Matt Kenseth taking time off in 2018, possibly stepping away for good
Matt Kenseth is one of the biggest names on the free agent market in 2018, but he may not return to race at all next season.
Matt Kenseth is going to step away from racing in 2018, and he may be stepping away for good.
The 45-year-old driver was informed four months ago that he would not be brought back by Joe Gibbs Racing, and after not finding another ride for next season, he said he is going to take a break from the sport.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it and pretty much decided after Martinsville, which I kind of already knew anyway, but we decided to take some time off,” he said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that is set to come out early next week. “I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that’s forever. I don’t know if that’s a month or I don’t know if that’s five months. I don’t know if that’s two years. Most likely when you’re gone, you don’t get the opportunity again. I just don’t really feel it’s in the cards."
Joe Gibbs Racing will replace Kenseth in 2018 with driver Erik Jones. There has been more movement amongst drivers as well, and Kenseth said once Hendrick Motorsports announced 19-year-old William Byron would replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Chevrolet, he knew he was going to step away.
“That was one I thought maybe I would get and hopefully go over there and get that car running better. I felt like I could really do that and maybe mentor some of the young drivers coming along, and that didn’t work out, either," Kenseth said. “Probably after that happened, that should have been the cold water in my face that, ‘All right, you need to accept it and do the best you can this year and figure out what you’re going to do next year and move on.’ ”
Kenseth has not won a race since July 2016, but he did win two poles this season and he made the playoffs as well, but at this point in his career, he said he would feel like he was more racing just to race rather than going out every week believing he could win.
“I think I can drive next year if I really wanted to go drive,” he said. “But do I just want to drive, or do I want to try to win races and championships?