banner
Jerry Bonkowski

Can Kenseth still win Cup title this year?

Posted June 26, 2012

Tuesday morning's announcement that Matt Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing will part ways at the end of this season is a real head-scratcher and leaves nothing but lots of questions and few answers in its wake.

Why would Jack Roush part ways with his most veteran driver? Why would Kenseth want to leave a place that has been his only home for all but one of his 452 career Sprint Cup starts?

Perhaps the most puzzling question of all is a two-parter: How can Roush simply let the current Sprint Cup points leader get away, and how, if at all, will Tuesday's news affect the No. 17 team's bid for its second Cup championship?

Roush has already announced Kenseth's replacement, naming 2011 Nationwide Series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to take over the No. 17. That's great news for Stenhouse, but obviously has to be a blow for 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, who many expected to be the next promotion to the Cup series within RFR.

“Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the race track,” Roush said. “We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team."

On the flip side, Stenhouse's gain could also be Bayne's gain, as he moves up one position and into the top replacement spot on the RFR bench. Of course, that means either Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards will have to leave – which I don't see happening any time soon – or RFR goes back to a four-car team, another thing I don't see happening any time soon unless a major sponsor comes out of nowhere to fund a fourth car operation.

“We take great pride in the depth of the bench here,” said RFR team president Steve Newmark. “The organization’s ability to identify and develop new talent is part of our DNA and a cornerstone of our success.”

Still, while it appears there may be a lot of winners out of this whole thing – Kenseth gets his freedom to go elsewhere (and likely for a much larger contract), Stenhouse fulfills his dream of becoming a Cup driver and Bayne gets moved up on the depth chart – what happens to the rest of the No. 17 team for the remaining 20 races on the schedule?

How can what is now a lame-duck team keep itself motivated, knowing its driver – someone that most current team members have grown so close to in almost brotherly-like fashion – is gone at season's end?

Sure, they could do the "Win one for the Gipper" routine and give Kenseth the best going-away present he could possibly ask for.

But typically in NASCAR, when it's announced so early-on that a driver is leaving for another team, the crew members he leaves behind aren't always necessarily retained for the new guy behind the wheel. So in light of Tuesday's news, don't be surprised if some of Kenseth's current crew members start brushing up their resumes and begin some serious job hunting.

That will lead to distraction bordering on disinterest. Sure, some crew members may wind up going with Kenseth to his new home – be it the rumored Joe Gibbs Racing, or perhaps others that may have openings after this season, including Richard Childress Racing or Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – but Tuesday's announcement boils down to one thing:

The timing couldn't have been worst for a driver and team that want to win another championship. But Roush still went ahead with making Tuesday's announcement.

“I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service,” Roush said. “Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family.

"We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins.

"The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”

Sure, it would be a storybook ending to Kenseth's career at RFR if he wins the Cup crown at the end of this season. It would be a hell of a way to say goodbye to an organization that has supported him for well over a decade, as well as to say hello to his new destination, wherever that may be.

I understand RFR's reason to make the announcement now. It's simple: sponsorship. The marketing and sales execs at RFR now have about a six-month lead to start promoting and pushing Stenhouse as their newest driver – and potentially the next big star on the Sprint Cup series.

That makes sense.

Meanwhile, Kenseth is playing his cards close to the vest, as he has done for most of his career. While the odds are he'll wind up at JGR as either the replacement for Joey Logano in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota – provided Logano's contract is not renewed at season's end, of course – or to fill the long-anticipated fourth car for the organization, nothing is for certain.

Rumors have been mounting that Jeff Burton may be on the way out at RCR – and given his performance the last year and a half, it would not be overly surprising to see him depart. If team owner Richard Childress doesn't promote grandson Austin Dillon to replace Burton (and Dillon is still a good one or two more years away from that level), Kenseth would be a perfect fit to fill the shoes of Burton, his former Roush teammate, at Childress.

And then there's EGR. Team owner Chip Ganassi has shown incredible patience and restraint in trying to build his organization into a respectable championship contender. But other than a few highlights, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya are just not getting it done there. Could Kenseth be the kind of guy that would not only reinvigorate EGR, but also bring it the consistency and success it has so desperately sought for more than the past decade?

If Richard Petty Motorsports or Penske Racing decide to expand from two to three cars for 2013, Kenseth would also be an attractive choice – if he isn't close to being signed, sealed and delivered to another team. After all, it's not every day that you can pick up a former Cup and two-time Daytona 500 champion.

Time will tell what Kenseth does in the next 20 races – his final 20 races for RFR. He's a racer's racer, someone who came up the hard way, starting on the short tracks of Midwest. He's worked for everything he's ever earned; nothing has come easy to the affable native of Cambridge, Wis.
It would be great to see him go out of RFR as a champion once again. Kenseth may be soft-spoken, but underneath that mild mannered exterior is one of the most competitive drivers you'll find on the Sprint Cup circuit. If his team doesn't give up on him, Kenseth will not give up on them.

And if he ultimately does not end up as champion in 2012, what better way to show how glad he is to be with a new organization than to go out and win the title in his first year there in 2013.
Or best yet, do both – win the title in his last year at RFR and repeat with his new team next season.

If anyone can pull that off, Kenseth can.

Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • NASCAR: Folds of Honor 500 in Atlanta

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on FOX50

  • AAC: SMU at UConn

    Tomorrow at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Big Ten: Michigan State at Wisconsin

    Tomorrow at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: Wake Forest at Duke

    Monday at 8:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NBA: LA Clippers at Chicago

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • Big Ten: Michigan State at Wisconsin

    Tomorrow at 4:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NHL Hurricanes at Chicago

    Monday at 8:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • ACC: NC State at Clemson

    Tuesday at 9:00 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
UCF 66
ECU 71
Final
BC 79
NCSU 63
Final
MIAMI 64
UNC 73
Final
NCCU 72
COOK 49
 
Final
NYI 3
CAR 5
Final
DUKE 73
SYR 54
Final
WAS 99
DET 95
Final
MIA 91
ATL 93
Final
NYK 103
TOR 98
Final
MIN 97
MEM 101
Final
DAL 94
BRK 104
 
Final
UTA 82
MIL 75
 
Final
PHO 74
SAN 101
 
Final
LIP 94
KNST 75
 
Final
GHND 47
NAVY 57
 
Final
LAF 74
ARMY 64
 
Final
AMER 69
BUCK 71
 
Final
UCF 66
ECU 71
Final
STJ 81
GEOR 70
Final
CLEM 70
GT 63
Final
COL 61
LEH 55
 
Final
FSU 59
LOU 81
Final
MD 66
MICH 56
Final
UGA 68
MIZZ 44
Final
BC 79
NCSU 63
Final
LAS 56
RIU 59
Final
UNH 65
MAINE 56
 
Final
IUPUI 80
NEOM 87
 
Final
WINT 80
PBY 53
 
Final
VMI 69
SAMF 80
 
Final
CITA 54
WCU 67
 
Final
DEP 53
BUT 67
Final
LONG 70
CAMP 65
 
Final
TULA 47
CIN 63
Final
VCU 55
DAY 59
Final
TOWS 60
DEL 65
 
Final
WMARY 66
DREX 80
 
Final
JVU 75
FLGC 67
 
Final
EVAN 67
ILLST 69
 
Final
BRAD 52
INDST 60
 
Final
MIAMI 64
UNC 73
Final
WICHS 74
NIOWA 60
Final
UWGB 83
OU 63
 
Final
LSU 73
MISS 63
Final
OKLA 67
TCU 60
Final
BING 76
UMBC 69
 
Final
AFA 60
UTST 74
Final
GTDNS 79
VERM 73
 
Final
XAV 66
VILL 78
Final
MNTER 74
WAGN 64
 
Final
ILLCH 61
WRST 46
 
Final
YALE 90
SARAHLAW 55
 
Final
UAB 100
MTST 95
Final
NDAK 65
SUTAH 71
 
Final
LIB 77
UNCA 95
 
Final
CHIST 65
WLVRN 44
 
Final
UMO 57
BGU 62
 
Final
SHU 84
LIU 73
 
Final
APP 66
LAMON 43
 
Final
VANDY 73
ALA 66
Final
KENT 84
ARK 67
Final
NCCU 72
COOK 49
 
Final
MRGST 77
COPST 88
 
Final
SHU 67
CREI 66
Final
BONA 92
DUQ 75
Final
MERC 69
ETST 64
 
Final
UMASS 82
FORD 74
Final
RAD 72
GWEBB 62
 
Final
JMU 82
HOF 73
 
Final
BU 70
HC 77
 
Final
KYST 70
ISU 69
Final
DELST 65
MDES 69
 
Final
LOYC 65
MIZST 51
 
Final
IDAHO 80
MNTST 73
 
Final
MCNST 83
NICST 78
 
Final
TTU 63
OKST 62
Final
PORT 66
SDU 78
 
Final
BRY 61
Terriers 51
 
Final
RMU 71
RFLSH 70
 
Final
UVA 69
VT 57
Final
BAY 78
WVU 66
Final
FUR 60
WOFF 62
 
Final
SILL 63
DRAK 57
 
Final
FD 73
CCST 66
 
Final
WMICH 80
EMICH 72
 
Final
CSOU 97
HIGH 93
 
Final
UNCG 58
CHAT 61
 
Final
SD 80
SDKST 64
 
Final
CARK 74
SELA 72
 
Final
KU 69
TEX 64
Final
EWASH 76
MONT 77
 
Final
TROY 64
UGST 75
 
Final
TXST 70
ARKST 60
 
Final
UNT 57
ODU 70
Final
CORN 45
DART 56
 
Final
NCAT 77
FAM 65
 
Final
PSU 77
IOWA 81
Final
MORE 87
JVST 55
 
Final
PEPP 65
LMU 49
 
Final
SCAR 81
MSST 68
Final
BRO 62
PRIN 80
 
Final
NEV 62
SJST 51
Final
SCST 57
SAV 68
 
Final
BEL 88
TENST 62
 
Final
UF 66
TENN 49
Final
ALAST 49
TXSOU 58
 
Final
SOUTH 71
ALCOR 63
 
Final
JST 73
MVSU 49
 
Final
SEMIZ 89
PEAY 65
 
Final
TOL 70
BST 59
 
Final
KSU 65
BUF 71
 
Final
LBSU 70
CSFU 47
 
Final
MARS 79
FATL 63
Final
STLU 50
GMAS 78
Final
DAVID 77
GWU 66
Final
CLMB 70
HARV 80
 
Final
LAM 79
INCWORD 66
 
Final
YOUNG 74
UWMIL 82
 
Final
ELON 74
UNCW 55
 
Final
ILL 86
NW 60
Final
YALE 55
PENN 50
 
Final
STJOE 57
RICH 63
Final
UNF 86
STET 71
 
Final
HART 59
USB 74
 
Final
DUKE 73
SYR 54
Final
EKENT 70
TENT 67
 
Final
LATU 76
TXSA 66
Final
NKENTUCKY 84
USCU 65
 
Final
MAST 84
WILL 64
 
Final
UMKC 70
GRCN 65
 
Final
NO 75
ABCHRIST 55
 
Final
TENNM 67
MURST 73
 
Final
HOW 67
HAMP 68
 
Final
ALAAM 72
PVU 75
 
Final
SDST 46
BSU 56
Final
NILL 73
CMICH 55
 
Final
RICE 76
CHAR 77
Final
ORU 60
DEN 57
 
Final
WKENT 77
FIU 61
 
8:00pm Tonight
TXPA 0
NMST 0
 
Final
COC 56
NE 65
 
Final
SCU 71
GAELS 70
 
Final
HOUB 87
STEPH 102
 
Final
SMISS 63
UTEP 60
Final
MEM 72
TULSA 74
 
Final
UNLV 69
WYO 57
Final
TXARL 82
ARKLR 73
 
Final
TEXAM 80
AUB 55
Final
LALAF 68
GSOUT 58
 
Final
ARKPB 66
GRAM 57
 
Final
TAMCC 61
SHSU 59
 
2nd
UTAH 57
ARZ 58
 
Final
NCOL 76
NARZ 74
 
2nd
GONZ 47
BYU 53
 
2nd
WEBER 43
IDST 44
 
2nd
FRES 35
NMU 33
 
2nd
USF 42
PAC 40
 
2nd
CPSL 37
UCD 50
 
2nd
PORST 49
SACST 53
 
Half
SEAT 24
CALST 14
 
Half
CSNO 36
UCR 36
 
Half
USC 27
WASH 22
 
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
UCI
 
Final
FLA 5
BUF 3
Final
NAS 3
DET 4
Final
NYI 3
CAR 5
Final
CLB 0
NJD 2
Final
BOS 4
ARI 1
Final
MON 4
TOR 0
Final
PHI 4
NYR 2
2nd
COL 1
MIN 2
 
2nd
SJS 1
OTT 1
 
2nd
EDM 1
STL 1