LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Matt Kenseth said Friday he has no hard feelings toward Joe Gibbs Racing after he was dumped by the team and has no concerns about his future, even though he has yet to land a job for 2018.
The 45-year-old Kenseth has won 16 races over five seasons with JGR and NASCAR’s oldest full-time driver was let go in his contract year. Erik Jones will take Kenseth’s spot in the No. 20 Toyota. The 21-year-old Jones is on a one-year loaner contract to Gibbs’ sister team Furniture Row Racing, and Gibbs had to put Jones somewhere in 2018.
“I’m just glad they finally put it out so I don’t have to pretend anymore,” Kenseth said at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “It’s just better to get it over with, get it done. Everybody can ask you about it, everybody can move on and get back to racing.”
Kenseth is the veteran at Gibbs, which has 2015 champion Kyle Busch, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez.
Kenseth has no timetable for a decision but there are few options. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ride in the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports will be open once he retires at the end of the season. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson said sponsorship would likely dictate who gets the coveted ride. Hendrick has promising prospect William Byron, a 19-year-old Xfinity Series driver, in the pipeline and could consider Alex Bowman following a solid stint subbing last season for the injured Earnhardt.
“We’re getting to the point in time where we need to start making decisions,” Johnson said.
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion and a two-time Daytona 500 winner, could take the 88 for a stopgap year while Byron gets more seasoning in the developmental level. But outside of that, quality rides are slim for 2018.
“I hope to race next year,” Kenseth said. “I still enjoy racing. I still feel like I could be an asset to somebody, so I hope so.”
Kenseth, who joined Gibbs in 2013, is 11th in the standings in his 18th Cup season. He said he knew for about a year he could be on the way out at JGR.
“We’re both going to work as hard as we can to win races, win a championship for JGR,” he said. “Next year doesn’t affect anything for this year at all. It really doesn’t.”
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