Matt Kenseth won’t return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 but wants to keep racing in Cup (video)
SPARTA, Ky. – Matt Kenseth said he wants to continue racing in the Monster Energy Cup Series next season, but he doesn’t think it will be at Joe Gibbs Racing.
The 2003 champion, who is in his fifth season driving the No. 20 Toyota for JGR, confirmed Friday morning he doesn’t have a ride yet for 2018.
“I’m not really worried about it but as of today, I do not have a job for next year,” said Kenseth, who has raced full time in NASCAR’s premier series since 2000. “I hope to still be racing. I think I got some wins left in me and hopefully can race for championships.”
Kenseth, who is 11th in points with six top 10s in 17 starts, said he had been focused on trying to improve this season rather than on finding a job next year.
“It’s been a slow start,” he said. “It has not been a good year at all. I just want to try to get back to victory lane and qualify for the playoffs and have a shot at the championship.
“I don’t have anything lined up at this moment for 2018. I haven’t worked on anything real hard. But I do not think I will have the option to return to race at JGR next year, unfortunately.”
If Kenseth were to race for a 19th consecutive season in Cup, there would seem to be some other options. Hendrick Motorsports hasn’t named a replacement for retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Asked if that were a possibility, Kenseth said, “I probably already said too much about what I’m not doing next year, so I don’t really have anything to talk about what I am doing at this point. At this point, I don’t have anything going on next year and am trying to get focused on running better and winning races.”
A prime candidate to fill Kenseth’s seat at JGR is Erik Jones, who is on loan to Furniture Row Racing on a one-year contract.
Asked Thursday about what JGR’s plan was for him in 2017, Jones said, “I’m just driving. For the most part, for me, I don’t know where I’m going to be yet. They haven’t let me know. For me, I’ve been really happy at Furniture Row (Racing), and it’s been a steady group of guys over there that I think work really well together.
“I don’t yet. Hopefully I know soon. You know it’s kind of getting down to that point. I guess it’s July now, so I’m sure we’ll have an answer here soon.”
Kenseth, 45, has 38 victories in 631 Cup stars; his last win was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July 2016.
He raced at Roush Fenway Racing from 1998-2012, compiling 24 victories and the 2003 title. He joined Gibbs with the 2013 season and led the circuit with seven victories while finished second in points.
A Joe Gibbs Racing spokesman said the team wouldn’t be announcing anything about its 2018 lineup this weekend.