BACK IN THE GAME

NASCAR report: What is next for Roush Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne?

Matt Kenseth is back. But what does it all mean? NASCAR.com

SB Nation Automotive reporter Jordan Bianchi announced yesterday that 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Matt Kenseth would be coming out of “retirement.”  Kenseth will be driving the No. 6 Advocare Ford for his former boss Jack Roush. Kenseth will be spliting time with the team’s current driver, Trevor Bayne. His first start will come at Kansas Motor Speedway on May 12.   This was a shocking revelation for all NASCAR fans including myself.

Last November at Texas Motor Speedway, Kenseth informed NASCAR’s NBC reporter Nate Ryan that he would be “stepping away from the sport” in 2018.  Fans initially assumed this would just be a short break but later it became more and more likely that when the checkered flag flew at the season finale in Homestead, he would ride off into the sunset.   This announcement changes things.

 Jack Roush’s decision to put Kenseth in the No. 6 car leads to many questions, such as how many races will Kenseth run?  What will happen to current driver Trevor Bayne? Who will drive the No. 6 car for 2019? Most importantly, why make this decision 10 races into the season?  I hope to give some insight on why this is happening now, and what we think we can expect moving forward.

Unfortunately, Bayne has had a season to forget.  Bayne is currently sitting at 21st in points and with an average finish of 23.9.  This change at this point in the season may be surprising, but it isn’t exactly unprecedented.  In 2010 When Ricky Stenhouse Jr was a rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity series, he hit everything but the pace car.  Stenhouse’s season started out with 4 out of his 10 starts ending in crashes. Stenhouse sat out for three races while Brian Ickler filled in for him.   

Stenhouse returned and went on to an impressive third-place finish at Daytona and scored seven top-10s during the remaining season. The next two seasons, Stenhouse went on to win two NASCAR Xfinity championships and was called up to Cup series in 2013, replacing ironically enough Matt Kenseth in the 17 car.  Could this just be Jack Roush trying to motivate Bayne like he did with Stenhouse? This would be my guess seeing how this is something the owner did in the past that seemed to work. Stenhouse has had a great deal of success in both the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, winning two races last year. Roush and fans are hoping that Kenseth will be the incentive that Bayne needs to become a better race car driver.

NASCAR fans I am sure are all wondering if Kenseth will return as a full-time driver for 2019?  Learning Kenseth was returning to the cup series many (including myself) thought that the veteran driver would replace Bayne altogether.  While this is still not out of the realm of possibility, I think it is somewhat unlikely.

Kenseth is 46 years old and more than likely he was already closer to retiring than we think.  While yes, there have been outliers like Mark Martin, who drove well into his fifties, this is not typical. Martin considered retirement at least three times before he actually decided to finally hang it up, running part time in his first “retirement” years in 2007 and 2008 and finally retiring with a full schedule for 2009.

Martin was in a much better situation than Kenseth is currently. Martin was driving for a championship caliber team at Hendrick Motorsports, while Kenseth is inheriting a car and team that is 26th in points. As much as I would like to say that he is going to run the full season next year, I just don’t see it happening unless their performance gets TREMENDOUSLY better.

Could this be Bayne’s choice? Unfortunately, he has not had any success since his 2011 Daytona 500 victory with the Wood Brothers.  During his full-time tenure at Roush, his best points finish was 22nd in 2016 and 2017. While he has shown flashes of potential, he has simply not been running well, and as a driver that must wear on him.

Look at Greg Biffle;  while he was much older when he decided to leave NASCAR and Roush Racing, he became discouraged when he wasn’t getting the results and has not raced since. While it would seem unlikely to think that a race car driver at the age of 27 would want to give up full time racing there are other factors for Bayne.  In 2012, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He seems to have this under control and is maintaining his grueling 36-race schedule but could he possibly be tired of the grind or is this schedule affecting his health? Could he want to spend more time with his ever-growing family?

So, what is next?  In my opinion, I do not believe Kenseth or Bayne will be racing full time next season.   Maybe Jack Roush decides to use a new driver in the No. 6 car or just run one car next season. I would love to see Bayne move to the Xfinity series and try to revitalize his career there, or maybe he will just stop racing all together.   I also believe that Kenseth will return to retirement once he has run all scheduled races. I could be wrong, as it has also been rumored that Kenseth and Stenhouse will switch teams to give Kenseth his old number back. Should be interesting to see what is next for this team as we watch all of this unfold.  

 

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Springer had two homers Sunday

Springer helps lift Astros to series win over D-backs

Photo by Bob Levey / Getty Images

With a win on Saturday to tie the series 1-1, the Astros took the field at Minute Maid Park for the last time of 2020 on Sunday. A victory would give them the series against Arizona and move them one step closer to securing one of the two playoff spots for the AL West's highest-record finishing duo. Here are the quick highlights from Sunday's rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 27-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-1, 2.41 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-2, 3.04 ERA).

Urquidy goes six while allowing two runs

After three scoreless innings on both sides, Arizona would start the scoring in the top of the fourth. They would load the bases with no outs against Jose Urquidy, getting back-to-back singles to start the frame before Urquidy issued a walk. He would get out of the jam with just one run allowed, though, thanks to a timely double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The D-backs ambushed Urquidy in the top of the fifth, getting a leadoff solo homer to double their lead to 2-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings while allowing just the two runs. His final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 90 P.

Springer takes it into his own hands

After tagging him with eight runs on August 4th in Arizona, the Astros were unable to figure out Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, going scoreless over his five innings on the mound. They went to work against Arizona's bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a near-conventional homerun turned inside-the-park homer for George Springer to start the inning, cutting the lead in half 2-1.

They went on to load the bases with two outs but would strand all three runners to keep it a one-run game heading to the seventh. Andre Scrubb was first out of Houston's bullpen and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the seventh, Springer tied the game with his second homer in as many innings, this time over the right-field fence, making it 2-2.

Astros grab the late lead, take the series

Scrubb would retire one more batter, getting a groundout to start the top of the eighth before Houston moved on to Blake Taylor to face the top of Arizona's order. He would keep it a tie game, working around a two-out infield single to end the inning.

Houston would get the go-ahead run in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, with Alex Bregman getting hit by a pitch then moving to second on a walk to Michael Brantley. They'd go on to load the bases with another walk and one out, setting up a go-ahead sac fly by Carlos Correa to take a 3-2 lead.

That presented another chance for a save for Ryan Pressly, which he would notch as the Astros would take the final two games of the three-game set to win the series. The win moved them up to 27-26 on the year, keeping them a leg up on the Mariners for second place in the AL West.

Up Next: Seven games remain in Houston's regular season, all on the road, with a three-game series in Seattle against the Mariners and then a four-game set in Arlington against the Rangers. The opener in Seattle will get underway at 8:10 PM Central on Monday and features the pitching matchup of Marco Gonzalez (6-2, 3.49 ERA) for the Mariners and Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 4.87 ERA) for the Astros.

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