Matt Kenseth ‘unretires’ to pilot the 42-car for Chip Ganassi Racing

Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin' the Tires

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

In another bold move for the racing world, Matt Kenseth will come out of retirement and become a replacement driver for Chip Ganassi Racing – filling the seat of the No. 42 car left vacant when the team was forced to let Kyle Larson go.

Most people expected Chip Ganassi to bring Ross Chastain up from the Xfinity Series or offer the ride to his recently-retired driver, Jamie McMurray. But sponsor and scheduling issues – along with an opportunity to put a champion behind the wheel – played into the final decision, which came together over the past week.

“This was an unexpected opportunity for sure,” Kenseth said, in a statement released by Chip Ganassi Racing. “I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago. After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back.”

With Larson being terminated two weeks ago after uttering a racial slur during an iRacing event, the Ganassi organization was left looking for someone to take the reins of their second car – Kurt Busch drives the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet – and put it into the NASCAR playoffs.

“I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car,” Ganassi said. “We are doing exactly that with Matt. Throughout my time in NASCAR, I have always admired the way Matt Kenseth raced. He has proven to be a consistent winner, strong competitor, and respectful driver, and I’m glad we are able to add another NASCAR champion to the team for the remainder of this season.”

Kenseth, who spent most of his career at Roush Fenway Racing is the 2003 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. He is also Busch’s former teammate. Kenseth returned to action for a short time at Joe Gibbs Racing and when the two parted ways at the end of 2017, Kenseth wasn’t ready to hang-up his firesuit.

“I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Kenseth said. “I’m excited to work with Kurt again and to meet all my new CGR team members, and I’m really looking forward to getting back in a Chevrolet. In 1988, I started my career in a Camaro and I can’t wait to finally race a Chevy in the Cup Series. I also need to thank Chip and all his partners for this opportunity. Hopefully, we will be on the track soon.”

The last time Kenseth and Busch drove as teammates they were at what then Roush Racing in 2005. Busch was the defending 2004 Cup Series champion in his final year at Roush and Kenseth was the 2003 champion. Busch left and began a run at Penske Racing in 2005 and Kenseth would run another seven years at the Ford blue oval flagship team.

As restrictions across the nation continued to be relaxed following the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears NASCAR will resume racing at Darlington Raceway on May 17. Sources said the series will then head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a 400-mile event on May 20 and hold the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. All of those events are expected to be run without fans but will be televised by FOX Sports.

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