Matt Kenseth returns to Roush Fenway Racing, plans on staying awhile

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Matt Kenseth (Getty Pictures)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a heat homecoming type of spirit, Roush Fenway Racing introduced Wednesday that veteran driver Matt Kenseth, who gained a Monster Power NASCAR Cup championship with the staff in 2003, would return to the group subsequent month and share driving time with Trevor Bayne within the No. 6 Ford. 

Kenseth, forty six, spent his first thirteen full-time Monster Power Collection seasons driving for Roush — profitable a pair of Daytona 500 trophies and the season title — earlier than shifting to Joe Gibbs Racing, the place he competed from 2013-17. 

Whereas the Roush workforce stated it hadn’t formalized Kenseth’s full 2018 schedule but, it did affirm that his first race again within the automotive can be Might 12 at Kansas Speedway, the place Kenseth has a pair of victories. He will even drive the automotive within the Monster Power NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway every week later, Might 19. 

The group’s announcement Wednesday on the NASCAR Corridor of Fame additionally included news that the Wyndham Lodge Group has joined the workforce as a brand new main sponsor and can be on the No. 6 for Kenseth’s season debut at Kansas. 

It was longtime Roush Fenway Racing driver and NASCAR Corridor of Famer Mark Martin who launched Kenseth formally to the gathered crowd of reporters and followers. He referenced Kenseth as his “favourite driver” a number of occasions through the hourlong announcement, talking concerning the good feeling he had from his first assembly with Kenseth many years in the past. 

“I had so much to do with bringing him right here 20 years in the past and I am actually, actually excited to introduce him right here today,” Martin stated. 

Kenseth took the stage and instantly joked together with his shut good friend, saying that if he had waited for Martin to retire earlier than getting a shot in Roush’s No. 6 automotive, “I might have been 39 [years old] my rookie yr.” 

All through the formal portion of the announcement, Kenseth spoke typically of his want to not solely drive however to be an extended-time period useful resource for the group – no matter that wanted to be, in no matter position he wanted to serve. 

“The timing, to you guys, it might sound bizarre, however the timing was proper,” Kenseth stated. “And it was the appropriate deal. It is thrilling bringing a brand new sponsor into the game on the similar time and all of it simply lined up and appeared like the correct factor on the proper time.” 

He added that he meant for this skilled reunion to final awhile. 

“I feel that is what all our hopes are – is to proceed this long run and get again to turning the TV on and seeing the Roush automobiles up entrance each week,” Kenseth stated, including, “I might say this chance might be as a lot about the remainder of it — the remainder of my position and potential future position than it’s simply the driving. 

“It is extra about coming right here and making an attempt to assist and coming to see what the farther-out future seems to be like for me.” 

Kenseth’s previous with the Roush group was among the many group’s most profitable. The Wisconsin driver earned the longtime NASCAR workforce proprietor his first Monster Power Collection championship in 2003. Kenseth scored 24 of his 39 wins with Roush — together with the group’s solely two Daytona 500 victories in 2009 and 2012. 

Since Kenseth left Roush following the 2012 season, the staff has earned solely seven extra wins. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drives the No. 17, gained twice final yr and is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET Sunday; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). 

“Matt is likely one of the guys who actually put us on the map of the racing panorama,” workforce proprietor Jack Roush stated. “He is probably the most gifted drivers to ever sit inside a race automotive and his will to win, drive and willpower have all the time embodied what we attempt for as a corporation.”

Roush conceded, nevertheless, that the rationale he hadn’t approached Kenseth earlier a few reunion was as a result of he nonetheless wasn’t utterly over Kenseth’s transfer from Roush to Gibbs six years in the past.

“His query to me was, ‘Why did it take so lengthy?’ for me to name,” Roush stated, noting Kenseth’s transfer to Gibbs was painful on the time. 

“We had one other championship on the market, I assumed, that we might have had briefly order. I missed that, so it took me a short while to recover from it.”

The temper was noticeably optimistic concerning the modifications and potential of the brand new-look workforce, nevertheless, and Kenseth reiterated he was keen to get racing once more. 

Kenseth stated he has watched all of the Monster Power Collection races this season on tv, though he allowed that he has “in all probability watched extra intently the previous few weeks.”

He stated he hasn’t spoken to Bayne but about sharing the No. 6 Ford the rest of the season, however he deliberate to speak to him within the subsequent week. 

Within the meantime, Roush Fenway Racing will arrive at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend as defending race champion — a place Kenseth hopes will occur extra steadily going ahead. 

As Martin reminded the gang, ‘”Simply since you stroll away from the race automotive for some time doesn’t suggest you are carried out eternally.”

Holly Cain writes for the NASCAR Wire Service.