|Kenseth: "...really a unique opportunity."|
Kenseth alluded to what was likely the worst-kept secret in NASCAR, greeting the media with a smiling, “Surprise!” He said the decision to change teams after 15 years in the Roush Fenway Racing camp boiled down to the ability to win.
“Lot of things went into the decision,” he said. “At end of day, this was really a unique opportunity. This business is all about winning races and championships, and you want to put yourself in the best position you possibly can to be competitive going forward.
“When you look at what they’ve accomplished here at JGR, I feel like this is the right place for me. I’ve always felt like things happen for a reason, and ever since the Daytona 500, through the time I first talked to these guys back in May to right now, everything pointed in this direction.”
He said the decision took longer to announce than he would have liked, adding, “You certainly want to be sensitive to other agreements you may have, and things going on there. There were also things going on with Joey (Logano) and other things I had (to honor).”
He said he welcomes the opportunity to work as a teammate to drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, saying, “It’s a big honor to race for JGR, and I’m really looking forward to working with both Denny and Kyle. They’ve both been big winners, and there’s obviously a little pressure there (to achieve). I’m looking to win more races and a championship. This is a championship team, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
“Unless you have the right guy behind the wheel, you’re kind of wasting your time,” said JD Gibbs, President of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Matt fills that bill for us. Watching Matt and (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff jell as a team is going to be a lot of fun. We’re all looking forward to spending time getting to know Matt.”
Gibbs said the move did not stem from any dissatisfaction with Logano’s performance, which includes a pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories.
“When it became apparent to us that we might have a shot to get Matt, that’s the kind of thing you have to follow up with,” he said. “No sponsors told us to get rid of anybody. It just felt like Matt was a good fit.”
Terms of Kenseth’s new contract were not disclosed, and Gibbs said the number of races to be backed by Home Depot and Dollar General has not yet been finalized.
Team owner Joe Gibbs recalled his first interaction with Kenseth, racing in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series nearly 20 years ago.
“The first time I ever saw Matt, we had Tony Stewart racing in the Nationwide Series,” recalled Gibbs. “It was our first year in Nationwide with Tony, and he had wrecked everything we had three times. We were finally going to win a race… I think it was at Rockingham Speedway. I’m thinking, `We’ve finally won one, we’re finally going to win a race,’ and then Matt punted us.
“I’m still to this day a little upset about that,” he laughed. “Matt, you owe me 10 grand!”
Photo: Kevin Liles, US Presswire