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Matt Kenseth’s ‘break’ a sad way to ‘retire’

Matt Kenseth didn’t announce his retirement Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Instead, he announced he was taking a break from the sport for awhile. But for those who haven’t seen the writing on the wall, yet, and that may even include Kenseth, himself, his stepping away from the sport, I’m pretty sure, is going to turn into a retirement, or at least come close to a retirement.

It’s sad that it, as in Kenseth’s career, had to end this way. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the luxury of going out on their own terms. Okay, Edwards may not, technically, be retired, but wake up and smell the coffee, folks; he’s not going to be coming back on any kind of regular basis, if at all. It’s time to move on. Dodge won’t be back next year, and neither will “Cousin Carl.”

Anyway, those aforementioned drivers decided when they were (or in Jr.’s case, will) step away. Kenseth? Not so much.

Kenseth’s situation is much like that of Greg Biffle a year ago, with one exception. Biffle was odd man out when Roush Fenway Racing scaled back to two teams. Kenseth, for all intents and purposes, was forced out by the current climate of sponsors, and maybe even car owners to an extent, wanting the next big thing. Kenseth was pushed out to make room for “young gun” Erik Jones. I’m pretty sure Kenseth didn’t want to go out this way.

Speaking of Kenseth, Biffle and Edwards, is it just me, or is it some kind of weird coincidence that these three departures — don’t call them “retirements” — kind of wipe out an end of an era of Roush Fenway Racing, even though Biffle was the only one of the three who was still with RFR at the end of his proverbial road?

After his release from Roush Fenway was announced last year, Biffle contended that he’d only consider top-flight, competitive rides. Well, where is he now? He could be anywhere, even a race track, but  he hasn’t been at the NASCAR track of the week this year.

Okay, so Biffle didn’t come out and say near the end of last year that he’d be taking a break from racing in 2017 like Kenseth said of 2018 on Saturday, but that’s what this year has ended up being — a break. And don’t expect to see Biffle back with any kind of regularity next year, either.

Kenseth ran well enough to make the playoffs this year and get to the Round of 12, and he couldn’t get a quality ride for 2018. If he can’t get a competitive ride immediately following a playoff run, why should we think he could get a competitive ride after a year off? And the more time he’s on the sidelines, the less likely he’ll be able to ever get a quality ride again.

We may never see Kenseth run a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race beyond 2017. That depends on whether or not he’ll ever be willing to take a less-than-competitive ride. Top-flight teams don’t want drivers who haven’t been in a race car in a year, or two, or three.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we never even see him in a car on a part-time basis down the road. How many top-flight teams put multiple drivers in their cars over the course of a season? Those aren’t the teams looking for part-time drivers, unless a primary driver gets injured. Even then, teams are more likely to go with a driver with more recent track time, even if they have to dip into the Xfinity Series ranks.

I hate to say it, at least partly because I hate to see a still-competitive driver like Kenseth go out this way, but the guy’s swan song will probably be the Nov. 19 Homestead-Miami Speedway 2017 season-finale.

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Posted by on November 7, 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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