Matt Kenseth: “If I would have waited for him to get out and retire, I would have been about 39 in my rookie year.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Mark Martin was on hard to help announce Kenseth’s return to Roush-Fenway Racing.
“Just because you walk away from the race car for awhile doesn’t mean you’re done forever,” Mark Martin said.
Martin, former driver of the #6, made a similar decision. In 2007 and 2008, he drove part time for Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. In 2009, Martin returned to full-time racing with Hendrick Motorsports. He picked up 5 wins that year and finished 2nd in the standings.
“In 1999, I had the privilege of introducing a really fine race car driver to Jack Roush. From there, I think the rest is history. I had a lot to do with bringing him here 20 years ago. I’m really excited to introduce him today.”
“The linkage between Matt and Mark is very strong,” Jack Roush explained. “Mark approached me and said he’d been having conversations with this Busch Grand National driver that worked hard on his cars. He said he seemed to be worth the trouble.”
The plan wasn’t to put Matt Kenseth in the #17 at Roush-Fenway Racing. He was suppose to be the replacement for Mark Martin’s #6 machine. At least, that was the intention. 20 years later, it’s happening.
“When I started at Roush Fenway. Mark, I met him at Talladega in ’97. He kinda went to Jack and said, ‘Hey, I think this is a new young guy.’ By the way, I’m still pretty young. As it went on for a year or so Mark says, ‘Look I’m not gunna do this much longer. When I get out of the #6 car, I really want you to take over and drive the #6 car.’ ”
“So, that was the plan. I think I was 24 or 25 at the time. If I would have waited for him to get out and retire, I would have been about 39 in my rookie year.”
“So, it took a lot longer than we thought. But, I’m proud to be driving the #6 car. It obviously means a lot to me to reunite with everybody at Roush-Fenway Racing. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m really looking forward to getting to work, soon.”
Matt Kenseth went on to win 24 cup races and claim the NASCAR Cup Series championship for Jack Roush. In addition, he went to victory lane 9 times in the NASCAR Busch Series.
“He had great success. I’m anxious to get back on track and win some more races.”
In 2018, Matt Kenseth will drive the Wyndam Rewards #6 part-time. He and Trevor Bayne will share the seat for the remainder of the season. The first race for Kenseth will be at Kansas Speedway and another will follow in the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Moving forward, Kenseth could return full-time.
“My favorite driver of all time is gunna be in that car part-time,” Mark Martin said. “I have a lot of sweat equity and pride in this organization. It was Jack and all those people who built this organization, brick by brick. That enabled me to be a part of this amazing Hall of Fame here.”
“It’s a really exciting time for me,” Martin concluded.
Related: Matt Kenseth’s final race