KANSAS CITY, Kan. – On Friday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, Matt Kenseth’s much-ballyhooed return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing came to a grinding halt.
Kenseth’s No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford failed to make it through pre-qualifying inspection in time for the 46-year-old driver to make a qualifying attempt. That snafu sent Kenseth to the back of the field for Saturday night’s KC Masterpiece 400, where he’ll start 35th in a field of 38.
Before that, Kenseth’s comeback had gone swimmingly. There was a sense of closing the circle in a reunion with his old boss, Jack Roush, for whom Kenseth had won the last championship contested under the Winston Cup banner in 2003.
Kenseth’s ostensible role is to establish a baseline for the Roush Fenway cars of Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., which have been struggling with inconsistency for the past few years. Kenseth’s presence in the No. 6 car comes at Bayne’s expense, but the sport has welcomed the return of the 39-time Cup winner.
Those 39 victories, by the way, are fourth among active drivers behind Jimmie Johnson (83), Kyle Busch (46) and Kevin Harvick (41)—now that Kenseth is an active driver again.
But Friday’s inspection failure was the first real speed bump for the droll Wisconsinite. Kenseth is one of six drivers whose cars failed to make qualifying runs. Among them is Kansas native Clint Bowyer, who starts 33rd on Saturday.
“I guess Matt Kenseth’s big debut being in the 6 car, not getting out on the race track, probably isn’t very good either, but me being at home, that’s a pretty good story,” Bowyer said. “No, we’re stuck back there in jail. I don’t know. I have a pretty bad taste in my mouth right now. It’s hard not to go off, because it’s frustrating.”