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NASCAR Cup: saying goodbye to Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Matt Kenseth (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Matt Kenseth may not be officially retired as of season’s end, but he’s been up front about not having a ride for next year and has stated that, maybe, it’s time to go do something different. Kenseth seems to see the writing on the wall that, perhaps, his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driving career may be over as of the No. 19 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, indicated by the emotion he showed after winning the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

“I don’t know what to say except, ‘Thank the Lord,’” Kenseth said after his Phoenix win. “It’s been an amazing journey, and I know I’m a big baby right now. Just have one race left and everybody dreams about going out a winner. We won today and nobody can take that away from us. That was a heck of a battle with Chase (Elliott), there. I have to thank Circle K, Toyota, DeWalt and all our partners.”

Ironically, Kenseth’s NASCAR timeline looks similar to that of Dale Earnhardt Jr. After a couple seasons of part-time racing in the Busch (now-Xfinity) Series, both Kenseth and Earnhardt went full-time racing in the series for 1998 and 1999. Then, after a handful of starts in the Winston (now-Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series, they both went full-time racing in that series in 2000.

While Earnhardt achieved the most success of the two in the Busch Series, winning back-to-back championships in those two seasons, Kenseth flourished more at the Cup level. Kenseth’s Cup Series achievements include 2000 Rookie-of-the-Year honors and the 2003 Cup Series title.

Kenseth made his first-career Cup start in 1998, subbing for an injured Bill Elliott, whose son Chase Elliott just happened to be the driver Kenseth passed to win at Phoenix on Sunday.

Car owner Jack Roush put Kenseth in his No. 17 car for five races in 1999 before bringing him to the series full-time the following year. Throughout his Cup Series career, Kenseth drove for two car owners, aside from his one-race Elliott fill-in stint, spending the bulk of his career at Roush Fenway Racing. He moved to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 to drive the No. 20 Toyota, there.

“Thanks to JGR,” Kenseth said. “It’s been a great five years. It’s been quite the journey in this 20.”

Kenseth claimed his first-career win in 2000 in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That was the first of 39-career wins in 649-career starts. If the 2017 finale at Homestead winds up being his last-career start, he’ll end that career with a round tally of 650-career starts.

Kenseth’s 2003 championship was the first for Roush Fenway Racing at the Cup level, to be followed by a second-consecutive championship the following year by another then-Roush driver, Kurt Busch. Kenseth’s championship was the final championship prior to the implementation of the chase format. Kenseth also was the last driver to win the Cup title under the Winston Cup banner.

Twenty-four of Kenseth’s Cup Series wins came during his time at RFR. When he made the move to JGR for 2013, he got to victory lane seven times in his first season with that team. Those were the first seven of 15 wins with the Gibbs organization. He has made the playoffs each year since the implementation of the elimination format in 2014.

“Wasn’t sure that I was ready for this and to move onto something next year, but honestly, God made the decision for me,” Kenseth said after his Phoenix win. “He put me here for a reason and he’s taking me out for a reason. It’s been an incredible journey and there’s no way you could write it any better than this.”

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Posted by on November 14, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,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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