What happened: Matt Kenseth will return to the NASCAR Cup Series on a part-time basis, Roush Fenway Racing officially announced Wednesday. As Jordan Bianchi of SBNation.com first reported, Kenseth will split the No. 6 car with Trevor Bayne at Roush, where Kenseth started his career. Kenseth’s first race back will be the Kansas Speedway race in May.
What it means: Roush found a new sponsor, and it’s likely any sponsor wants a big-name driver if possible. It certainly makes a deal more attractive. That coincided with an opportunity to improve performance; Bayne’s best finish this season is 12th and he sits 26th in the point standings, while teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 19th in the standings. At the very least, Kenseth can come in, drive some races and give feedback on whether the problem is the cars or the drivers. He just won his second-to-last start in November and the cars haven’t changed much since then.
News value (scale of 1-10): Uh, 9? Pretty high! As far as driver comebacks, the only thing bigger would be if Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart decided to race again for some reason. This is also be significant in the ongoing narrative about young drivers, since it could represent a shift back toward putting value on veteran performance.
Three questions: How will Kenseth perform in what currently appears to be second-tier equipment? How many races will he ultimately drive this season? Is there still time for Bayne to save his job, or is this the beginning of the end?