CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Roush Fenway Racing has two young drivers in its stable in need of additional seat time.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got the nod this week when the organization picked the defending Nationwide Series champion to replace Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup Series when Kenseth leaves at the end of the season.
No announcement was made regarding Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, who just as easily could have gotten the promotion to a full-time Cup ride.
Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said Wednesday the decision to move Stenhouse up over Bayne was a matter of timing.
“We feel like both of them will be staples in the Cup Series for many years,” Newmark said. “But Ricky is completing his third full season in Nationwide, and we haven’t even run Trevor one full season yet.”
Bayne ran the full Nationwide schedule in 2010, although the first 28 races were with Michael Waltrip Racing. He was scheduled to do the full schedule in 2011, but an illness contracted after a spider bite sidelined him for five races.
Sponsorship woes this season forced RFR to suspend Bayne’s Nationwide program after five races. He’s now running a limited Cup schedule with The Wood Brothers, an affiliate of Roush and the team Bayne took to Victory Lane last year at Daytona.
Stenhouse, meanwhile, won two races en route to his first Nationwide title. This season, he has three wins and third in the standings.
“The goal for Trevor is to have him do exactly what Ricky is doing right now – run a full-time Nationwide program and challenge for the championship,” Newmark said. “It would be our hope and expectation to have him in that car next season.”
Roush has had sponsorship challenges this season: The cars for Kenseth and Stenhouse have limited funding, and the organization is paying out of pocket for some races, while Bayne’s team was shuttered when money didn’t come through. Roush also let David Ragan go at the end of the season because a lack sponsorship sidelined the No. 6 Cup team for all but one race, the Daytona 500 with Stenhouse.
Newmark said sponsorship wouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor next season for Bayne in the Nationwide Series.
“We’ve shown before that when it comes to driver development, sponsorship is a factor, but it’s not the only factor,” he said.
Roush officials are also working on getting Stenhouse into some Cup races this season, but Newmark did not indicate where or when.
And, it’s not clear what number Stenhouse will drive next season. He’s currently the No. 6 in Nationwide, and that’s been a flagship number for Roush in the Cup Series. Kenseth has used the No. 17 for his entire Roush career.
“The number is not something we have put much thought into, but it will be and we’ll have a discussion in the coming weeks,” Newmark said. “Right now the important focus is on getting him into Cup, not that the number is not important, because it is to Ricky and to Jack. But either way, we have two numbers that are pretty near and dear to Jack’s heart.”