Let's start silly season: Kenseth may be driving somewhere else in 2018

Matt Kenseth isn’t too optimistic about his chances of returning to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018.

Friday, Kenseth said he didn’t think coming back to the team was an option. Kenseth’s contract expires at the end of the season and team owner Joe Gibbs said earlier in the year that while the team would like to keep Kenseth, it hadn’t solidified anything beyond 2017.

“Like I said, I don’t have a ride at this moment for next year,” Kenseth said. “I haven’t really worked on anything real hard. I do not think I will have the option to race at JGR next year, unfortunately.”

Kenseth — and all of Joe Gibbs Racing — is winless through the first 17 races of the Cup Series season. He’s currently the last driver in the playoffs via points.

He joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 after spending the first 13 seasons of his Cup career with Roush Fenway Racing. In his four-plus years with JGR, Kenseth has won 14 races.

Kenseth was sponsored by Dollar General when he arrived at JGR but the company ended its NASCAR sponsorships at the end of the 2016 season. In 2017, Kenseth has had seven different companies as a primary sponsor including two races picked up by Toyota, the team’s manufacturer.

JGR has Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez signed beyond 2017. Erik Jones would seem to be the logical replacement for Kenseth in the No. 20, but there are a few complications there.

Jones is spending his rookie 2017 season at Furniture Row Racing with primary sponsorship from 5-Hour Energy. But there’s a caveat to the 5-Hour sponsorship, which was signed months before Monster Energy became the title sponsor of the Cup Series. Because Monster is the title sponsor, 5-Hour can’t leave FRR as long as Monster has that title sponsorship. So that means Jones, 21, would need sponsorship in the No. 20 too.

Kenseth has said multiple times that he has no intention of retiring after the season and would seem to have multiple options for 2018 if he doesn’t stay with JGR. Hendrick Motorsports is looking for a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car and there could be movement at other teams based off how contracts and sponsorships play out.

 

Junior said Friday afternoon that he was confident Kenseth would have a good ride in 2018.

“I think that it’s smart for him to let everybody know early what his plans are or the lack thereof,” Junior said. “He is a talented guy who is just a couple of races removed from being a winner and could show up any week and get to victory lane …  But Matt will get a job, he is so good and so talented that he will be in a great car with a great opportunity next year no less than what he has this year.”


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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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