Matt Kenseth doesn’t know if he’s gone ‘forever’
Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and now you can likely add Matt Kenseth. Those are the A-list NASCAR drivers that have left the sport in the last two seasons.
For Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and now Matt Kenseth is wasn’t the plan to retire. But, Matt says it could be forever or it could be a month.
Matt Kenseth has spent the last 20 years of his life in the NASCAR Cup Series. It looks at though Matt is just now coming to grips with the idea that it might be his last. That wasn’t the plan at the start of the 2017 season. It wasn’t a retirement tour. It was a race to Homestead, which abruptly ended in disqualification.
Related: Matt Kenseth disqualified
Matt Kenseth announces 2018 retirement
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it and pretty much decided after Martinsville, which I kind of already knew anyway, but we decided to take some time off,” Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports.
I don’t know if that’s forever.
“I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that’s forever. I don’t know if that’s a month or I don’t know if that’s five months. I don’t know if that’s two years. Most likely when you’re gone, you don’t get the opportunity again. I just don’t really feel it’s in the cards.
“Really most of my life, everything has been very obvious to me. Moving to Joe Gibbs, everybody was like, ‘Oh that must have been the hardest decision. Actually, it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. Both ends, everything lined up. It lined up to not stay where I was for a whole bunch of different reasons, and it lined up to go over there for a whole bunch of different reasons. It was just like it was really easy. This one, I’ve been fighting it as long as I can, because I’m like, ‘Man, once you’re done doing this, not many of us get to do this, especially at the top level.’ I think I fought it for a long time.
Matt Kenseth has turned 184,687 laps in the Monster Energy NASCRA Cup Series. Of those, he’s been the leader for 11660.
The #5 car won’t be active in the 2018 season. The #5 basically becomes the #24 as Chase Elliott will drive the #9 car. However, Matt Kenseth thought he would have the opportunity to replace Kasey Kahne.
“Probably my biggest clue is when Rick put William in the 5 car, and I didn’t get that opportunity,” Kenseth, 45, said. “That was one I thought maybe I would get and hopefully go over there and get that car running better. I felt like I could really do that and maybe mentor some of the young drivers coming along, and that didn’t work out, either.“Sometimes you can’t make your own decisions, so people make them for you. That’s unfortunate, because I wanted to make my own decisions. I felt like in a way I’ve earned that to be able to go out the way other drivers who had similar careers to dictate when your time is up. Anyway, I just came to the realization it’s probably time to go do something different.”
“Probably after that happened, that should have been the cold water in my face that, ‘All right, you need to accept it and do the best you can this year and figure out what you’re going to do next year and move on.’ ”
I think I can drive next year if I really wanted to go drive
“I think I can drive next year if I really wanted to go drive,” he said. “But do I just want to drive, or do I want to try to win races and championships?
“I think if any of that stuff was really meant to be, and someone really wanted you to be part of the organization, they would have figured out how to make it happen by now, certainly.”
“Even though I feel I can still get it done on the racetrack, I just think it’s probably time, and I need to accept that and move on.”
“In hindsight looking back there’s probably things I could have helped more with or maybe been more of the squeaky wheel and tried to get things rolling better in the right direction and didn’t. I feel like (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) has done a good job of leading the team and figuring out what we need and how to get things turned around.”
“Again, not putting it on him; it’s all of us. We just haven’t been able to turn it around and get the whole group as one unit operating as a championship unit, or even a winning unit. We had a few races we had a good opportunity to win and for whatever reason couldn’t.”
Matt Kenseth has won 38 races in his 20 year career. He’s collected 179 top 5 finishes and 324 top 10’s. His career earnings totaled 113,970,664 in 2015. In the previous two seasons, NASCAR hasn’t released earnings numbers.
The full interview will be posted on Monday. You’ll be able to listen via www.applepodcasts.com/nascaronnbc.