Is Matt Kenseth Prepared to End His Career at Joe Gibbs Racing?
Joe Gibbs Racing is the Los Angeles Angels of NASCAR this off-season. The team has picked up three drivers that can each win a championship. Joe Gibbs Racing already had two championship caliber drivers with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin leading the way for the team’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program.
After not having that successful of a season, well at least for Joe Gibbs Racing standards, the team signed two NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers to a full-time slate for the 2013 season with one of the drivers having the potential to be a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014.
The team signed Brian Vickers, who will drive the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota while running a part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. They also signed back-to-back NASCAR Nationwide Series runner-up, Elliott Sadler. Sadler will pilot the No. 11 One Main Financial Toyota Camry and hopes to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series if given the opportunity from a sponsor, likely to be One Main Financial if things go well this season.
However, even though these are two gigantic signings for Joe Gibbs Racing, the biggest comes at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level. After opting not to re-sign Joey Logano as driver for the No. 20 The Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota, the team opted to go in a different direction. Joe Gibbs Racing signed 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, two-time and reigning Daytona 500 champion, Matt Kenseth, to a multi-year contract as he takes over the No. 20 Camry.
Kenseth had previously been at Roush-Fenway Racing since his rookie season in 2000 working with his former owner, turned crew chief, Robby Reiser, who has since moved to a leadership position within the company. However, Kenseth, who will turn 41-years old, is likely in his final years in NASCAR. Kenseth’s stint at Roush-Fenway Racing lasted 13-years, one of the longest standing relationships in the sport. Now, Kenseth’s on the move to Joe Gibbs Racing and has a lot to think about.
His son is on the verge of becoming a superstar. Yeah, Ross Kenseth, that kid that used to be at the race track watching his father race is now following his footsteps. He’s 19-years old and will probably be entered in a few NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races during the course of the 2013 season. This leads to a greater reasoning of the elder Kenseth to end his career earlier than planned.
Kenseth, who will work with Jason Ratcliff during the 2013 season, is looking to contend for a championship with Joe Gibbs Racing, something that has fallen apart each of the last three seasons when Kenseth was capable of winning the title. With The Home Depot cutting back on their sponsorship over the past few seasons, Kenseth’s stint with Joe Gibbs Racing may not last too long. It’s likely that Kenseth has a respectable five or so winning years remaining in his NASCAR career before he starts to age and get close to reaching the end of his career.
However, after spending such a long amount of time with one team, can Kenseth make the proper adjustments to solidify a Hall of Fame worthy career? As professional as Kenseth is, it’s going to be tough for his Joe Gibbs Racing team once they go to different tracks with nothing on their notebook. They’ll probably lean off of Busch and Hamlin, but it just won’t seem right for a while. He can also help teach Hamlin and Busch a lot of things which have made him successful, such as patience when not having a good car.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year with Kenseth. There could be a return to Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of his career, but at this stage of the game, it’s unlikely because of sponsorship especially with Roush’s sponsorship woes.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.