NASCAR’s Matt Kenseth has lost his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing for next year, but he hasn’t lost his wry sense of humor.
Kenseth, 45, who will be replaced in the No. 20 Toyota in the Monster Energy Cup Series by 21-year-old Erik Jones, still has no NASCAR plans for 2018, but had a ready answer last week when asked what might make him happy next year.
“You know, I was thinking about maybe driving a school bus,” Kenseth deadpanned. “I thought it would be fun. I drive the kids to school every morning. I enjoy that. I thought it would be fun to drive them home, too.”
Before Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, gets behind the wheel of a big yellow bus, he has five more stops to make, including Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, an elimination race in the NASCAR playoffs.
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Kenseth may soon be out of a job, but he is still in the playoffs. However, he is in a likely must-win situation in order to reach the Round of 8.
Kenseth is 10th in the standings, 12 points behind Jimmie Johnson for the eighth spot. There’s hope for this week, considering Kenseth’s record at Kansas Speedway, where he won the fall race in 2012 and spring race in 2013 and started from the pole before finishing ninth in last year’s Hollywood Casino 400.
But he has not won a Cup race since July 2016 at Loudon, a string of 45 straight starts, and even crew chief Jason Ratcliff said the lack of success is starting to weigh on the team’s confidence.
“I don’t know that it necessarily weighs on everybody’s confidence that much,” said Kenseth, a winner of 38 career Cup races and more than $120 million in career earnings. “But with that being said, certainly it’s been a long time, way too long, since we’ve won a race, especially considering the equipment we’re in and all that.
“It sure would be a boost to everybody’s confidence if you could get that win, get everything to go right, execute and finish it off, get to Victory Lane. It always boosts your confidence, I think, no matter where you are or how long it’s been since you’ve won.”
Kenseth, in his fifth year with Joe Gibbs Racing after spending 14 seasons with Roush Fenway Racing, including his 2003 championship season, said he has not had any talks with other teams, including Stewart-Haas Racing, which still may have openings for the Nos. 10 and 41 Fords.
“No, nothing really to report there,” Kenseth said at the start of the playoffs. “I mean, honestly I know I keep saying this, but it’s true. I’m just focused on the next weeks. We got a good opportunity here still. So I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2018. But there’s a lot to worry about yet in 2017 … being in the playoffs. Really that’s my focus right now.”
If this indeed is his final season, Kenseth has no regrets.
“I’ve said all along, I’ve done things I never dreamed I would have a chance to do,” said Kenseth, a native of Cambridge, Wis. “I never even thought I’d have a chance to race in the Cup Series full-time before. I’ve been able to do that these years, have that success. I said 10 years ago if it all had to end that day, it was more than I ever dreamed of. It certainly has been way more than I ever dreamed of. Who knows what’s going to happen next year.”