else), Knaus added, "You'll be alright. Can't take any chances."  

Johnson's car did pass inspection three times over the weekend including opening day, pre qualifying and pre race.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:14 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

By Pete Pistone

  Clint Bowyer, Driver Of The #33 Chevy 100 Years Chevrolet, Leads
(For many the advent of the two-car tandem has negatively impacted racing at Talladega and Daytona)

Controversy and Talladega Superspeedway have been married to one another since the sprawling track was born back in 1969. 

Driver boycotts, lightning fast speeds, horrific crashes and since it debuted in 1987, restrictor plate racing, have kept Talladega in the headlines pretty much on an annual basis every NASCAR season. 

The latest chapter in the track’s stormy history was written on Sunday, but this one might not be very easy to brush off.

There was a distinct distaste in the air during and after the Good Sam Club 500 that more than likely will linger for some time – or at least until the tandem style of racing disappears. 

Which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon. 

While some drivers, crew chiefs and fans do like this next evolution of restrictor plate racing, they seem to be in the minority.

There’s a lot more opposition to the phenomenon and that’s even resonating with the sanctioning body itself.

NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell took to his Twitter account after Sunday’s race to offer this assessment of the final plate race of the season: "Know we have work to do on superspeedway [racing] and we'll certainly stay after it.'' 

The response isn’t surprising when some of the sport’s biggest names have spoken out about their distaste for what has become of the racing at both Talladega and Daytona.

“Yea, bored,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought the crowd to its feet when he got to the lead for a lap before filing back to hook up with Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson as a drafting partner. “I'd rather race up in there and try to lead laps and do whatever but it's really not my style of racing. Being pushed and carrying on all day long. Trying to lead a couple of laps that are sort of meaningless really doesn't make a lot of sense either.” 

Even though all drivers understand the benefit of hooking up in the nose-to-tail formation and how it’s now become a necessary part of the equation, the practice is still not universally accepted. 

“From the driver’s seat, I’m not a big fan of it,” said Matt Kenseth. “There’s just not a lot we can do about it, unless the cars or the rules or something changes. There’s not really anything you’re going to do about it because it’s so much faster, but driving I’m not a real big fan of it.” 

Watching drivers ride around for three plus hours in two car pods until all try to make a mad dash to the checkered flag isn’t winning over many fans either. While Sunday’s crowd was announced at over 100,000, it was hard not to notice the chunks of unused grandstand areas around the at one time jam packed Talladega Superspeedway. 

"Most of them will say to us, 'It was kind of neat at first, but I'd really like to see what I used to see, which is the big packs,' " Talladega president Grant Lynch told The Roanoke Times of customer reaction he’s heard on the pairs racing. "I like that probably better myself.'' 

The strategy of hanging in the back of the field for the majority of the event and then making a move for the lead in the latter stages of the race has also come under fire. 

Fans pay to see drivers “race,” something that is not being done when they drop anchor at the drop of the green flag and simply go on a Sunday drive for most of the afternoon. It goes against what the sport is supposed to be about and that is to get to the front as fast as possible and stay there. 

The perception of the head to the rear philosophy is that drivers simply are not trying. Strategy or not, the idea is something fans don’t want to watch and its understandable if some who bought a ticket for Sunday’s race or watched on television felt cheated by the experience. 

The tandem racing also brought into light another major hot button topic over the weekend regarding team orders and drivers being told who they had to race with and weren’t able to help. 

Now it’s not the first time since the advent of plate racing that we’ve heard drivers accuse one another of reneging on deals to draft when it came down to nitty gritty time. 

The very nature of racing at Talladega has always been about wheeling and dealing and being on the lookout for drafting partners. More often than not those alliances disappear when the checkered flag comes into sight. 

But the process has seemingly become much more premeditated today with individual race teams and manufacturers dictating who their drivers can and cannot work with in the draft. 

It came to a head when Trevor Bayne agreed to run with Jeff Gordon in the closing laps only to bail in favor of Ford stable mate Kenseth. 

Bayne said he was the victim of being caught in the middle while his team co-owner Eddie Wood reiterated there wasn’t any pre-race plan in place for Ford drivers only to work with fellow Blue Oval mates.

And Jack Roush, despite the official Ford Racing website stating otherwise, vehemently denied any such plan was in place with a statement of his own. 

The bottom line is manufacturers and teams do dictate how drivers behave on the race track putting the men behind the wheel in compromising situations that certainly have an impact on winning or losing. 

So the laundry list of what’s wrong with restrictor plate racing today definitely outweighs what’s right, which is an odd statement in light of Clint Bowyer edging Jeff Burton by .017-seconds to win Sunday’s race.

However while the finishes of recent Daytona and Talladega races have been close and exciting, the journey to get there is fraught with troubles.

But what can be done to address these issues and “fix” the problems? 

Good question.

"You have to be very careful because the cure could be way worse than the disease," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "We're here to make things as even as we can across the board but we do understand that the likelihood of [two-car drafts] gaining popularity is not there.''

Pemberton is probably right, but that’s not a comforting answer to thousands of unsatisfied race fans in the aftermath of Sunday’s trip to Talladega.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:36 am

Jack Roush says no "team orders" for Talladega

Posted by Pete Pistone

Team owner Jack Roush issued a statement Tuesday morning denying he gave any kind of "team orders" prior to the weekend's race at Talladega:

Oct. 25, 2011- Statement from Jack Roush, co-owner Roush Fenway Racing regarding Sunday’s Sprint Cup Race at Talladega:

“At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race. That is a philosophy that we have lived by for over two decades, and one that we will continue to abide by going forward. 

"Of course, as in any team, we would prefer for our drivers to work together when possible. However, to be clear, we did not micromanage or dictate to any of our drivers, nor any other Ford drivers, how to race with other drivers at Talladega last Sunday.  There are unique codes that all drivers establish and have to live by on the track.  How they manage their code is up to our drivers as individuals. This weekend, there were no team orders, from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway, given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not choose to run with or assist, nor did I give similar directions or suggestion to any of the other Ford drivers.

“I’ve spoken with Trevor (Bayne) and understand that he was put in a situation requiring a split-second decision on the track and in his response to questions justifying his actions afterwards, where it was almost certain that not everyone was going to be satisfied.  Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy. I’m confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I'm excited as we continue to move forward with his development."


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Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:27 am

Owner Eddie Wood denies "team orders" given

Posted by Pete Pistone

Wood Bros. co-owner Eddie Wood denied any type of "team orders" were given at Talladega this weekend that may have led to the decision of driver Trevor Bayne working with Matt Kenseth rather than Chevrolet's Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500.

Wood was a guest on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" and provided his perspective of Sunday's controversial finish:


However there is still confusion around the weekend's directives based on a story posted prior to Talladega on the Ford Racing website, which would indicate team owner Jack Roush did indeed mandate drivers from within the manufacturer stable to work with only one another.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 11:16 am

Trevor Bayne explains Talladega decision

Posted by Pete Pistone

Trevor Bayne explained what happened in the closing laps of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway when he made his weekly appearance on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" on Tuesday morning:


Trevor, let’s cut to the chase, you have been the focal point of headlines and conversation since the checkered flag flew at Talladega and we need your help.  Walk us through the end of the race when you committed to go with Jeff Gordon in the last couple of laps there and then all of a sudden bail out and go with Matt Kenseth, Walk us through the arrangement to go with Jeff Gordon and why the decision to leave him and go with Matt Kenseth.

Yes Sir.  Well it starts early in the week when everybody’s arranging with who they’re going to work with and what they’re going to do when they get to Talladega.  Every team out there has a plan when they get there, that’s why you see some teams in the back of the field and you see some teams leading and you see teams working together.   With us being a singe car team and being the 9<sup>th</sup> man out we knew we could be put in a tough situation at Talladega, not having someone to work with and having to find someone when we got there.   So Eddie Wood and Lynn and Donnie, we were kind of talking about it when we got there, we don’t want to work with anybody in the chase because we don’t want to get in the middle of it, we’re just going to stay out of the middle of everything and lay low, we have nothing to gain either way.  So the whole race long  I was working with Robby Gordon, because he’s not a chase driver, even though he’s a different manufacturer.

I had to work with somebody because I would have went a lap down if I rode around by myself.  So we worked with Robby Gordon and ended up pushing him up to the front actually.  It was pretty wild to see how fast our 21 Ford Motorcraft Quick Lane car was, it could go with anybody and just drive up to the front.  At one point we were 12 seconds back and drove up to the lead, so it was pretty cool to see our car was that fast.  And in our plan, all week long we talked about being the 9<sup>th</sup> man out, it was just, if a Ford needed help, if anybody needed help that was in our same kind of camp, then we’d help them.  Just because, if that’s how it came down and somebody needed us to work with them that’s in the same camp, then we’d work with them, so before the race started I told Robby Gordon that, I was like, “hey man, I’ll work with ya, but if Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle or anybody needs a teammate, then I gotta go draft with em”  He was like, “That’s awesome man, that’s cool, I’m good with it, I appreciate you working with me.”

So, when Allmendinger crashed I worked with Ambrose, I was really fast with him, drove up to the lead, car was really really good pushing, so uh, let me see here… where do I go from there…  this is when the mayhem starts breaking loose.  We’re coming through 1 and 2 and Marcos Ambrose gets in the crash with the 78, when he gets wrecked, we lost our drafting partner, we get to the restart and I’m behind Jeff Gordon.  So, at this point, Matt Kenseth has David Ragan, Greg Biffle has Carl Edwards, Allmendinger and Ambrose are at the back, the 34 and 38 are somewhere else working together, so when I lined up behind Jeff Gordon I was like, man this is perfect.  Everybody’s got partners, I don’t have to worry about a thing, we can go with Jeff here.  I started talking on the radio, at the time we actually thought Casey Mears was going to line up in front of us, so Casey is on the radio and is like, hey man can you work with us, I was like yeah, I think we can do that if you line up in front of us and we’ll see how it shakes out, and then the lineup changed and they put Jeff Gordon in front of us, and that’s when we started talking to Jeff, he got on the radio when I was still talking to Casey and I was like, who’s this, and he said it’s Jeff Gordon man are you going to work with us or what? And I was like, yeah sure, this is going to be awesome, since I was five years old I’ve dreamed about pushing Jeff Gordon or racing with Jeff Gordon going for a win and trying to beat him, so, I’m like, pumped about it, I’m thinking, this is awesome, I’m going to work with Jeff Gordon and I’m going to push him to the end.  So, I talked to him and I’m like , yeah we can work together, but obviously if a Ford needs help I have to go with them.

And I probably should have said that to him at the time, I think I took it for granted because we had 2 laps to go and everybody had a teammate, so I was just ready to go with Jeff and work with him.  Then we took the green flag and the 6 car blew up.  When the 6 car blew up, Matt Kenseth pulled up to our bumper and then there’s a Ford in need, which we had committed to all week, we said, If a ford needs us, we’re going to go help them.  That’s just common sense that any team would do, its not us saying, don’t work with anybody else, its not a team saying, go make arrangements with a team and then go leave somebody, its not premeditated, its not like Jack Roush came on the radio and said, hey go tell Jeff you’ll work with him then leave him.  You know, it was none of that, its just the fact that, all of a sudden with two laps to go there was a Ford on our bumper and he didn’t have a drafting partner and at that point, it’s a tough decision because I gave Ford my word all week long and now I have Jeff Gordon in front of me who you want to work with, who you just talked to about working with and then everything changes in the matter of a lap.

It was probably the hardest thing I had come up in my whole career to be between two drivers and you can’t keep all three cars together.  I mean, for the last two days I’ve been trying to think about how I can keep all three cars attached and when I talked to Jeff Gordon about it, he kind of laughed and was like, man there’s nothing you could do, you know, I mean, Jeff and I are fine, talking about everything we’ve been through.  He just said, hey man, my fans are going to take it hard on you, you know, you and I are good, you’re a good kid, I understand the situation you were put in.  Honestly I believe that if it was a ten lap shootout,  and we got five laps into it and our teammate blew up, we would have had time to say hey man, we gotta go and he’d have understood, just like when there’s one lap to go and you have to help your teammate, it’s the same thing it just happens a lot quicker and you don’t have time to talk about it and work through it.  So, really really tough situation and I just hate how it turned out because, I would have loved nothing more than to go up there and try to win that race with Jeff Gordon.


We understand that you have a boss and a team and a manufacturer, and I understand the way you put it, the situation you were put in,  Is that a tough situation, is that a fair situation Trevor to have drivers be put in on the race track in the middle of trying to the bottom line is, win the race?


Well, if you don’t have a plan going into a superspeedway race, you’re going to be in trouble.  If you don’t have teams saying, hey, we’re going to work together and this is our plan then you might as well not go to the racetrack, that’s just a product of the racing we’re in right now at the superspeedway.  If we don’t have that kind of racing, if it’s a big pack, then you don’t have to make those arrangements, but if you don’t then you’re left in the water dead.  You gotta have some kind of plan, it is a very very tough situation, because you don’t want to be out there and have to help somebody and choose who you’re going to help or make deals with people or whatever it is.  And uh, I care a lot about what people think, and that’s been the hardest part about this whole deal.

I think that’s what God’s really working on my heart in, He knows that, when I go on twitter and I see people sending hate mail or this or that, it goes straight to heart.  That’s something that, through this process, I’ve learned to numb it down a little bit.  When I was talking to Jeff Gordon yesterday he said, hey man, my first year was my hardest year that I’ve ever been through for that exact reason.  People are going to say stuff, things are going to be said and you just gotta take some of it and you gotta throw some of it out.  Just learn from it, and that’s what I’m doing here, You know, just, man, that’s some of the toughest stuff I’ve ever been through. 


It looked like if you stayed with the 24, you guys were going to win the race, either Jeff or you would have won,  it appears that that commitment to Ford ultimately cost you a chance at victory, are you ok with that?

It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had come up in my career to be between two drivers and can’t keep all three cars together. For the last two days I’ve tried to think about how I could keep three cars attached. When I talked to Jeff Gordon about it, he laughed about it. He’s like, “Man, there was nothing you could do there.

Jeff and I are fine, talking about everything that we’ve been through. He just said that, “Hey, fans are going to take it hard on you, but you and I are good, you’re a good kid, I understand the situation you were put in."

Honestly, I believe if it would have been a 10-lap shootout  and we got five laps into it and one of our teammates blew up, then we would have had time to say, “Hey, man, we’ve got to go,’’  and he would have understood. Just like with one lap to go and somebody blows up and you’ve got to help your teammate.  It’s the same thing, it just happens a lot quicker and there’s no time to talk about it and work through it. Really, really tough situation. I hate how it turned out. I would have loved nothing more than to try to win that race with Jeff Gordon.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:06 pm

Around the Circuit: weekend web wrap

Posted by Pete Pistone

News, notes and nuggets from around the Worldwide Web in the aftermath of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

RACIN' TODAY - "A Sad View from the Grandstands"

VIRGINIA PILOT - "Restrictor Plate NASCAR Offers Two-Car Pairings, Crashes and a Double Cross"

MOTOR RACING NETWORK.COM - "Rough Day for Chase Contenders"

USA TODAY - "Clint Bowyer Wins Talladega in Race of Broken Alliances"

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER - "Bowyer Breaks Away for Talladega Win"

SCENE DAILY - "Team Orders Lead to Controversy, Confusion at Talladega"
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:51 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 11:52 am

Charting the Chase: Talladega

By Pete Pistone

A quick look at how the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers fared in Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.  

Carl Edwards (Talladega: 11th) – Played the conservative game and rode around in the back of the pack before hooking up with teammate Greg Biffle and drafted to the front to score a finish good enough to help increase his series point lead to fourteen.

Chase Chatter: “That was a heck of a day for teamwork. Greg (Biffle) did an unbelievable job of sticking with me and we get to come out of here extending our points lead, which is good.” 

Matt Kenseth (Talladega: 18th) – Not a fan of tandem racing and got caught up in the game of trying to find a right partner at the end. Kenseth did get with David Ragan but time had already run out to make a move.

Chase Chatter:  “We got in up there real high and had a bunch of cars pass us. It was disappointing to run in the front all day and then finish where we finished but we made it through so I guess the damage could have been worse.”

Brad Keselowski (Talladega: Fourth) – Found a bit of an odd drafting partner in Dave Blaney but the pair up worked well enough for Keselowski to knock down a Top 5 finish and climb further up the Chase standings.

Chase Chatter: “This is what we need to do.  We needed to have a strong run here.  We put ourselves in contention and you know the fates didn’t smile on us, but we still got a great finish out of it and I’m proud of my team.” 

Tony Stewart (Talladega: Seventh) – Moved up through the early going when he drafted with Joey Logano and then hooked up with Paul Menard to make a potent pair. Until Menard left Stewart and he was forced to drop back out of the lead pack. 

Chase Chatter:  “I screwed up and got out of sync with Ryan (Newman) and crashed him, and after that you just had to pick up whoever you could pick up. We had a good run with Joey (Logano) there for a long time and were lucky enough to pick Paul Menard up. I had good partners to push with. Paul and Joey both did a great job and Ryan did a great job. I let Ryan down today.”
Kevin Harvick (Talladega: 32nd) – Got caught up in the big melee on the frontstretch. The RCR team tried to make repairs and get Harvick back out but an oil leak finally doomed the No. 29 team, which took a big hit in the standings.

Chase Chatter:   "It is a little bit frustrating. You do what you think is right at this particular race track and you hope for the best. We had a lot of great runs in the weeks leading up to this and I guess the odds were against us coming into this one."

Kyle Busch (Talladega: 33rd) – More than likely saw his championship hopes go completely out the window when he was swept up in the same multi-car wreck that bit Harvick.

Chase Chatter: (Crew chief Dave Rogers) “I want to go to Martinsville and I want to sit on the pole, I want to lead every lap and I want to win the race. That was my mindset four hours ago and it’s going to be my mindset in six, seven days. We’re going to try to lead every lap and win every race from here on out and wherever that puts us in the points at the end of the year, we’ll take it.”

Jimmie Johnson (Talladega: 26th) – The reign is over for Johnson as his championship hopes were dashed when he couldn’t get to the front fast enough in the closing laps after hooking up with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. A fifty point deficit is too much to overcome even for Johnson.

Chase Chatter: “We’ve just got to keep fighting and keep working on getting every point we can at every race. We have no clue what’s going to happen to all the Chase drivers and I want to finish as high as I possibly can in the Chase. That does mean the championship. If it’s not there, I want to finish as high as I possibly can.”

Kurt Busch (Talladega: 36th) – A hard crash into Bobby Labonte ended Busch’s day on a sour note and added the Penske Racing driver to the list of championship also rans in 2011.

Chase Chatter:  “Our championship hopes are done just because of this two-car Talladega draft. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Talladega: 25th) – Was hindered by Hendrick’s decision to keep Junior back in the pack with Johnson and when it was time to go, time ran out for Earnhardt. Needless to say he’s also not a fan of today’s restrictor plate racing.

Chase Chatter: "Yea, bored. I'd rather race up in there and try to lead laps and do whatever but it's really not my style of racing. Being pushed and carrying on all day long. Trying to lead a couple of laps that are sort of meaningless really doesn't make a lot of sense either.”

Jeff Gordon (Talladega: 27th) – Was embroiled in the end of race controversy with Trevor Bayne, who after agreeing to draft with Gordon bailed for another Ford teammate in the closing run to the finish line. Gordon had a strong car and looked very capable of a seventh Talladega win.

Chase Chatter:  I was going to go with the No. 13 but Trevor (Bayne) lined up behind me and when he agreed to it and I said hey, we can’t go with a better person than that. He’s got a fast race car; we already have history of working well together and I thought it was a no-brainer. But I probably should have known better.”

Denny Hamlin (Talladega: Eighth) – Was a man without a country early in the race when Hamlin couldn’t find a drafting partner and fell a lap down. The day got worse later when he spun but somehow Hamlin fought his way back to come home with a Top 10 finish.

Ryan Newman (Talladega: 38<sup>th</sup>) – Got taken out by teammate and boss Tony Stewart when the duo tried to tandem draft together but the plan went seriously wrong and Newman’s day ended very early.


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Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:16 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 6:35 am

Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon feud

By Pete Pistone

Restrictor plate racing and its new tandem drafting style claimed another pair of drivers who don't see eye to eye in the aftermath of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne, who famously worked together back in Daytona at Speedweeks, were also hooked up in Sunday's final plate race of the year. That is until it mattered most.

Ford driver Bayne bailed from Chevrolet driver Gordon in the final dash to the checkered flag leaving the Hendrick Motorsports driver high and dry. Without a drafting partner Gordon sunk like a rock and finished 27th, a long fall from what looked like it would be a promising day.

"The unfortunate part is that we made a deal with somebody and they reneged on it after we took the green,” Gordon said after the race.

Gordon said at first he was a bit surprised Bayne had even agreed to draft with him given the manufacturer difference between the two. But once the deal was in place, Gordon believed it would stick to the checkered flag.

“I didn’t expect him to agree," Gordon said. "I came on his radio and asked him and he said, 'Yeah man, I’m pushing you. We’re good. Let’s go, let’s go."

Bayne didn't formally comment to the media in Talladega but took to his Twitter account to explain his side of the story.

“I'm not happy about what this has become ... It's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around is,” Bayne tweeted.

“I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell (Jeff Gordon) I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.”

The controversy comes in the wake of several team owners specifiying that their drivers assist only teammates or others within manufacturer camps.

Jack Roush was the most vocal over the weekend reportedly instructing his drivers to not assist anyone outside the Roush Fenway Racing or Ford stable.

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