Matt Kenseth is coming out of retirement to drive the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing for the remainder of the 2020 season, CGR confirmed on Monday.
“I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car. We are doing exactly that with Matt,” Chip Ganassi said in a statement issued on Monday.
Kenseth said in statement: “This was an unexpected opportunity for sure. I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago. After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back.”
Kenseth (48) last competed in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, running a part-time schedule for Roush Fenway Racing.
The 2003 Cup series champion has compiled 39 career series wins throughout his career, including two wins in the Daytona 500. His last win came at Phoenix Raceway in 2017 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Kenseth replaces Kyle Larson, who was suspended by NASCAR and fired by the team on April 14th for using a racial slur during an iRacing event.
NASCAR is looking to return on May 17th at Darlington Raceway, per sources. Kenseth would have to obtain a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for the playoffs since he hasn’t competed this season.
Kenseth Confirms 2018 Suspicions
SPARTA, Ky.— As silly season has ramped up in NASCAR, Matt Kenseth’s name has been brought up as a driver who could leave his current organization, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
"As of today, I do not have a job for next year," Kenseth stated Friday morning in his media availability. "I don't think I'll have the option to race at JGR next year.”
The statement from Kenseth confirmed rumors around the garage that Kenseth would be leaving JGR and racing for a different organization come 2018.
Who replaces Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota Camry? That person could potentially be Erik Jones. When Jones was signed on at Furniture Row Racing for 2017, Joe Gibbs was adamant that the deal with Jones and Barney Visser was for one year only.
Just yesterday, Jones was unable to comment on what his plans for 2018 are:
“I’m just driving. For the most part, for me, whether – I don’t know where I’m going to be yet. They haven’t let me know. For me, I’ve been really happy at Furniture Row (Racing) and it’s been a steady group of guys over there that I think work really well together,” said Jones. “I don’t yet. Hopefully I know soon. You know it’s kind of getting down to that point. I guess it’s July now, so I’m sure we’ll have an answer here soon.”
Where will Kenseth land? How many years does Kenseth have left? The speculation is that Kenseth would be replacing Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports as a placeholder for William Byron in 2019. If Jones is leaving Furniture Row for JGR, Kenseth could potentially move to the No. 77 Toyota Camry.
When asked if it was a possibility, Kenseth stated, “I probably already said too much about what I’m not doing next year, so I don’t really have anything to talk about what I am doing at this point. At this point, I don’t have anything going on next year and am trying to get focused on running better and winning races.”
Despite the rumors and looking for a ride, Kenseth is focused on his performance in 2017.
“It’s been a slow start,” Kenseth said. “It has not been a good year at all. I just want to try to get back to victory lane and qualify for the playoffs and have a shot at the championship.
The landscape of JGR has changed over the past two years. With the vanishing of Carl Edwards, Daniel Suarez was brought up from the Xfinity Series, although most people suspected it would be Jones before Suarez at JGR.
With the comments from Kenseth, the domino about silly season is about to fall.
Kenseth Scores First Pole In 2017 At Richmond
Despite the first two rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying being dominated by Joey Logano, it was Matt Kenseth who grabbed the pole position for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond International Raceway.
“I didn’t feel like I had the perfect lap but I had some great speed,” Kenseth said after qualifying. “The guys didn’t a great job adjusting in between rounds. We had enough speed that we only had to do one lap in each of the first two rounds. We improved a little bit on our second lap (in the final session).”
This was the first pole for Kenseth in the 2017 season, his 19th career pole.
Throughout the qualifying session, drivers were awaiting a cloud to create some shade on the racetrack. However, the shade never came.
Logano was scored as the fastest driver in the first round after posting the same speed as Kevin Harvick at 120.870 mph. Logano gained the top position due to his position in the points standing. Clint Bowyer was third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Notable drivers who did not advance to the second round include Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne, and Austin Dillon. Dillon made one lap at about 82 mph because no matter where he qualified, he would have to start in the rear after failing laser inspection five times.
Logano was fastest in the second round at 121.268 mph, while Harvick posted the second fastest speed in the round at 120.979 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third fastest, Jamie McMurray was fourth fastest, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five in the second round. Bowyer was able to advance to the final round by being higher in points than Ryan Newman as both drivers posted a lap speed at 119.667 mph.
Kenseth played his game in the final round of qualifying to post a speed of 121.076 mph to top Ryan Blaney, who will start second. Truex Jr. will start third, Stenhouse Jr. will start fourth, and Logano will start from the fifth position.
Drivers will have two practice sessions on Saturday before Sunday’s running of the Toyota Owners 400. The race will be broadcasted on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 2:00 pm EST.
MENCS: Kenseth Overcomes Penalties, Sneaks a Third-Place Finish
Until the final few laps of the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500, Matt Kenseth was not a factor to challenge the likes of Kevin Harvick, who led a dominating 292 laps, or even the ultimate winner Brad Keselowski. The No. 20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota driver failed to pick up any stage points or lead laps but in the closing moments of the 325-lap race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kenseth had made a move.
A total of 13 speeding penalties plagued the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field, Kenseth being one of the recipients. "Our DEWALT Camry was fast," he said after the race. "We just sped there on pit road some – all our lights were right so I don’t know. Something happened there and it got us behind."
Kenseth continued to have pit road issues but he was still on the way to a rebound. "We were trying to get caught up and it happened again," he said. "We just had to forget about our indications, go real slow down pit road and finally came back from it all."
"Everybody’s got the (pit road) map but I don’t know what happened there because I was plenty safe from how we set everything, which is the same as last year," Kenseth explained of the many speeding issues he and his fellow drivers faced. "I was plenty safe when we (No. 20 team) got caught and when we went out the second time, I was still playing it safe and we got caught again leaving under that yellow. There was something that just didn’t jive to our calculations for whatever reason."
When Harvick’s chances grew dim with a pit road penalty in the final few laps, Kenseth was ready to pounce but had a little trouble on the ensuing restart. "We were going to line up third," Kenseth explained. "I was like ‘Man, I don’t think anybody is going to beat Kevin (Harvick). He led all day but we might at least have a shot,’ but I ended up second and those first two guys (Keselowski and Kyle Larson) cleared me and I just couldn’t get around them in that many laps."
At the end of the day, despite the penalties, Kenseth was pleased with the comeback but it was not easy. "It was an uphill battle all day," he said. "It took all day to get our laps back and get back into position but we had a good car and are glad we got a decent result."
MENCS: Joe Gibbs Racing 2016 Review, 2017 Preview
he 2016 season for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was one for the record books. The team kicked of their 25th season with winning the Daytona 500 to winning a second consecutive championship. The team formed a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, but that did not stop the success of the organization. Drivers for the organization were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth.
Hamlin kicked off the season at Daytona with a close finish in the Daytona 500 edging out Martin Truex Jr. by .008 seconds. Hamlin’s season was plagued with numerous penalties on pit road. Hamlin was in contention to win numerous races over the season. Hamlin had four DNF’s throughout the season with three resulting from accidents and one engine issue. After winning the season opening race, Hamlin scored victory at Watkins Glen and Richmond, where he started on the pole. With his three wins, Hamlin was able to make the playoffs. Hamlin made it to the third round by the skin of his teeth edging out Austin Dillon by .006 seconds at Talladega. In the third round, Hamlin scored three top-10 finishes, but was able to advance to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Busch picked up in 2016 where he left off after his championship in 2015. His season started out with a third place finish at Daytona. In the following week, Busch won the pole but had to forfeit the pole after his time was disallowed due to failing post-qualifying inspection. Despite losing the pole, Busch captured the pole at Phoenix. Busch captured his first victory of the season and first victory at Martinsville leaving Charlotte and Pocono as the only tracks where he hasn’t won at. He followed up the victory in Martinsville with a win at Texas Motor Speedway. However, Busch was in an accident at Bristol which resulted in his first DNF on the season. However, the rebound came quickly with second place finishes at Richmond and Talladega, and a victory at Kansas Speedway. However, that comeback was short lived with DNF’s at Dover and Charlotte, a 31st place finish at Pocono, and engine issues at Michigan. Busch stayed consistent over the next seven races with a victory at Indianapolis. Bristol was another DNF for Busch as he suffered a crash. Going into the playoffs, Busch started off strong with a win at Chicago that moved him into the next round. In the second round, Busch had strong finishes at Charlotte and Kansas, but was conservative with Kenseth and Edwards to secure a spot in the “Round of 8”. Busch made his way through that round with three top-five finishes in a move to return to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami. However, Busch came up short on a back-to-back championship, but left the season with strong momentum going into 2017.
For Edwards, 2016 would be his last as a driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition. His 2016 season started strong with two top-five finishes at Daytona and Atlanta. After an 18th place finish at Las Vegas, Edwards scored two poles at Texas and Bristol as well as two wins at Bristol and Richmond. His first DNF of the season came at Talladega. His second DNF came two weeks alter at Dover. Edwards was able to recover after Charlotte with three top-10 finishes and a pole at Sonoma. His third DNF came at Daytona, but came into Kentucky with a second place finish. After terrible finishes at New Hampshire and Indianapolis, Edwards posted five top-20 finishes including two poles at Watkins Glen and Bristol. Going into the playoffs, Edwards did not have the momentum, but had the consistency. He scored the pole at New Hampshire in the first round, but no wins. He made it into the second round with finishes of 12th and second at Charlotte and Kansas, and went conservative at Talladega to keep his hopes going into the “Round of 8”. With a win at Texas, Edwards clinched his spot into the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami. Edwards was less than 10 laps away for clinching his first championshi, but greed for position ensued from behind leaving Edwards with a wrecked vehicle.
Kenseth rode in 2016 very quietly. In the first few races of 2016, he was without his veteran spotter, Chris Osborne, after he suffered injury from an accident in the offseason. Kenseth was about a half a mile away from winning another Daytona 500, but a gutsy move pushed him out of the draft and resulted in a 14th place finish. The season did not start off strong for Kenseth; His first top-10 finish in the first eight races came at Phoenix. His second top-10 came at Richmond. His first DNF came at Talladega after an accident on the backstretch. However, the next four races resulted in a top-10 finish including a win at Dover. His next run of top-10 finishes began at Kentuck with three top-10 finishes including a win at New Hampshire. After Indianapolis, Kenseth only had two top finishes before the playoff began. When the playoffs began, Kenseth became more consistent with his top-10 finishes. In the opening round of the playoffs, Kenseth had three top-10 finishes. In the second round, Kenseth won at Kansas to move to the third round. Kenseth came just short in the third round to move to the Championship Round. Kenseth ended the season at Homestead with a seventh place finish.
2017 will be a year of change at Joe Gibbs Racing. With Edwards going into retirement, Daniel Suarez will move on up and have his chance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite not having Edwards, JGR will continue to be the dominate powerhouse in the Cup Series. It will be interesting to see how Hamlin, Busch, and Kenseth will lean on Suarez and vice versa. JGR is the team to watch going into 2017.