Ending an Era for Kenseth and Roush

Photo – ESPN
                 By Andrew Laskey                                           

Sometimes change is necessary and such will be the case for Matt Kenseth at the conclusion of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. While no reason has been given for the change, it will mark the end of one of the longest driver/team combinations currently in NASCAR. Kenseth’s 2013 replacement will be 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series and up and coming driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Despite making his debut for Bill Elliott back in 1998, Matt Kenseth’s entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career has been spent as driver of the #17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing. His first full season was in 2000, when he won rookie of the year and captured his first career win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Following his rookie season, Kenseth remained a fairly consistent front runner. It was his championship season in 2003 that prompted a revamping of the points system and the advent of the chase. Although Kenseth won just one race that season, he was so consistently up front that he scored more points than anyone. In 2004, NASCAR implemented the Chase for the championship that put more emphasis  on winning races instead of consistency. 
Most of Kenseth’s time at Roush Fenway Racing was spent with crew chief Robbie Reiser. The pair were together from 1999 through the end of the 2007 season, accumulating the 2003 championship and 16 wins along the way, making them one of the more successful driver/crew chief combinations. However, at the end of the 2007 season, it was announced that Reiser would move into a management role at Roush. 

Reiser no longer atop the pit box, it became a bit of a struggle for Kenseth, with 2008-2010 being some of the more difficult years of his career, despite winning the 2009 Daytona 500 and the following race of that season. And crew chief changes became rampant with each season that passed. In 2010, Kenseth was finally paired with Jimmy Fennig, who has brought success back to the #17 team in the form of three wins in 2011 and a 4th-place points finish. And certainly that kind of success is reminiscent of the Reiser days.
Photo – Getty Images
Currently in 2012, Kenseth has won the Daytona 500 and is the current points leader, meaning he is on track for another good season.
So, why change a seemingly good situation?
Sometimes relationships run their course and it’s just time to change direction. For Kenseth, he’s ultimately going to be the most sought after free agent for the 2013 season and will undoubtedly find another top tier organization. Maybe this fresh start will propel him to another championship in the coming seasons.


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