Lost among all the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Championship 4 hoopla this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway is the fact that for one former champion, Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 could very well be his last race.
Matt Kenseth will climb aboard the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford Sunday and finish his career with the same team that gave him his start as a full-time Cup competitor back in 2000. Regardless of the finish, the 46-year-old driver from Cambridge, Wisconsin, may just ride off into the sunset. He has no full-time ride lined up for 2019. But don’t expect him to become a sort of journeyman driver like Mark Martin, who bounced around and drove for several teams after he left Roush in 2006.
“I’ll never be that short,” Kenseth said Friday at Homestead with his typical dry humor.
No matter what happens next season, however, Kenseth won’t be "retiring."
“I’ve never one time ever said the 'retire' word,” Kenseth said, smiling.
“I was listening to some things, but for right now I don’t see myself at the racetrack, “ Kenseth said.
Instead his focus will turn to just being a father to his three young daughters with his wife, Katie.
Kenseth left Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2017 season. The split left Kenseth without a ride as 2017 came to a close. Many found it somewhat puzzling that the 2003 Cup champion, who has 39 wins to go along with his title, wasn’t snatched up by another top-tier team.
“I did have some opportunities to go race full time last year,” Kenseth said. “I turned them all down. You know maybe earlier in the year like when the news came out in June, maybe if something got together in July and August, I would have still been interested in going back racing full time, but as I got into October, I realized I really wasn’t (going to have that happen).”
Early this year he announced the jump to Roush for a part time ride-share with Trevor Bayne in the No. 6. Roush has been struggling and were looking for some input from the veteran.
After Homestead, Kenseth will have made 15 starts for the team earning 1 top-10 finish. There was no single moment that told him it was over; at some point along the way this season, Kenseth made the decision that his days behind the wheel may be over.
“I had a chance to come back to Roush-Fenway Racing,” he added. “So, I decided to do it to try to help them this year a little bit, get back in the car a little bit, see what it’s like, all that kind of stuff, try and get the cars better.”
As for lining up something for 2019:
“There was an opportunity for me to drive this car full time again,” he said. “But driving full time is just not in the cards for me.”
After Kenseth turned down the chance to race the No. 6 full time in 2019, the team let Bayne go and signed Ryan Newman for the ride. So, after Sunday night, Kenseth will step out, leaving the team that gave him his shot full time back at the turn of the century. Hopefully, with a bit of improvement as the organization continues work on overcoming its challenges.
“I think it’s something you got to keep working on, I don’t think it happens overnight,” he said. “I feel like we made some gains, I think we made some things better, some things need some work.”
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