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Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth do things together throughout NASCAR careers

Matt Kenseth (left) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Matt Kenseth (left) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By no choice of his own, Matt Kenseth will, essentially, be retired from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition when the checkered flag falls on the 2017 season Sunday at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While Kenseth didn’t decide to go out in 2017, it just seems ironic to me that circumstances led to him going out when he did, or will.

Why do I say that? Easy. Dale Earnhardt Jr., with the fortune of going out on his own terms, also will retire from full-time Cup Series competition at 2017 season’s end.

Why is Kenseth’s so-called retirement coinciding with Earnhardt’s retirement ironic? Because their NASCAR timelines are strikingly similar, and not just when it comes to the Cup Series, either.

After running a few races here and there, Kenseth and Earnhardt both went full-time racing in the old Busch Series, the series now known as the Xfinity Series, in 1998. Then, after a few Cup Series starts, both made the full-time move from Busch to then-Winston Cup in 2000. Shortly and bluntly, these two guys became regulars on NASCAR’s national scene at the same time, were promoted from the Busch Series to Cup Series at the same time, and now, they’re riding off into the sunset at the same time.

Cue the Twilight Zone music, here.

Given the timing similarity, wouldn’t it be fun to make comparisons? After all, these two guys raced each other their entire NASCAR careers.

Here’s a little more irony for you. One of them came out ahead in head-to-head, overall, competition in one series, while the other driver was tops in the other series.

Earnhardt was tops in their two full-time seasons of Busch competition, winning championships both years.

Things were reversed in Cup, with Kenseth winning a championship there. He was the final champ under the series’ Winston Cup banner in 2003. Also worth nothing, Kenseth beat Earnhardt for Cup Rookie of the Year in 2000.

Neither driver won Busch Series Rookie of the Year in 1998. Instead, that honor went to Andy Santerre. As a matter-of-fact, neither Kenseth nor Earnhardt were eligible for top newcomer in the Busch Series in 1998, because they had both previously run too many races in the series during partial seasons. Actually, they were both eligible for the award a year earlier in 1997. That year, top rookie honors went to Earnhardt’s teammate, Steve Park.

Anyway, back to the Cup Series, and, really, isn’t that the most important to the two? After all, it’s the series in which they spent the bulk of their NASCAR careers and it is the top stock-car racing series, isn’t it?

Kenseth has better, overall, Cup Series stats with a handful more starts. In 649 starts, Kenseth has 39 wins, 181 top-fives and 326 top-10 finishes. Earnhardt, meanwhile, has 26 wins, 149 top-fives and 260 top-10 finishes.

I’ll leave you with another Earnhardt, Kenseth coincidental similarity. Both raced for only two teams throughout their Cup careers, as long as you don’t count Kenseth’s debut as fill-in driver for an injured Bill Elliott. Kenseth started his career at Roush Fenway Racing, moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, a.k.a the “dark side” of Toyota by Jack Roush, in 2013.

Earnhardt began his career with the family team, Dale Earnhardt Inc., moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Here’s another one for you. As a mentioned earlier, Kenseth’s Cup debut came in a substitute role for Bill Elliott. In the final couple of years of Earnhardt’s career, one of his teammates was Chase Elliott, son of Bill.

Hearing that Twilight Zone music, yet?

Similarities and differences aside, farewell to Kenseth and Earnhardt. You’ll both be missed.

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Posted by on November 16, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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