Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Matt Kenseth Leaving Roush, To be Replaced by Stenhouse Jr.

Matt Kenseth, shown here celebrating his 2012 Daytona 
500 victory, will be leaving RFR

   NASCAR points leader Matt Kenseth will not be with Roush Fenway Racing in 2013. The 2009 and 2012 Daytona 500 winner and 2003 Champion will possibly be going to Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt Kenseth has been with Roush in the Sprint Cup series for 14 years, and has won 22 races in Sprint Cup along with 26 in the Nationwide series. His most recent win was in the Daytona 500 this past February. Roush is bring 2011 Nationwide Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the 17 car to replace Kenseth next year. 

   "I'd like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service," co-owner Roush said Tuesday. "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." Matt, who has not officially commented to the media responded via tweet to his departure from Roush,  "I'm very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he's given me over the past 14 years. Together we have enjoyed a lot of success," he tweeted. "And 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."

   Kenseth's car has had sponsorship issues the last few years, and Roush is funding a large portion of this year's schedule himself for Kenseth. Roush had already dropped the less successful David Ragan and its fourth team because of a lack of sponsorship at the end of last season. Roush also signed Biffle and Edwards to a contract extensions last season.They also desperately needed a slot for 24-year-old Stenhouse Jr., who is locked into a long-term contract but until now had no where to go in Roush's Sprint Cup lineup. Stenhouse will be much cheaper than Kenseth in terms of salary, and he is much younger than the 40-year-old Kenseth. 

   "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 said of Stenhouse Jr. "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."

   So why? And what about the impact of this announcement on the 17 cars run at the 2012 championship? No one has a clear answer to why after 14 years Kenseth will no longer be driving for Roush, but it could possibly be a salary move toward a young driver with much potential ahead of him. And Roush says there eye is still on the prize this year. 

   "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," he said. "I have no doubt that Matt will do his part."

   Look for Matt Kenseth to be with Joe Gibbs Racing next season, possibly in the 20 car are with a fourth team. Which means another long partnership will end, Kenseth's run with Ford Racing. And Ford Racing is disappointed to see such a talented drive leave the blue oval. 

   "He will be certainly missed by us and the Ford Racing fans,"  Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing said. "We are thankful for Matt's winning efforts and championship-caliber success with the Roush and Ford racing programs these past 16 years, both on and off the track. We will focus on this year and look forward to more success on the track in his No. 17 Ford Fusion this season."

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