Kenseth Leaving and Stenhouse Moving Up Could Give Bayne His Big Chance to Shine
Opportunities come and go in NASCAR, but never before have so many come at once.
Points leader Matt Kenseth shocked the entire community in NASCAR when he announced that at the end of 2012, he was leaving Roush-Fenway Racing. To today's fans, Kenseth leaving RFR is on a level of when Mark Martin decided to call it a career the first time in 2005, opting to retire from his long-time owner. Sure, he came back the next year, and then raced from 2009-2011 full-time for Hendrick, but it was a shock at the time.
Kenseth has been the infamous driver with Roush, winning rookie of the year in 2000 and three years later bringing Roush his first-ever championship. His commitment to the team has been strong, even with this season having limited sponsorship.
Now, Kenseth is moving on, and taking over his ride is last year's Nationwide Series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. More than capable of filling the driving role for the No. 17, Stenhouse has shown his skills in defending that championship.
But, amidst all these movements within RFR, could yet another driver get his major break? One that has been limited in his rides in both Cup and Nationwide?
Sure...his name is Trevor Bayne.
The 21-year-old driver, with his clean-cut image and gracious personality, put his stamp in NASCAR last year, pulling off the biggest upset in the sport's history by winning the Daytona 500, his first start in the race and just his second start in the series.
Since then, he's not seen victory lane in Cup, ran limited races in Nationwide this year, and still has not found out what his mystery illness was last season that put him on the sidelines for months. Bayne in a way is now turning into NASCAR's "one-hit wonder" and has seemingly fallen off the radar.
With Stenhouse moving to being a full-time rookie in Sprint Cup next season, this could finally give Bayne the chance to shine on his own in NASCAR.
That's not to say he isn't shining now, as his win at Daytona will forever be his crowning moment. However, because of sponsorship, Bayne has been on the sidelines in the Nationwide Series and only runs a part-time schedule with the Wood Brothers in Cup competition. Now, with Stenhouse moving out of the No. 6 Mustang and into the No. 17 Fusion beginning in 2013, Bayne could be the choice that Roush makes to replace him in the Nationwide Series.
Bayne is talented, and doesn't get under anyone's skin on the track, much like many drivers in the RFR stable. So he is a good fit for the team.
Obviously, Bayne still needs to prove himself in the sport, and also needs to showcase he's not just the one-hit wonder that seems to be carrying with him. Bayne is a strong driver, and has been praised by many of his competitors for his ability and how he handles the pressure of competing on such a big stage.
Stenhouse, meanwhile, has proven he can win a championship as he showed last season, and has ran well in the limited races he ran in Cup, ironically some while he was subbing for Bayne during his hiatus.
Kenseth doesn't need to prove anything, except maybe showing where he will be going in 2013. But, wherever Kenseth goes he is bringing experience, knowledge and a big boost to whichever organization he signs with.
Major opportunities have come for Kenseth and Stenhouse, but the biggest break of them all could be from the driver that was left on the outside looking in, despite being a winner.