The latest news is the decision for the split between Matt Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing was the drivers. Kenseth is expected to join Joe Gibbs Racing and drive the #20 Home Depot car under the Toyota banner.
Kenseth had spent his entire Cup career (save on start) with Roush Fenway Racing driving the #17 Ford. Team owner Jack Roush had struggled to find sponsorship for this season and next and had been paying for the car to drive out of his own pocket.
When news broke that Kenseth and Roush were parting ways at the end of the year there was plenty of speculation on the reasons. If Matt Kenseth made the decision what does it say about the financial situation at Roush or their quest for sponsors? It leads me to believe that neither is what they once was.
Roush Fenway Racing has touted the line of slow economy more then anyone in the NASCAR garage. They went from four Cup teams to three. Their Nationwide program went from three cars, to two, and now one.
Kenseth would have some knowledge of the companies position and if he left there are two reasons; money or opportunity. Faced with sponsorship woes it’s clear that the money was not going to be at RFR. If the money wasn’t going to be there, then how much opportunity is there?
All things considered Roush Fenway and Joe Gibbs Racing are pretty equal in the eyes of most fans, neither is the Hendrick Motorsports organization. Gibbs has seen two drivers win three titles while Roush has seen two drivers win Cup titles. With Kenseth moving to Joe Gibbs Racing it may sway the advantage in the favor of JGR.
This is not the first marquee driver to leave Roush Fenway Racing at the top of his game. Jeff Burton left Roush under similar circumstances in 2004. Burton signed with Richard Childress Racing during the season and was left go by Roush after 22 races. Mark Martin retired while with the organization before opting to continue his career elsewhere. Kurt Busch signed with Penske Racing in 2005, a year after he won the Cup Series title, for what he called the opportunity of a lifetime.
Kenseth is currently leading the point standings. He won the season opening Daytona 500 and won three races last season in addition to finishing fourth in the overall driver standings. An official announcement from Kenseth and Joe Gibbs is anticipated soon.