SPARTA, Ky. — Matt Kenseth’s announcement that he doesn’t expect to return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season set off the 2017 silly season domino chain.
It wasn’t a case of giving a vague answer that could be misinterpreted. He outright said he doesn’t think returning to JGR next season is an option.
“I don’t think so. I don’t think it is (an option). Like I said, I don’t have a ride at this moment for next year. I haven’t worked on anything real hard, but I don’t think I will have the option to race at JGR next season, unfortunately,” he said.
Compounding the dilemma for the 2003 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is that he doesn’t have a ride for next season. While his name has been brought up a time or two in the discussion on drivers to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, it’s important to note Hendrick Motorsports already has two young drivers, Alex Bowman and William Byron, waiting in the pipeline.
With the wave of young drivers rising up through the NASCAR ranks in the last few seasons, it would appear Kenseth’s days are numbered, especially with rides hard to come by. But at the end of the day, he’s not panicking yet.
“I’m not really worried about it,” he added. “As of today, I do not have a job for next year. So I certainly hope to still be racing next year. I think I got some wins left in me and, hopefully, I can race for championships. But right now, my focus is finishing up this year. As we talked about, it’s been kind of a slow start. Has not been a good year, at all. Not nearly up to my standards or my teams’ standards. So trying to get back to victory lane and, hopefully, get qualified for the playoffs here and have a shot at the playoffs is pretty much my focus at this point.”