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Stenhouse Jr. in, Kenseth to exit Roush

As for Kenseth, the 40-year-old former Cup champion insisted on Twitter that "I have nothing to announce regarding 2013," adding: "I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up."

The general assumption in the NASCAR paddock is that Kenseth is close to a deal to join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. Last year, JGR made a big play for another Roush Fenway free agent in Carl Edwards, who at the time was leading the Sprint Cup points standings - just as Kenseth is currently doing in 2012.

Last year JGR were looking for someone to build a fourth car operation around, and while that's still a possibility for them with Kenseth, it's also possible that the team are lining him up as a replacement for Joey Logano who is out of contract at the end of the season. Logano's position at JGR has been the subject of much speculation in recent months after being perceived not to have delivered on his early potential, but his performance has picked up in recent weeks with victories in both the Nationwide and Cup championships for the team.

If Kenseth did not move to JGR then the open slots at top teams are few and far between. It had been suggested that he might move to Penske, since that team are moving from Dodge to Ford engines next season and someone with Kenseth's considerable experience and expertise with the Ford units would be a considerable asset.

However Ford's racing director Jamie Allison cooled that speculation when he realsed a statement today in response to the Roush announcement in which he said: "All of us at Ford are certainly disappointed to hear that Matt will be leaving, and he will be certainly missed by us and the Ford Racing fans," adding: "We are thankful for Matt's winning efforts and championship-calibre success with the Roush and Ford racing programs."

Of more immediate concern is where this leaves Kenseth's 2012 Sprint Cup championship bid, and whether the team will be fully behind him as the season moves to its climax. At the moment, Kenseth holds an 11pt lead in the standings over his current Roush team mate Greg Biffle.

"The #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," stated Roush emphatically. "I have no doubt that Matt will do his part."

"As a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a 3rd sprint cup title for Jack and RFR," agreed Kenseth on Twitter. "Darian and Tony proved to us last year there is no such thing as a 'lame duck' team or season. We will continue to go to work and race hard," he added, referring to Tony Stewart and his crew chief Darian Grubb, who blazed to victory in the 2011 Chase despite Grubb knowing early in the process that he was being let go by Stewart.

The 14 year partnership between Roush and Kenseth had been the longest of any active owner and driver in NASCAR, with the sole exception of Jeff Gordon's 19-year stint at Hendrick Motorsport. He would have reached the 500-start landmark with the team if he'd extended into the 2013 season. Kenseth has started all but one of his Cup races in a Roush Fenway Racing car, but made his début at Dover in September 1998 as a stand-in for owner-driver Bill Elliott when Elliott had to attend his father's funeral.




Related Pictures

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Matt Kenseth raises the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the second time after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, talks with crew chief Jimmy Fennig in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Roush Fenway team mates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth talk in the garage ahead of the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth at Texas during Thursday practice. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, talks to Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, on the grid during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(L-R) Team owner Rick Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and crew chief Greg Ives celebrate in victory lane after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(L-R) Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and crew chief Greg Ives celebrate in victory lane after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(L-R) Amy Reimann celebrates with Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, in victory lane after Earnhardt won the rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Timothy Peters, driver of the #17 Red Horse Racing Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 7, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 AdvoCare Ford, pits during the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 7, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Damp Rid/Menards Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Damp Rid/Menards Toyota, leads Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

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