By admin | June 26, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Tuesday, it was announced that 2003(Winston) Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth would not return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2014. This ended recent speculation as to whether or not the driver would be retained after his contract runs out at the end of this season. But it also opened the door for much more speculation as to where he might go and what else might happen.
This domino falling will almost certainly set off a chain reaction of events that will affect several other teams and drivers in the near future.
Here are some random thoughts of mine regarding several issues surrounding the Kenseth departure from RFR.
*Kenseth has a good idea where heâ€™s going- If this announcement of Kensethâ€™s departure holds true to the form as has been the case in so many other similar announcements made in recent years, it was likely made as a preemptive strike prior to some other teamâ€™s press conference to present Kenseth as their new driver.
The rumor mill has centered around Joe Gibbs Racing as the driverâ€™s most likely destination and that certainly is possible with this being the final year of Joey Loganoâ€™s contract with that organization and the fact that JGR is currently one team under the four team limit allowed by NASCAR.
Kenseth may not have a deal etched in stone with JGR or whatever team he hopes to sign with but he is probably close enough that RFR decided to go ahead with this announcement to make it look as if the move was their decision.
*There seems to be an RFR problem as much as anything- Roush Fenway Racing has struggled to find adequate sponsorship for their teams and drivers for a while now. Kensethâ€™s #17 entered the season not fully funded and that seems a bit odd for a driver who is a former champion and who had won three races the season before.
Also, RFR had to drop their flagship car in 2012, the #6 which Mark Martin ushered into NASCAR racing for Jack Roush, because they could not find backing for the ride. The company also cannot find enough sponsorship to fund 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne for a full season in the Nationwide Series.
Rumor has held in previous years that the organization prices themselves out of the market with potential backers and has thus been avoided by companies looking to get involved in NASCAR. There is obviously no way I could know whether or not thatâ€™s true or not but something is obviously amiss there.
And further consider the number of young drivers who have passed through RFRâ€™s doors before fading into racing obscurity. Eric Darnell, Colin Braun and Stephen Leicht were among a number of names once highly regarded by RFR who have since virtually disappeared.
*Possible opening for Bayne in 6 Nationwide car?- Along with the announcement that Kenseth was leaving RFR came the news that he would be replaced in the #17 Ford by defending Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. If that is to be the case, what becomes of Stenhouseâ€™s current ride in the Nationwide Series?
If the organization continues to compete at the Nationwide level it would seem logical to put Trevor Bayne in a fulltime effort there since he is under contract with RFR at least through the 2013 season.
*Donâ€™t feel too happy for Stenhouse just yet- And speaking of Stenhouse, on the surface this appears to be a career making moment for the young driver. However, as was stated before, the #17 car could not get full sponsorship going into 2012 when it had a former champion and proven race winner behind the wheel.
Perhaps RFR has a plan but their track record of late in this matter has not been the best. The #17 may turn out to be no better of a situation going into 2013 than the #6 was going into 2012.
*A development deal for Ross Kenseth?- And finally, one domino that could potentially fall into place might be development deal for Matt Kensethâ€™s son Ross. The up and coming racer does not currently race in either of NASCARâ€™s top divisions so a perspective suitor could certainly sweeten their deal with Kenseth by making room for his son.
Thatâ€™s quite a lot to consider but without a doubt, a lot of thought has already gone into this situation. And there will be many more pieces to fall into place before all is said and done.
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