|Kenseth will leave Roush Fenway|
Why is RFR severing ties with the former champion and current Sprint Cup Series point leader? It’s a complicated explanation that reaches far beyond the walls at Roush Fenway Racing.
While Kenseth has provided RFR with a spectacular past and an exciting present, the future of the team clearly lies elsewhere. Simply put, Roush Fenway Racing’s driver development pipeline is clogged with talent that will not wait. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. already has a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship on his resume, and is solidly in the running for a second. Trevor Bayne – who has a long-term contract with RFR but no full-time ride -- is a former Daytona 500 champion. Developmental driver Chris Buescher is winning ARCA races by the truckload. If RFR does not offer Stenhouse a top-notch Sprint Cup ride next season, someone else certainly will. Ford Motor Company officials still have nightmares about allowing Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne to slip through their fingers years ago, due to the lack of quality Sprint Cup opportunities. They will not make the same mistake with Stenhouse.
Stenhouse is 24 years old. Kenseth is 40. You do the math.
|Stenhouse gets his chance|
RFR also cannot afford Kenseth any longer. Jack Roush has funded much of Kenseth’s 2011 and 2012 schedules out of his own pocket, and released David Ragan during the offseason when major sponsorship could not be found to keep his team on track. There is no backing on the horizon for Kenseth, either, meaning that a change once again needs to be made.
Roush Fenway ponied up big money recently to re-sign Carl Edwards to a multi-year contract, and signed teammate Greg Biffle to a similarly lucrative contract extension last season. There is only so much money in the contractual coffers, and Stenhouse will drive cheaper than Kenseth.
Joe Gibbs Racing, meanwhile, is desperate to retain The Home Depot as sponsor of its No. 20 Toyota. The home improvement giant enjoyed tremendous success in its early years with JGR, winning races and championships with driver Tony Stewart. They also outran the competition – Lowe’s – on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since The Home Depot has had anything significant to celebrate. They have been to Victory Lane only twice since Stewart flew the coop at the end of the 2008 season, and have been forced to watch from outside the Chase while Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive championships for the competition.
|Logano may still have a future at JGR|
Make no mistake about it, major changes must be made in order for JGR to retain The Home Depot. Bringing in a charismatic, well-known former series champion like Kenseth to drive the No. 20 Toyota will go a long way toward retaining “Big Orange,” especially since Kenseth leads the 2012 Sprint Cup standings.
JGR can offer Kenseth a contract befitting a driver of his stature, and they will.
Kenseth’s hiring does not necessarily mean the end of Logano’s tenure with JGR, however. The Connecticut native is enjoying the best season of his Sprint Cup Series career, with a Sprint Cup win at Pocono Raceway and multiple Nationwide Series victories. That may not be enough to keep his seat in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, but sources say the team is working diligently to secure sponsorship for a long-discussed fourth Sprint Cup entry in 2013, driven by Logano.Photo Credits: NASCAR.com. John Harrelson/Getty Images, si.com