If you haven’t yet heard the news, 46-year-old former series champion Matt Kenseth is returning to Roush Fenway Racing in a part-time role for the remainder of the season in the No. 6 Ford Fusion splitting time with Trevor Bayne. The team is expected to announce the move tomorrow in a morning press conference.
Kenseth retired from full-time racing at the end of last season when he was left with no ride being replaced in the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth struggled out of the gates last season, but quickly caught fire in the second-half that culminated with a victory at Phoenix in the second-to-last race of the season in what many believed was a storybook ending to an illustrious career.
I for one was not enthused at a season without Matt Kenseth. He proved he was still worthy of a top-tier ride in the series and unlike fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport did not pass him by. He was still running up front and contending for races, which is exactly why he wasn’t going to lessen himself for a non-competitive ride, nor should he.
A return to Roush Fenway should have come this off-season, but better late than never. It’s where Kenseth started his career and won a title, and it’s where he will likely finish it be it this season or next. The team can compete at certain tracks, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pulled out a pair of wins in ’17 at super-speedways and scored a top-5 finish a few weeks back at Bristol. The Fords have been able to run up front with the Toyota’s so far this year and having a wheel-man in Kenseth vastly improves the odds for the No. 6 team.
Lets be real, Trevor Bayne never lived up to the hype. Credit to him he scored a win in the Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers No. 21 in 2011, but hasn’t done anything since. With good equipment he’s failed to close or compete in just about every chance he’s gotten in a ride that other really good drivers in the series would die to have. He should’ve been replaced after last season, but credit the team for not waiting a full season and getting Kenseth back at the track, even on a limited schedule. He gives the team the best shot to score top-10 finishes, something the two-car team has done just once this season, secure sponsorship and overall just improve the competitiveness of their racing program.
This is a move that is great for NASCAR as they get one of the best drivers of this generation back in the car and at the racetrack with something left in the tank and a hilarous entertainer who always kills his pre and post-race interviews. It’s just as good for Roush Fenway as they may even contend for some races with their No. 6 team. Kenseth’s first race back in a Ford for Roush will reportedly come in a few weeks at Kansas on May 12th, a track the veteran has won at six times in his career.
Matt Kenseth returning is a no-brainer and great decision. Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank