Blog Quickies: Stenhouse over Kenseth?
Jack Roush Taking a Risk... Atta Boy!
Photo by Parker Anderson / Flickr.com
Ricky Stenhouse will replace the outgoing Matt Kenseth in the Cup Series in 2013.
By Peter Carcia
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
So let me get this straight here: Jack Roush, who obviously owns Roush-Fenway Racing, made the decision to part ways with Matt Kenseth, who has two Daytona 500 wins in four years, made the Chase for the last two years in convincing fashion AND right now leading in the points standing, with 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr?
...Talk about a man with guts.
Confusing as this may be, I've got to applaud the guy for attempting to add a fresh face into the series. Think about Stenhouse so far in his career; you've got a kid who broke the ice in a second-tier series struggling to find a driver that wasn't a regular in the Cup Series winning races by snagging both wins at Iowa in 2011 and ultimately became the hallmark for the young guns of NASCAR. Not only that, but he has a little bit of Cup experience already that makes him shine. Remember in 2011 he was a substitute for Trevor Bayne in the Coca Cola 600 of all races while he had that illness. Stenhouse started ninth and finished eleventh in the Wood Brothers ride, the highest finish that the team had since Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 win a few months earlier.
Now we saw it with Bayne winning the 500 and also in his test race before that in the 2010 Texas Chase race where he finished 17th, Cloud Nine for a Nationwide Series driver in his (or her) first Cup Race does some pretty good things to you, but as we've seen with Trevor in his part time ride with the Wood Brothers, we haven't really seen a major spark like we had thought. Sure the guy's had some great finishes; a couple of top tens under his belt are certainly not too shabby for a kid in a part time ride with an underfunded team. But he hasn't really regained that momentum he got in Daytona that would give him a look with impressiveness. If he was going for the Cup, I'd guess he would be ranked in the points anywhere from 15th to 25th possibly.
So will this happen to Stenhouse when it's his turn to become a familiar face in the Cup Series? Well, with a much bigger starting block than Bayne in the Wood Brothers, you would think he would have that extra spark in him. But keep in mind, his rookie year in the Nationwide Series was brutal with disappointment, and look where he is now. I would give it some time but he could be a driving force in the Cup if Jack Roush is able to allow him the time to mature.
But Ricky's talent alone isn't the only reason why I'm happy with the risk. Hopefully Stenhouse will have the legacy of being the raincloud on this awful drought of rookies being allowed their chance in the series to shine. For the 2000s, NASCAR had a steady pace of rookie drivers averaging about five each year with two or three we're seeing now as a big time driver. But since Joey Logano and Scott Speed's battle in 2009, the economy knocked out the opportunity. So I'm hoping that these fresh faces will begin some rethinking about giving new drivers a chance. To me, drivers like Justin Allgaier, Austin Dillon, and Cole Whitt should put their new found glory to the test. Granted the sponsorship packages are hard to handle, but maybe Turner Motorsoprts or Junior Motorsports could bring their staff in or have some of these big teams holding less than four teams brand new drivers to be brought into the series. It's a tough thing to do in this economy, but if Jack Rousch can prove he can do it in Ricky Stenhouse Jr, a new era of drivers could evolve in the next few years.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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