UPDATE: ROUSH FENWAY RACING AND MATT KENSETH HAVE PARTED WAYS.
At Sonoma Matt Kenseth wasn’t interested in talking about his potential options for 2013. Nor were Penske Racing or Joe Gibbs Racing, both who are believed to be interested in the services for the 13 year Sprint Cup veteran.
Most assumed up until now that Kenseth would drive the #17 car until his NASCAR career was over. Roush Fenway owner Jack Roush has said in the past that the seat belongs to the Wisconsin born driver until Kenseth says so.
Considering he’s a past champion and won the Daytona 500 it was a safe bet. Kenseth still has the ability to wield a car as noted by his three wins last year and overall fourth place finish in the standings the last two years.
That is before you even consider he is leading the championship standings this year with an 11 point lead over teammate Greg Biffle.
But for whatever reason be it the economy or the asking price there have been a drought in sponsorship for the #17 car. Roush has been fielding the car out of pocket when need be.
Sure those are just circumstances and another top tier team would need to be available to ensure Kenseth left the confines of RFR.
Reports circulated at Sonoma that Gibbs and Penske were both interested in the 22 time winner. Nothing was said to ignite or fan those flames but lets consider both.
Gibbs was interested in Carl Edwards when he was looking for a contract during the 2011 season. The team fields three cars right now and rumors continue to be spread that the team and Home Depot are not happy with the performance of Joey Logano in the #20 car. Logano has probably bought himself a little bit of breathing room with a win at Pocono and some recent wins in the Nationwide Series but Kenseth is an obvious upgrade.
Then there is the case of Penske Racing. Penske brought in AJ Allmendinger to drive the #22 car this year after it parted ways with Kurt Busch. Sponsor Shell Oil company wanted a championship caliber driver in the car when it joined Penske before the 2011 season so Penske placed Busch in the car. The rough relationship between Busch and Penske finally boiled over at the series finale last year. Since then the #22 car has been running in the middle of the pack while teammate Brad Keselowski has won two races. Penske is also switching manufactures from Dodge to Ford for 2013 something that cannot be ignored considering Kenseth has spent his entire Cup career under the Ford banner.
Exactly what type of relationship Penske and Roush have in 2013 is still unclear. It is possible that a Roush Fenway driver drives the #22 next season but it’s equally as likely that it could be Ricky Stenhouse Jr or Trevor Bayne. Both drivers are signed to deals with RFR. Stenhouse is attempting to win his second consecutive Nationwide Series title, while Bayne is driving a limited schedule for the Wood Brothers at the Cup level.
This is a wait and see.
It’s still hard to believe Kenseth would not be driving a Roush Fenway car next year. Few drivers are so associated with a number in the sport as Kenseth is with the #17. Of active driers only Jeff Gordon has driven a number for longer then Kenseth has driven the #17.