Matt Kenseth was eliminated from the playoffs at Kansas Speedway, and he still doesn’t have a ride for next season after Joe Gibbs Racing decided not to re-sign him.
If Kenseth doesn’t land a ride with a top team for next season — and that looks unlikely at this point — then there is speculation that his full-time Cup Series career could be over. Four ESPN NASCAR analysts — Ricky Craven, Ryan McGee, Bob Pockrass and Matt Willis — all predicted that this was the last year of the 45-year-old Kenseth’s full-time racing career.
“I see Matt driving his daughters to Cannon School,” Craven said. “And while I know the urge to compete will always exist, it makes no sense for Matt to spend the last inning of his career driving equipment inferior to what he experienced at Joe Gibbs Racing.”
“I think he’ll be stuck in I-77 traffic,” McGee said. “While we’re all throwing palm fronds at Junior’s feet as he exits, another Hall of Famer is likely saying goodbye to full-time racing, too. And if he is, he’s doing it just as he would’ve preferred, with zero fanfare.”
Willis said there’s a chance he could drive the No. 10 car for Stewart-Haas Racing, but he agreed that it’s unlikely Kenseth races for a smaller team. Pockrass said he could see Kenseth racing in a substitute role, but not full time.
The point McGee made stands out the most because if this is in fact Kenseth’s last year, he’ll leave the sport without any fanfare. And while he isn’t nearly as popular as Dale Earnhardt Jr., something would feel a bit off if a former champion retired and it created so little buzz.
Then again, Dale Jr. is making the choice to retire, and if Kenseth does call it quits, it will almost certainly be because he doesn’t have a ride.
If these are the final four races in Kenseth’s full-time Cup Series career, he’ll likely go down as one of the most underrated drivers in NASCAR history.