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Kenseth still surprised by Edwards’ retirement, ready for pivotal 2017

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 - Practice

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2016 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

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The fallout of Carl Edwards’ sudden retirement from NASCAR racing continues.

During his session during Tuesday’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, Matt Kenseth discussed his now-former teammate.

And yet, Kenseth still can’t believe there’ll be a different driver in the No. 19 Toyota in 2017.

“I was as surprised as anyone else,” Kenseth said. “I knew it was bad news when – this is my fifth year here (with Joe Gibbs Racing), right? – and it was the first time we ever had a conference call with all the drivers and crew chiefs on a Sunday night, after all the football games.”

Kenseth said he’s spoken to Edwards several time since the latter’s retirement announcement, but is still as baffled today as ever.

“I was very, very surprised,” Kenseth said. “But the more I think about it, I wasn’t shocked … but I definitely didn’t see it coming.”

Kenseth, who had a celebrated public run-in with Kenseth several years ago during their prior time together with Roush Fenway Racing, then quipped, “I don’t think it was my fault. I think he liked working with me at the moment. I think it wasn’t me.”

The 2017 season, Kenseth’s 20th season on the NASCAR Cup circuit, could be a very pivotal year for Kenseth. First, he turns 45 on March 10. Second, he’s in the final year of his current contract with JGR (pending any extension in the future).

When asked how he handles the pressure of racing, Kenseth began his answer with yet another quip, but then grew serious, knowing how serious this season could be for him.

“I’m fairly new at it so I’m trying to feel my way around it and try to get through it. I had way too much coffee this morning,” Kenseth chuckled before growing serious.

“I’ve raced since I was 16 years old,” Kenseth said. “The pressure’s never been really different. … I’ve never felt any more or less pressure since I was racing my Late Model to what I’m racing today.

“Although I feel a little less pressure right now since Carl hung it up because I feel like they kind of need drivers right now at the moment, so I feel I’m more secure for the year.

“The pressure is always the same, you want to perform and do your best, you’re racing against all the best stock car racers anywhere, so you have to bring you’re A game every week.”

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