NASCAR » 26 June 2012
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.
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