Roush Fenway Racing confirmed NASCAR’s hottest rumor Wednesday by bringing Matt Kenseth back into the fold.
The pairing is a familiar one as Kenseth found success early in his NASCAR career with team owner Jack Roush. However, the two split up after 2012 and Kenseth was left without a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing last year with the addition of Erik Jones.
By bringing Kenseth back to RFR, the hope is his experience can help turn the organization around. But to help clear up any remaining questions about the news, here’s a breakdown of some of the thoughts from the parties involved:
Why is Matt Kenseth back?
The simple answer is he never wanted to leave in the first place, and he called this opportunity the right deal at the right time. But for Roush Fenway, it’s also about leaning on experience. Said team president Steve Newmark, “Our focus right now is bringing Matt back into the fold and seeing how he can help us become a better organization.”
Asked if this was a sponsor or performance based decision, Newmark said it was an “overall company-performance issue.”
How will the races be split between Kenseth and Trevor Bayne?
“Our goal is to have Trevor continue to grow and mature on the track,” said Newmark. “We’re proud of having him as part of our family.”
How long is this deal with Kenseth?
All parties said that also is being worked on. But Roush noted, “We see a potential for Matt being involved with the company and race team past his driving. We haven’t talked much about that, but we certainly feel like he’s come home to us.”
Have Kenseth and Bayne talked about this?
Not yet. Kenseth expressed hope of speaking with Bayne in the coming weeks when things settle down.
“My hope is we can get together face-to-face, sooner than later – hopefully next week – and sit and have a long talk, because I really feel like there are a lot of things I could probably help him with,” said Kenseth.
Kenseth said he did speak with RFR’s other driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., yesterday.
How did Bayne (pictured above) take the news?
Per Newmark, “I think he reacted just the way any of us would. He’s a fierce competitor. He wants to be in the car every week – Cup, Xfinity, he’ll drive anything. We continue to have a dialogue and I think he’ll see this as an opportunity to continue to excel. But there’s no doubt that when we had the dialogue about it, that his first reaction was, ‘I want to be in the car every week.’ In fact, we wouldn’t want it any other way. If we had a driver who just kind of acquiesced, that would be an inherent problem in itself.”
Is this all about getting back behind the wheel for Kenseth?
The 2003 Cup champion did not want to leave his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota last year but had no choice with the team’s addition of Jones. Wednesday, Kenseth admitted if he just wanted to drive he could have taken other opportunities and shown up earlier this year at Daytona. But with Roush Fenway it’s about driving, helping and setting himself up for the future.
“I would say this opportunity is probably as much about the rest of it – the rest of my role and possible future role – than it is just driving,” Kenseth (pictured at left, above, with Jack Roush and former team driver Mark Martin at today’s announcement) said. “It’s more about coming here and trying to help and coming to see what the farther-out future looks like for me three, four, five years down the road. I feel like I can be a real asset in a lot of different ways besides just driving.
“I hope that turns out to be true, so it’s as much about that as it is driving the race cars. I’m really competitive, obviously, with whatever I do and if I’m not in the car, there’s nothing I want more than Ricky or Trevor to be out there running up front and improving and doing better and working hard at it and hopefully being successful.