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Ricky Stenhouse to make NASCAR Sprint Cup debut; Matt Kenseth replaces Trevor Bayne in Nationwide race

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Fresh from the first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of his career last Sunday at Iowa Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make an immediate step up in class.

Stenhouse will replace Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday.

Stenhouse also will run Saturday's Top Gear 300 Nationwide race in the No. 6 Roush Fenway car, as scheduled.

Matt Kenseth will fill in for Bayne in the No. 16 RFR Ford in Saturday's Nationwide event. Kenseth is a two-time winner in the series at Charlotte.

Bayne is recuperating from an unidentified illness, perhaps caused by an insect or tick bite that has sidelined him since the April 17 Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Bayne's symptoms have abated, and he is scheduled to return to the track in the June 4 Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bayne will return to the Wood Brothers Ford two weeks later for the Cup race at Michigan.

"Obviously, it's not the circumstances that you want to make your first Sprint Cup start," Stenhouse said. "But you grow up dreaming about this moment, and I'm excited and grateful for the opportunity; to not only make my first start, but to be able to drive the No. 21 Ford of the Wood Brothers in one of the biggest races of the season.

"Trevor is a very good friend of mine, and he's going to be around this weekend, and I know that his help with the transition will be instrumental. Hopefully we can give him an effort that will make him proud before we turn the car back over to him for the rest of the season."

For the Wood Brothers, it's another chance to boost the career of a promising young driver. Stenhouse, 23, was the 2010 rookie of the year in the Nationwide Series.

"We can't wait to have Trevor back with us, but we can't think of a better driver to fill in than Ricky," said Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood. "Ricky has been doing an outstanding job in the Nationwide Series. Like Trevor, he is definitely one of the up-and-coming drivers in our sport, and we're happy that he accepted the offer to step in before Trevor comes back for our next race."