News & Media

Hamlin says Kenseth 'a great guy to fill a seat'

June 27, 2012, Joe Menzer,

With rumors running rampant that Matt Kenseth's next stop in NASCAR might be at Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin indicated Wednesday that he would welcome Kenseth into the JGR family with open arms.

He also qualified his endorsement of Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, by saying he's not the one making such decisions. Kenseth, the current points leader in the series, announced on Tuesday that he would be leaving his long-time home at the end of the season when his current contract expires.

"He's going to be a valuable asset wherever he goes and anybody would be lucky to have him."


"You know, my talks with Matt have been pretty brief," Hamlin said in a conference call. "We always speak to each other when we see each other, say, in the motor home lot or driver intros. I talk to him as much as I would anyone, probably a little bit more these last couple of years. You always want someone like that on your team and drivers are not going to convince other drivers to do certain things. It's going to be what they feel is best for them; where they feel like they can win races.

"And so, you know, my role [in this] is limited. But you know someone like that obviously has the potential to bring a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of information to your race team, and you just hope that if the opportunity comes available, then he would be a great guy to fill a seat."

Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 Toyota, is one of three current Cup drivers in the JGR stable. The others are Kyle Busch in the No. 18 and Joey Logano in the No. 20.

Earlier this year, team owner Joe Gibbs talked openly about the possiblity of adding a fourth team in the future.

"You only do it if it makes sense from the standpoint of the driver added and your sponsorship situation," Gibbs said then. "But it is something we've talked about and something we would strongly consider if those conditions were right."

There had been speculation earlier this season that Logano, whose Cup car is sponsored by Home Depot and Dollar General, might be in danger of losing his ride if he did not produce this season. But he's already won five Nationwide races and recently won the second Cup race of his career, and Gibbs has strongly endorsed his support of the young driver, who is only 22, at every turn.

Kenseth, who won this year's season-opening Daytona 500, currently holds an 11-point lead over his closest pursuer in the point standings -- Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle. Kenseth has 22 career Cup wins and is in his 12th season of racing full time in Cup for RFR, the organization whose founder and co-owner, Jack Roush, said in May of the driver: "Matt Kenseth is the cornerstone of Roush Fenway. He'll be part of it as long as I am -- and as long as he wants to be. He's certainly got a place here as long as I'm able to remain the head of it."

Things obviously changed the landscape regarding the driver in the fewer than six weeks since Roush made that statement.

Hamlin is eighth in the current standings, with one pole and two wins this season. Kyle Busch is 12th in the standings, with one win, and Logano, who has one pole to go along with his win at Pocono on June 10, is 15th heading into this Saturday's race at Kentucky Speedway.

Of Kenseth, Hamlin added: "His accomplishments kind of speak for themselves. I think being the current points leader, you know what he's capable of. And you know, if there was anyone I would consider myself closest to as far as driving style, I would have to say it would probably be Matt.

"He just brings so many assets, I think, to a race team. Obviously he's got a lot of history over in the Roush organization and has had tons of success there. So he's going to be a valuable asset wherever he goes and anybody would be lucky to have him."