Sparta, KY – Rumors were beginning to circulate the NASCAR garage that Matt Kenseth wouldn’t be back with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018. When Erik Jones didn’t confirm nor deny that he would be heading back there for next season, the rumors started heating up even more. But, with Kenseth’s media availability on Friday morning from the Kentucky Speedway, it appears that he really is on his way out with the team.
Kenseth, 45, told reporters this morning that as of now, he has no deal in place for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. With it being July already, and Kenseth being a free agent at years end, the fact that he has no update on his contract situation past this season says everything you need to know.
“I’m not really worried about it but as of today, I do not have a job for next year,” Kenseth said. “I hope to still be racing. … I don’t have anything lined up at this moment for 2018. I haven’t worked on anything real hard.
“But I do not think I will have the option to return to race at JGR next year, unfortunately.”
That says it all.
Kenseth, joined JGR in 2013, after 13 seasons with Roush/Fenway Racing. With RFR starting to go in their downward spiral, Kenseth left for brighter pastures at JGR. After all, his teammate Carl Edwards did so just one season prior.
With JGR, Kenseth was a championship threat immediately. He even practically doubled his poles in just one season. He won seven times in just 2013 alone, with 14 victories in the near five years that he’s been with Gibbs.
But, with the youth movement coming, JGR likely wants Jones back and that leaves Kenseth kicked to the curb as a result. From what I’m hearing, it was always supposed to work like this with the plan all along for Jones to be with JGR in 2018.
With that being said, rumors were swirling that Kenseth and Jones will basically ride swap with Kenseth going to Furniture Row Racing in 2018. But, if Kenseth has no talks for that ride or that situation now, it’s not likely going to happen that way. Don’t you think if Kenseth has had talks with joining FRR for 2018, he would have had talks by now?
Especially with him basically coming out and saying today that he’s a free agent next season. This is really out of character for the Wisconsin native and he even said that too.
“I probably already said too much about what I’m not doing next year,” Kenseth continued when asked about whether he will be replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hendrick Motorsports makes the most sense for him, as they really need a transition year or two before William Byron is ready. Kenseth has fully stated he’s not ready to retire just yet, and with HMS needing a veteran to fill a gap, he’s the most logical fit.