NASCAR Silly Season began with a pre-Fourth of July bombshell today current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Matt Kenseth lost his ride with Roush Fenway Racing for the 2013 season.
The team today announced that 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will compete for the team full-time in NSCS competition beginning in 2013, at the expense of 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth, who has spent his entire Cup career with the Roush Fenway team, save for the first race of his career when he replaced Bill Elliott in Dover in 1998.
“I'm very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he's given me over the past 14 years,” Kenseth said. “Together we have enjoyed a lot of success. As a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a third Sprint cup title for Jack and RFR.”
The driver of the #17 Ford for RFR, Kenseth leads the series points standings with just 10 races left before the Chase For The Championship – a format to decide the series champ that is widely believed to have been sparked by Kenseth’s 2003 title season in which he won just one race on his way to the crown.
Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013. I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up.
Kenseth joined RFR in 1999 for a five-race campaign, then went out in 2000 and won the series’ Rookie-of-the-Year title over Dale Earnhardt Jr. He won the 600-miler at Charlotte that year for his first career victory, won a series-high five races in 2002, then captured his first and only series title in 2003. Kenseth has earned 22 victories in Roush Fenway equipment.
“We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to forge a partnership that yielded a championship and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins,” said team founder Jack Roush. “The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”
Kenseth has been rumored for the last week to have been considering his options for 2013 in case he would not be retained by RFR. A short list of potential landing spots include Joe Gibbs Racing, who can either add a fourth car or be searching for a replacement in the Joey Logano-driven #20, as Logano’s contract is up at the end of the year.
Wherever he lands, Ford Racing Director Jamie Allison appears to foreshadow that Kenseth will not be sporting a Blue Oval, in a quote released by the manufacturer today.
"All of us at Ford are certainly disappointed to hear that Matt will be leaving, and he will be certainly missed by us and the Ford Racing fans,” Allison said. “We are thankful for Matt's winning efforts and championship-caliber success with the Roush and Ford racing programs these past 16 years, both on and off the track.”
Kenseth, who generally plays his cards close to the vest even in the best of times, announced on his Twitter feed that he will be exploring all options.
“Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013,” he said. “I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up.”