TALLADEGA, Ala. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can now lean on the same guy he turned to for advice at times as a young driver trying to make it to the Cup Series.

He’s hoping the hiring of Matt Kenseth , and a return to Talladega Superspeedway, make for much-needed boosts for struggling Roush Fenway Racing this week.

The 30-year-old Stenhouse’s victory at Talladega last spring was the first Cup win of his career and put a Roush car in the playoffs, which was no small feat for the organization.

“I would like to back up what we were able to do last year with qualifying on the pole and then winning the race,” he said. “That is what we came down here to do.”

Roush could use a jolt of confidence. Once considered among the top teams in the garage, Roush drivers won 15 races in 2005 and had five cars finish in the top 10 in the standings.

But that domination declined over the ensuing decade, and Roush’s top drivers all moved on to different teams.

Although Stenhouse added a second victory last season, at Daytona in July, the organization has not won anything but restrictor-plate races since 2014.

Now Kenseth has come on board to share the No. 6 Ford with Trevor Bayne, who has seen a drop in performance through the first nine races.

Stenhouse has been better, but has had to go to a backup car in three of the first nine races this season because he crashed in practice sessions. He has one top-5 finish this season, is 19th in the standings, and needs to improve on 1.5-mile tracks to legitimately contend for a championship.

Stenhouse is embracing the return of Kenseth, who worked with him some in what is now the Xfinity Series.

“He would run a couple races with us throughout the year and he was in our Cup cars,” Stenhouse said. “I leaned on Matt a lot my rookie year in the Nationwide Series. I called him and would ask him questions trying to figure out when I was struggling.

“I think he did a really good job with me on that. So fast forward to now, after he left and went to (Joe Gibbs Racing) and drove different race cars, for me I am looking forward to his feedback on how our cars drive relative to another organization that is clearly one of the class of the field.”

Kenseth’s debut will be next month at Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile track. Roush is hoping he’ll have a positive impact on Bayne and Stenhouse.

“Our goal is to have Trevor continue to grow and mature on the track,” Roush team president Steve Newmark said. “We hope that Matt’s assistance with all of this will elevate not only Trevor’s performance, but also Ricky’s performance.”

ARCA: Zane Smith edged Joseph Graf Jr. on the second overtime lap to win a crash-filled race at Talladega.

Smith won for the second time in the past three races but this one came by .029 seconds as he and Graf raced side by side throughout the overtime lap.

NASCAR has acquired the ARCA series, a launching pad for drivers looking to reach stock car racing’s top level.

NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president Jim France called the announcement Friday “a big moment for stock car racing in America.”

ARCA will operate under its current structure through 2019, including nine events at NASCAR venues this year. Its stops include Talladega, Daytona International Speedway and Pocono.


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