COMMENTARY | A nice change of scenery has been a very good thing for many of the drivers that found themselves with new teams going into this season.
When the announcement that Matt Kenseth would be leaving longtime team Roush Fenway Racing to take Joey Logano's spot at Joe Gibbs Racing, it came as a shock to a great deal of people and raised many questions.
Many wondered whether it was a good move by Kenseth to leave what had become a very established partnership for what could be seen as a relative unknown situation with a completely new organization. So far, though, it has worked out great for both Kenseth and Logano as they have seen relative success with their new teams.
Kenseth has gone on to win four races and would be behind only five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in points should the Chase be starting today. Compared to final years he spent in the 17, this is a completely new and welcome sight. He had begun to become just another driver in the Roush stable that had seemed to be holding him back.
Since moving to JGR, Kenseth has had an opportunity to have a great deal of pressure to return to his old self and become more of the leader that he needs to be. It is hard to argue that much of the attention at Roush had shifted toward Carl Edwards and new driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This left little room for a driver like Kenseth to compete and be successful within the team.
With the move of Kenseth to Gibbs, that pushed Logano out and into his new capacity at Penske Racing. This greatly reduced the amount of pressure on him as well due to him no longer being the hot-shot driver tasked with replacing the leaving Tony Stewart in 2009.
With the vacancy left by AJ Allmendinger's suspension, it made Logano's hiring have a far smaller amount of pressure and expectations behind it. This gave Logano a chance to just simply be another driver on a successful team and not have the high expectations put on him with the hype that preceded him to JGR. He also does not have nearly as big of shoes to fill with the rocky history that the 22 had between Allmendinger and Busch before him.
Since he was now just another driver within the Penske stable, it gave Logano much more opportunity to go out and drive each week. This has led to him having a very competitive year up until the last few weeks when he has run into a small streak of bad luck. It has gotten to the point that it is only a manner of time before he finally hits his sweet spot and begins to put together a good string of finishes.
The benefits of finding a new home have shown in more than just the large teams, though. The most evident example of this is Kurt Busch and his new ride with Furniture Row Racing. Busch is obviously in a rebuilding portion of his career after two not-so-happy partings with both Roush and Penske.
He has had a great opportunity to redeem himself and show that he can be the driver without all the baggage that was beginning to become so prevalent recently. He has also shown that smaller teams can be competitive and show a great deal of opportunity if they are given the outlet to prove themselves along with the big boys.
If this season is any indication of how beneficial a new team or driver can be, next year is going to interesting to watch with Harvick and Newman both moving on to different teams.
Matt Fitzgerald lives in Las Vegas and has been following NASCAR for 15 years now. He never misses a race and goes to as many as possible at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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- Matt Kenseth
- Joey Logano
- Roush Fenway Racing
- Joe Gibbs Racing