Back to Business-Kenseth Returning to NASCAR

A familiar face is returning to NASCAR
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Matt Kenseth is returning to NASCAR.

In a highly unexpected move, the 48-year old former series champion was tapped by Chip Ganassi Racing to pilot the No. 42 car, which was left vacant after Kyle Larson was terminated by the organization earlier this month. Kenseth left the sport at the end of the 2017 season, retiring after 18 years at the sport’s top level. He returned in 2018 for a 15 race stint for Roush Fenway Racing in an effort to help the team improve their performance, but did not have much success. Since leaving Roush Fenway at the end of the 2018 season, he has been largely absent from the public eye.

When asked about the decision, Chip Ganassi told reporters that he felt he owed it to his team, partners, and fans to put the best available driver in the car. He went on to say that Matt’s consistency and competitive drive, among other things, were what helped him make the choice. Known on track as a fierce competitor and talented driver, Kenseth is also known as one of the nicest guys in the garage, and has always been respected for his clean racing style. While he has had a few public grudge matches with other drivers (Joey Logano anyone?), he has a reputation for racing hard, but fair.    

Kenseth himself said in an interview that the opportunity was unexpected, and that just two weeks ago racing was not “on his radar.” Since stepping away from the sport, he has enjoyed time with his family. Without the grueling travel schedule that his job demanded, he was able to focus on being a Dad to his four girls. He and his family spent time in his home state of Wisconsin. He joked on Twitter about wife Katie making him carry all the camping gear. He helped with homework and drove the girls to school. He welcomed his first grandchild. By all accounts, retired life fit Kenseth just fine. 

But then Chip Ganassi called. 

Kenseth admitted that he took some time to think about the offer. He acknowledged that this is an uncertain time in life and racing, and that part of his decision to come back was based on current circumstances. He also acknowledged that he knows he has his work cut out for him, but he is up for the challenge. It’s been speculated that NASCAR will re-open the suspended season on May 17 at Darlington Raceway, which gives the two-time Daytona 500 winner just under three weeks to prepare for his new role. The move also reunites him with former Roush Fenway teammate Kurt Busch, who said via Twitter that he was proud of the decision that was made to bring Kenseth on board, adding that he felt that the driver would be an immediate asset to the team, and that he was looking forward to racing with his friend and former teammate.  

The Ganassi organization will be just the third team that Kenseth has driven for. He previously drove for Roush Fenway Racing for fourteen seasons, leaving at the end of the 2012 season to pursue an opportunity at Joe Gibbs Racing after the relationship with Roush soured and his contract ended. Kenseth brings with him 39 wins, 328 top-ten finishes, 20 pole wins, a series championship and two Daytona 500 wins, with 665 career starts. 

It’s early for championship speculation, but Ganassi has already announced that they will ask NASCAR for a waiver that would make Kenseth playoff-eligible should he meet the criteria. As far as sponsorship, all sponsors that were on the car with Larson behind the wheel will be present for Kenseth-Credit One, McDonald’s, Clover, and AdventHealth, among others. In an uncertain economy, this is great news.

Fans on social media are excited to see a favorite return to a team that can be competitive. 

It may take a few races for Kenseth to get settled, especially since he will be driving for a new team in a make he hasn’t raced in twenty years (The Ganassi organization races Chevrolets), but don’t count him out. He has the drive, skill, and talent to race to the front every week. He will acclimate quickly, and will be a force within the field.

Is it May 17th yet?

Back to Business-Kenseth Returning to NASCAR Back to Business-Kenseth Returning to NASCAR Reviewed by Stephanie Stuart-Landrey on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 Rating: 5