|Kenseth won the 2012 Daytona 500 for RFR|
Team owner Jack Roush confirmed today that the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will leave the team at season’s end, after competing for RFR since his rookie Sprint Cup season in 2000. He will be replaced by 2011 NASCAR Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service,” said Roush today. “Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family.
“We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins. The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”
Sources say Kenseth will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing next season. JGR President JD Gibbs sidestepped questions about the deal last weekend in Sonoma, Cal., saying, "I'm not allowed to talk.” Kenseth told reporters, “I'd like to have something to tell you, but I don't have anything to talk about right now. Until I have something to announce, I don't talk about it."
Speculation centers around Kenseth replacing Joey Logano at the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota next season. Sources say Logano could remain with the team to drive a new, fourth JGR sprint Cup entry, with sponsorship to be determined.
|Team owner Jack Roush|
His departure will clear the way for Stenhouse, who won the NASAR Nationwide Series championship a year ago and is a strong contender for the 2012 title. Roush said, "“Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the race track. We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team.”
Kenseth has 22 Sprint Cup Series wins with Roush Fenway Racing, along with 26 victories in the Nationwide ranks. He won the Daytona in both 2009 and 2012, and claimed the 2003 Cup championship with the team. All but one of the Wisconsin native’s 452 career starts have been in Roush Fenway Racing equipment, and RFR general manager Robbie Reiser, who served Kenseth’s crew chief for many years, spoke fondly of his former driver.
“Matt and I broke into this sport together, learned the ropes and were able to bring home a championship,” said Reiser. “Over the 20 years we have worked with each other, Matt has been a fierce competitor and become a close friend, not only to me, but as a mentor to young drivers like Ricky. I wish Matt nothing but the best for the next phase of his career, and know that we’ll remain close.”
The team has struggled to find sponsorship for Kenseth in recent seasons, with Jack Roush funding the car out of his own pocket for a number of races in both 2011 and 2012. Kenseth is the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point leader.Photo Credits: timesdispatch.com, Drew Hallowell/Getty Images