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Guessing where Matt Kenseth may end up next year

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran driver and 2003 champion revealed Friday during his media availability at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta that he doesn’t expect to still be the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in 2018. Erik Jones is expected to move from the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota he’s driving through a deal between JGR and FRR to the No. 20 car next season. While Kenseth doesn’t expect to continue as driver of the No. 20 beyond 2017, he said he doesn’t have a job lined up, yet, for next season.

Later during the Kentucky Speedway race weekend that culminated in Saturday night’s running of the Quaker State 400, car owner Joe Gibbs said he wasn’t yet ready to announce the 2018 plans for his No. 20 Toyota.

Where does Kenseth go from here? Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, also during the Kentucky race weekend, that he’s confident that Kenseth will have a quality ride next year.

Was Earnhardt’s statement an indicator that Kenseth may wind up at Hendrick Motorsports? Maybe. Maybe not. Earnhardt gave as his reason for his confidence of Kenseth having a good ride next year that Kenseth was a talented driver. Maybe there was more knowledge than that behind his comments; maybe not.

This is just my guess, based on no secret inside information whatsoever. I see Kenseth either swapping rides with Jones or going to Hendrick, with the Hendrick option being, perhaps, the highest possibility.

If FRR continues as a two-car team, it’ll need a new driver to replace Jones. Enter Kenseth. But I wouldn’t be surprised in Furniture Row goes back to being a single-car operation. After all, a deal with Gibbs put Jones in the new second FRR ride, and word had it that JGR helped Furniture Row obtain the sponsorship to fund that second car. What’s to say sponsorship backing for Jones at Furniture Row won’t follow him to Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

Then, there’s the Hendrick scenario.

No, I’m not giving up on my hopes of seeing Alex Bowman finally getting a full-time Cup ride, courtesy of HMS. According to popular hearsay — and take that for what it’s worth — two rides at Hendrick may become available at season’s end. In addition of Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring from full-time Cup Series competition, vacating the No. 88, word has it, Kasey Kahne may also be on his way out, making the No. 5 seat available.

Maybe Kenseth and Bowman will both get rides at HMS next year. It can happen.

Many team owners nowadays go for the “young gun,” because that’s what most sponsors seem to want these days. Rick Hendrick, though, hasn’t always conformed to that trend. This may not be the PC way to put it, but Mark Martin wasn’t exactly a “spring chicken” when Hendrick hired him to drive the No. 5 that eventually went to Kahne.

Considering word on the street, or in this case the garage, and all the drivers with expiring contracts, look for a big game of musical chairs involving several big names over the coming months. Kenseth could wind up in any one of a number of places, but for now, I’m going to predict a move to Furniture Row Racing or, even more likely, to Hendrick Motorsports.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 9, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,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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