Matt Kenseth's Quiet Retirement from NASCAR... or Not!
In the era of big bang "Farwell Tours", NASCAR Cup driver Matt Kenseth may have exited the sport of stock car racing as quietly as the Wisconsin-native has always lived his life. Before getting a full-time ride in NASCAR's Busch Series (now Xfinity) in the late 1990's, Kenseth won numerous track championships up north but was still somewhat of an unknown in NASCAR circles. In 2000, Jack Rousch, a Winston Cup (now Monster Energy Cup) team owner, offered Kenseth a ride. Kenseth beat out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. that year to win NASCAR Rookie of the Year. He also became the only rookie to ever win the famed Charlotte 600-mile event.
Somewhat overshadowed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. throughout his career, Kenseth won the 2003 Cup Championship followed by two Daytona 500 wins. Altogether, he posted 39 wins in Cup with 327 top 10 finishes and 20 poles. Add his 29 Xfinity Series wins with 202 top 10's and 17 poles, and you're talking a Hall of Fame career. Moreover, Kenseth never slowed down after Joe Gibbs Racing announced earlier in the year that Erik Jones (Xfinity Rookie of the Year for 2017) would drive the No. 20 car in 2018. Instead, Kenseth kept himself in the Championship Countdown until a pit road error eliminated him from the round of eight.
It should be pointed out that Kenseth has never officially said that he's finished racing. It certainly was not his idea to leave Joe Gibbs Racing, but his seat in the No. 20 Toyota was simply filled by an up-and-coming talent. In fact, rather than taking everything in stride and counting down the laps for the last two races of 2017, Kenseth claimed victory at the penultimate race in Phoenix (the Can Am 500) and finished seventh in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only time will tell if we see the very likeable 45-year old driver behind the wheel in 2018. But, when it comes to credentials on the track, he has eighteen more combined wins that Earnhardt Jr.
No one ever said racing is easy and Matt Kenseth wouldn't have it any other way.
Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com