We may have seen the last of Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth, which preparing for Texas, said he’s “stepping away” from Cup series in 2018, but also recognizes he could be done.
“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,” Kenseth said during a taping of the NASCAR on NBC podcast that will air 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.”
In July, Joe Gibbs Racing told Kenseth he wasn’t coming back, and he was losing his No. 20 to Erik Jones. Since then, the 45-year-old Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, has been vague about his future and at one point stopped answering questions about it. He even joked that he might become a school bus driver.
But now, it’s no joking matter. The driver who has run 18-straight Cup series seasons with 38 wins, 324 top 10 finishes and 20 polls realizes he’s most likely done.
“Sometimes you can’t make your own decisions, so people make them for you. That’s unfortunate, because I wanted to make my own decisions. I felt like in a way I’ve earned that to be able to go out the way other drivers who had similar careers to dictate when your time is up. Anyway, I just came to the realization it’s probably time to go do something different.”
For the first time, Kenseth also noted that he wasn’t happy with the decision to let him go; that the inability to go out on his own terms to exit on his own terms “irritates me a little bit.”
Jones is nearly 25 years younger than Kenseth and is one of the top young drivers in the sport. He’s also a part of a trend — hiring younger, less expensive drivers.
He said, during the podcast, he knew he was done when Hendrick Motorsports decided to put William Byron in the No. 5 to replace Kasey Kahne.
“Probably my biggest clue is when Rick put William in the 5 car, and I didn’t get that opportunity. 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.
“Probably after that happened, that should have been the cold water in my face …”