Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth, the guy who went full WWE on another driver a few years ago and who’s been looking for a 2018 ride for what seems like ages, will “step away” from NASCAR’s top level next year. Unless the car fairy shows up to give him a competitive ride, you won’t see him.
Kenseth, 45, lost his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing in July, when the team announced 21-year-old Erik Jones would take it next year. Kenseth said at the time he was “glad they finally put [the news] out” so he didn’t “have to pretend anymore,” according to USA Today, which meant his replacement had likely been in the works for a while.
But even with months to prepare, Kenseth didn’t find a ride. Dale Earnhardt Jr. told Autoweek over the summer that so many younger drivers were getting Cup Series rides because of the gap in expected pay between people Kenseth’s age and the kids—he said, without providing solid numbers, that younger drivers would work for a lot less than older ones.
With no ride for next year and about two and a half Cup Series races left in the 2017 season, Kenseth finally said he has somewhat solid plans for next year: not racing in NASCAR’s top series. NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan reported it this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, saying Kenseth told him he wouldn’t be in the Daytona 500 season opener unless “some championship caliber ride materializes.”
“He said that he is going to take a break,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t know if that means a break for a month, two months, five months or for forever. He acknowledged that when you step away from NASCAR, in the Cup Series, it is not always likely that you get to come back.”
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That last part is a good point. Kenseth won’t have an easy time getting back if he does end up not racing next year, and he’s getting to the general retirement age of top-level NASCAR drivers anyway.
If he doesn’t come back, we’ll miss him for the random explosive retaliations from an otherwise quiet driver. His unexpected tackle of Brad Keselowski after a race in 2014 will, forever, be among one of the best moments on live television.
Thanks for that one, Matt.