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Stenhouse-Kelley reunion highlights RFR moves

November 19, 2013, Staff reports,

Duo won two consecutive Nationwide Series championships

The driver and crew chief who won two championships together for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series are being reunited -- at NASCAR's premier level.

Roush Fenway Racing announced on Tuesday a personnel shuffle that includes Mike Kelley, the crew chief who won back-to-back titles with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the Nationwide Series in 2011 and 2012, being reunited with his old driver in the Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2014.

"It’s really exciting to team back up with Mike," Stenhouse said in the team release. "Obviously we have a great chemistry and we have had a great deal of success in the past. Scott (Graves) did a great job of guiding us through our rookie season this year and we look forward to continuing that growth next season."

The changes also include Graves, Stenhouse's crew chief on the No. 17 car in 2013, moving to the Nationwide Series. He'll call the shots for the No. 60 car, which will be manned in 2014 by Chris Buescher. Travis Pastrana drove the No. 60 in 2013, but won't return.

Trevor Bayne, who will return to the No. 6 Ford in the Nationwide Series, has a new crew chief in Chad Norris. Norris has worked with such drivers as Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, and also led Bayne to his first Nationwide Series win in 2011.

And Seth Barbour will sit atop the No. 16 NNS Ford full time with Ryan Reed in 2014.

Edwards will remain with crew chief Jimmy Fennig and Greg Biffle will remain with crew chief Matt Puccia on the Cup side. Both drivers made the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Stenhouse and Kelley worked together for the bulk of three seasons at the Nationwide level, joining forces in the spring of 2010 and going on to win eight races and a pair of championships until Stenhouse moved to the Sprint Cup Series in 2013. With Graves, he had a somewhat uneven rookie season that included one top-five finish -- third at Talladega Superspeedway in the fall -- and a 19th-place finish in the final points standings.

Likewise, Bayne never really emerged as a championship contender in his first full Nationwide season since 2010. He and Kelley won at Iowa Speedway in the spring. Following a 30th-place finish at Road America, Bayne fell to 10th in points, and the No. 6 team was never really a factor in the title race after that. The 2011 Daytona 500 champion, Bayne finished sixth in the Nationwide standings.

"As with any season we always sit down at the end of the year and evaluate where we are, what we have and what we think are the best options to put our teams in the best position to compete for wins and championships," team owner Jack Roush said. "In this case, a reorganization that realigns Ricky and Mike, allows Scott (Graves) to work with Chris (Buescher), and reunites Chad with Trevor, made the most sense.

"Scott will help provide Chris with the type of guidance that helped Ricky improve throughout this season and close out the rookie award. Chad will bring veteran leadership and a steady hand to the No. 6 team with Trevor that we feel will be beneficial."