Roush Fenway Racing is turning to a familiar face to help evaluate its program – the driver it won its first championship with, Matt Kenseth.
Wednesday morning at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Kenseth was officially announced as the second driver of the Roush Fenway No. 6 Ford. He will split time with Trevor Bayne, the primary driver since 2015. Wyndham Resorts was also announced as a new team partner.
Kansas Speedway in three weeks will be Kenseth’s return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.
“You kind of know when something feels right, certainly to come back and hopefully help Jack who has done so much in my career,” said Kenseth. “Hopefully, get Roush Fenway Racing running better again. I feel like they’ve definitely been trending in the right direction, Ricky [Stenhouse Jr.] won a couple of races last year at the restrictor-plate tracks.
“I think it’s a good challenge for me that I’m really looking forward to, and really not only the driving part but the rest of it to get in there and get my hands dirty and try to evaluate what we can do better.
“The timing was right and it was the right deal. It just all lined up and seemed like the right thing at the right time.”
Of course, the press conference did come with a bit of humor. Team owner Jack Roush offered a sly smile when saying he was still getting over Kenseth leaving him five years ago for Joe Gibbs Racing before being able to pick up the phone.
“When I contacted Matt to see if he had interest in getting involved with our limited program with the objectives we had set forth, his question to me was, ‘Why did it take you so long to call?'” said Roush.
“I still had a little bit of a rawness over the fact that he left me when he did. We had another championship out there, I thought.”
Kenseth drove for RFR from 1999-2012, winning the 2003 championship and 24 races, including two in the Daytona 500.
For the immediate future the hope is that Kenseth – who Roush complimented as being a driver with a keen sense of diagnosing a car and problem – can at least guide Roush Fenway in the direction it needs to be to contend on a weekly basis.
“[This is] a chance to look at our cars and find out if there’s something glaring that Matt would see from his experience that would be in line with Mark [Martin’s] impression if he was in the cars,” said Roush. “But we’re also anxious to start building back on the 33 races that Matt’s won in Xfinity as well as Cup and add to that. Whether there’s another championship in there for Matt with Roush Fenway, that remains to be seen, that’s in years two and three – if there is a year two and three for Matt in the car. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Bayne has failed to win a race in a Roush car and has been no higher than 22nd in points in each of his three full seasons. Stenhouse qualified for the playoffs last year after winning his first two career races.
Going into this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway Stenhouse is 19th in points and Bayne sits 26th. Bayne has not yet scored a top-10 finish this year. Stenhouse has shown improvement in recent weeks but has a lone top-10 result.
On the Xfinity Series side, Roush will look at Kenseth’s experience to also guide young drivers such as Ryan Reed, Chase Briscoe, and Ty Majeski.
Details such as how long Kenseth will be behind the wheel and what the schedule will be between he and Bayne is still being worked out, said team president Steve Newmark. The hope expressed from all involved was to continue together long-term.
Said Newmark, “Our focus right now is bringing Matt back into the fold and seeing how he can help us be a better organization.”