Free agent-to-be Matt Kenseth said Friday he still doesn’t have anything lined up for next year. And he’s not fretting about it.
Kenseth, 45, is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season. The team will put Erik Jones in the No. 20 car in 2018, leaving Kenseth without a ride. He said Friday that all of his thought is geared towards the 2017 season. And that he’s not worried about 2018.
“I’ll let you know when I know something,” Kenseth said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m just, I’m not worried about it even really one percent anymore, to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it. It’s not – I’m really concerned about 2017 and that’s the truth. I mean we’ve got thirteen races or something left. Three to try to get into – I think three to try to get into the playoffs.
Kenseth currently occupies the final spot in the Cup Series playoffs via points. He’s winless in 2017 and had a chance to win last week at Michigan as he was on the inside line on the final restart and right behind eventual race-winner Kyle Larson. But Kenseth had a flat tire and fell to 24th. He said Friday that he got “ran over” by Chase Elliott — another driver trying to get into the playoffs via points — on that last restart.
The 2003 champion’s free agency comes at an inopportune time. Five years ago, Kenseth likely wouldn’t have had to wait very long for a job. Heck, at this point in 2012 he was in his final season at Roush and already set for a move to JGR in 2013.
But as sponsorship dollars have decreased in NASCAR — and don’t go as far as they used to — teams are choosing inexpensive young drivers for the next few years instead of an accomplished veteran (and his corresponding salary). Jones is currently in his first season in the Cup Series, while Hendrick Motorsports has filled its two 2018 openings with a driver with no Cup Series experience (William Byron) and one who hasn’t driven in a Cup points race at all in 2017 (Alex Bowman).
Meanwhile, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne also don’t have rides lined up for next season. Will they, along with Kenseth have a job in 2018? Our guess is they will. But we have no idea just where those rides will be.
– – – – – – –