There’s no place like home, and for Matt Kenseth, a lot of people felt that Roush Fenway Racing was always that for him. After beginning his career there 18 years ago, he will return to the organization this season.
As announced at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday morning, Kenseth will share the No. 6 Ford Fusion with Trevor Bayne for the rest of the 2018 campaign. Bayne has driven the first nine races this year, with a season-best 12th at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s a great feeling to return to where it all started for me in the Cup Series,” said Kenseth. “There aren’t many people who have been more influential in my racing career than Jack Roush and Mark Martin. For them to believe in me today means almost as much as it did when they believed in me the first time, 20 years ago. I’m excited to get to the shop, get back to work, and help Roush Fenway return to prominence in the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Kenseth felt this partnership with Roush Fenway was the right fit for him at this time in wanting to help Jack Roush after all he had done for Kenseth’s career to date.
“I think they’ve been trending in the right direction,” he said. “I think our bar is on the upswing. I think it’s a good challenge that I’m looking forward to in getting my hands dirty and evaluating what we can do better.”
The details as to whom will drive when have yet to be finalized, but the team confirmed Kenseth’s first race back will be at Kansas Speedway on May 12, and he will run the Monster Energy All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway a week later. While no contract lengths were openly discussed, there were hints of this being a long-term deal with a possibility for Kenseth to be involved with the organization beyond his time behind the wheel.
As of Wednesday morning when the announcement was made, Kenseth said he had yet to speak with Bayne about things, but hoped he embraced the plan and expected to talk with him next week at length. Roush Fenway Racing’s Steve Newmark went on to add that he spoke with Bayne, and thought “he reacted just like any of us would’ve – he’s a fierce competitor wants to be in the car every week,” while adding that there’d be continued dialogue.
Beginning with his rookie campaign in 2000, Kenseth spent the next 13 seasons at Roush Fenway Racing behind the wheel of the No. 17 Ford, winning the Daytona 500 in 2012, followed by a championship a year later. He then went to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, remaining there until the end of last year when he replaced by Erik Jones. In total, the Wisconsin native has captured 39 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories, along with 181 top-fives.
“We are very pleased to welcome Matt back to Roush Fenway,” said team co-owner Jack Roush. “Matt is one of the guys who really put us on the map of the racing landscape. He’s one of the most talented drivers to ever sit inside a race car and his will to win, drive and determination have always embodied what we strive for as an organization.”
Roush added at the announcement that he looks forward to watching Kenseth win more races for the organization while mentoring the team’s younger drivers.
“We look at Matt as the best in the business at being able to access and make our program better,” he continued.
The new partnership brings a new company to the sport, in the form of a multi-year deal with Wyndham Rewards.
“With iconic brands like Wyndham®, Days Inn®, Super 8®, Ramada® and more, Wyndham Rewards was built for the everyday traveler, and that’s who race fans are—they are the folks hitting the road, heading from track to track, supporting their drivers and showing their love of the sport,” said Eliot Hamlisch, vice president of worldwide loyalty and partnerships at Wyndham Hotel Group. “Roush Fenway is one of the most recognized names in racing and the opportunity to work with them in support of Matt’s homecoming is something we see as really special.”
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