It had basically been confirmed for months – ever since Matt Kenseth announced he was leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season in June – but Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) made it official today: Kenseth, the defending Daytona 500 champion, will replace Joey Logano as driver of the No. 20 Toyota in 2013.
At a press conference at JGR’s Huntersville, N.C. headquarters, Kenseth expressed excitement regarding the start of a new stage in his career.
“Not many people get this sort of opportunity – to leave a winning organization and get to go to another winning organization,” Kenseth said. “I’m really thankful for it and plan to make the most of it …I’m not a guy who likes change.”
Oddly enough, it was Kenseth’s success at Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) – 22 Sprint Cup wins and the 2003 championship, two Daytona 500 victories and 19 Nationwide successes – that drew owner Joe Gibbs to him when he became available.
“Obviously, the reason you stay in one place for a long time is you’re very good and they want to keep you,” Gibbs said. “It’s the same way we feel about Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle (Busch). We want to keep them forever. This is a big deal for us. He’s won a championship, and we all know how hard that is.”
And it’s still a very real possibility Kenseth could close out his tenure at RFR with another Sprint Cup title. Heading into Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway, Kenseth is third in points (21 behind leader/teammate Greg Biffle) and has clinched a spot in the Chase.
Kenseth made it clear he would do his best to make sure the final 11 races of his Roush run will be far from a lame-duck scenario.
“I remain totally committed to this season and working with my current team toward a championship and having this settled will only help my focus,”
As for the man Kenseth is replacing at JGR, Logano, team president J.D. Gibbs said the 22-year-old turned down an offer to run a full-time Nationwide and part-time Cup slate for the team next season, choosing to fill the No. 22 Ford vacancy at Penske Racing.
“We felt like if we could get Joey into a full Nationwide deal and add some Cup races, we’d be in good shape,” J.D. Gibbs said. “When the 22 car opened up, we knew it might look different.”