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.  

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome