Matt Kenseth unfazed by uncertain future

Rusty Jarrett/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Matt Kenseth still doesn’t have any plans for 2018 – not that he’s worried about it.

“I’m not worried about it even really one percent anymore to be honest with you,” Kenseth said in a Friday media availability. “I’m just not concerned about it. It’s not – I’m really concerned about 2017 and that’s the truth.”

Kenseth, 45, is in two separate battles as the season marches on. The Cambridge, Wisconsin native currently holds the last position on points in the 16-car Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff grid with three races remaining in the regular season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran also finds himself entrenched in silly season as he looks for a new opportunity for 2018. Kenseth confirmed at Kentucky Speedway in July that he won’t return to JGR next season. JGR announced the following week that current Furniture Row Racing (FRR) rookie Erik Jones will replace Kenseth in 2018.

Since that moment, Kenseth has become one of the biggest unknown in this year’s silly season. Some thought Kenseth might replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports, but the ride went to Alex Bowman. Others believed Kenseth could swap rides with Jones and go to FRR,  but NBC Sports reported in July that owner Barney Visser is unsure of his team’s financial ability to field a second team next season.

As a champion of the sport, common sense would say Kenseth’s talent could help him find a ride for next season. But he has a few factors working against him.

Kenseth’s age indicates that whatever contract he would sign moving forward would likely be his last – a negative as most teams are in the process of recruiting their next generation of drivers. Kenseth could also be falling victim to the current economics of the sport, getting skipped over for unproven drivers that are willing to settle for less money to compete.

With the season winding on, Kenseth is one of the last major dominoes to fall, joining Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch as champions who currently have no confirmed ride for 2018 at this time. Kenseth said he’ll announce an opportunity if it becomes available.

“When I do I’ll tweet something,” Kenseth said. “Like on a Monday or something. No plans right now. Just raise kids and hang out with my family.”

With nothing confirmed for next year, Kenseth’s lone goals moving forward are a playoff berth and, ultimately, a second championship.

“I mean we’ve got thirteen races or something left,” Kenseth said. “Three to try to get into – I think three to try to get into the playoffs. We’re not in there yet. Kind of got ran over at the end of the race last week by the 24 (Chase Elliott), trying to race him and wanted at least for points to try to get, try to get a cushion if we don’t get a win.

“But hopefully we get a win, get in the playoffs and try to race for a championship. That’s our goal every year and really that’s what I’m been concentrating on.”

 

 

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