Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says the return of Matt Kenseth to Roush Fenway Racing has helped – him at least.
“It’s helped me considerably, just confidence-wise,” said Stenhouse. “Knowing that the information I was relaying back to the team was accurate when Matt came over. The things that I was looking for my car to do or asking it to do, and asking the team to somehow figure out how to get it driving like I want, wasn’t out of the ordinary.”
Kenseth was announced as a part-time addition the No. 6 Ford in May. Splitting the ride with Trevor Bayne, the hope is that 2003 champion will help with righting the ship.
Stenhouse’s two restrictor-plate wins last season were the first for the company since 2014, and put them back into the playoffs. But this year, the struggles of both cars are again showing. The Nos. 6 and 17 are winless and have a combined three top-10 finishes, all from Stenhouse.
Kenseth said recently that while it is taking time for the results to show, steps up in performance are being made. But for Stenhouse, Kenseth has validated the issues he has been complaining about with his No. 17 Ford. A 39-race winner, Kenseth can pull from the experience of driving for Joe Gibbs Racing for the last five years, one of the top organizations in the series.
“The things that I complained about in my car, he said, ‘yeah, we didn’t have that issue over there; we definitely had it driving more like what you’re wanting it to’,” Stenhouse said. “From that aspect it’s been really good. I think also from the aspect of there’s still a lot of people [here] that were there when he won the championship and his races, and still believe in what he can do.
“So, it’s been nice to have him just kind of get my confidence back to where I think it should be.”
And there has been a common theme within the company of what the two cars are fighting.
“Most of the time we’re struggling with – and all teams struggle with it, but some do it faster than others – Denny [Hamlin], most of the time he could leading practice but most of the time you’re fighting front turn, and you can’t get the car to turn as good as you want,” said Stenhouse. “When I was winning all the Xfinity races that we won, I’d be leading races but still complaining about that same thing. Some just do it faster than others. Yeah, we’re both needing the same thing. Both needing our cars to turn.
“Something that I feel like [crew chief] Brian Pattie has really helped me finish better than where our cars actually perform is executing, and making sure that he makes the good race calls to finish up front as best we can. So that’s something I feel like Brian does a really good job at it. But as a team and what we need for speed, we both need the same thing.”