Matt Kenseth has announced that he doesn’t expect to be racing full-time in next year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Kenseth broke the news in the run-up to this weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, which way well end up being the first of his final three races before his sabbatical or retirement from the sport.
It was announced back in the summer that Joe Gibbs Racing would not be keeping the 2003 Cup series champion on in the #20 Toyota Camry for 2018. Instead, they would be fielding current NASCAR Cup Series rookie Erik Jones; who has had a solid debut season whilst driving the #77 for Furniture Row Racing.
Following the announcement, speculation was rife as to whether or not Kenseth could secure a seat for next season, with Matt stating on several occasions since that he was trying his best to showcase himself for potential employers. However, today’s announcement seems like a resignation of defeat, as the chance of a seat with one of the front-runners of the sport looks bleak.
Kenseth didn’t want to admit that this move was a retirement when he broke the news, instead alluding to the possibility of a part-time schedule next year if the right offer arose:
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it and pretty much decided after Martinsville, which I kind of already knew anyway, but we decided to take some time off,” Kenseth said, “I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that’s forever. I don’t know if that’s a month or I don’t know if that’s five months. I don’t know if that’s two years. Most likely when you’re gone, you don’t get the opportunity again. I just don’t really feel it’s in the cards.”
“Sometimes you can’t make your own decisions, so people make them for you. That’s unfortunate because I wanted to make my own decisions. I felt like in a way I’ve earned that to be able to go out the way other drivers who had similar careers to dictate when your time is up. Anyway, I just came to the realization it’s probably time to go do something different.”
Kenseth made his full-time Cup series debut in 2000 with Roush Fenway Racing; the team that he had driven with in the NASCAR XFINITY Series on his way to two top three championship finishes in two years. He became the first rookie to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway; a race that would be his first of thirty-eight trips to the Cup series victory lane. He would end up beating his XFINITY Series rival, Dale Earnhardt Jr, to the rookie of the year title that year.
In 2002 he would take five victories, but it was the next season that he would take his championship trophy; despite only taking one win that season. Since then, he’s taken two runner-up finishes in the championship in 2006 and 2013; but a second Cup series championship has always alluded him.
He stated today that his favoured option for next year had been the #5 car for Hendrick Motorsports, but when William Byron was announced as Kasey Kahne‘s replacement in the car, Matt knew he wasn’t likely to get a competitive seat.
“I think I can drive next year if I really wanted to go drive,” Kenseth said, “But do I just want to drive, or do I want to try to win races and championships?”
“Obviously it’s not a situation I want to be in because I don’t really feel like I’m ready to retire or step away. In other ways, I do. It’s been a really really long and frustrating season on a lot of levels.
“With the way everything ended up, I’m just going to take some time for me and my family.”