News & Media

Roush sheds light on Kenseth's future?

June 29, 2012, Joe Menzer,

SPARTA, Ky. -- Current boss says driver will "be moving to the dark side" starting in 2013

In lamenting the loss of driver Matt Kenseth from the Roush Fenway Racing fold and saying that in his opinion Kenseth "will be moving to the dark side," RFR co-owner Jack Roush appeared to shed considerable light on where Kenseth will be employed next.

"He will, from my point of view, be moving to the dark side. We will get through that. Personally we will be fine."


Roush, whose organization fields Ford race cars, has long made no secret of his loyalty to American-based manufacturers and his disdain for Toyota, the NASCAR manufacturer whose headquarters are located in Japan. Joe Gibbs Racing, which fields Toyotas, already had appeared to be the frontrunner in the Kenseth sweepstakes. Roush's comment all but seemed to confirm it.

Earlier Friday, Kenseth reiterated that he already knows where he will be driving next year and beyond. But he said he could not announce it just yet.

"For Matt and I and I think everybody on the team, the friendship part will survive. I have not lost respect for Matt and I hope he hasn't for me," Roush said Friday from Kentucky Speedway, where Kenseth will drive the No. 17 Ford for RFR Satrurday night. "I won't have the same sense of wishing for his success on the race track next year that I will for the balance of this year and have in the past. He will, from my point of view, be moving to the dark side. We will get through that. Personally we will be fine."

Professionally, Roush admitted he was shocked when Kenseth came to him last week and said he would not return to RFR next season. Kenseth is in the final year of his contract, and had been involved in contract negotiations to have his current deal extended at RFR as well as, obviously, more secretive negotiations with another suitor.

"First and foremost I have enjoyed the 15 years with Matt and the success that he has had and the growth that has occurred to the team through his time as a driver," Roush said. "Like Mark Martin and Greg [Biffle] and Carl [Edwards], he is a cornerstone of what we do and his DNA is all over the things that we are known for and our success.

"I will say that I was as surprised as most of you must have been when I learned that he would not be signing with us to go forward. It was a surprise and I had no idea that we were at that point. I won't comment [further] on the negotiations, on any negotiations that might have occurred, because we have an agreement to not talk about that."

Kenseth has been employed by Roush since 1998 and has driven the No. 17 for him in the Sprint Cup Series since 2000. He has won 22 Cup races, including this year's season-opening Daytona 500 in February. Kenseth also claimed the 2003 Cup championship.

Kenseth leaving RFR

Matt Kenseth has been at Roush Fenway Racing since 1998 but this season will be his last as he will leave the team at the end of the year, opening the door for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

What is not yet clear is that if Kenseth does indeed go to JGR, will he be in a fourth car or replace Joey Logano in the No. 20 Toyota? He could move into the No. 20 and Logano stay on in a fourth car of a different number as well.

Kenseth's current RFR teammate, Carl Edwards, said that no matter where Kenseth ends up, Kenseth's decision should be respected.

"A guy has to do what he thinks is best for him and his career and Matt didn't get to where he is by making poor decisions," Edwards said. "He is making a decision he thinks is best. I respect that and I think everyone should."

Perhaps Kenseth's closest friend in the Sprint Cup garage is Greg Biffle, his other current RFR teammate. Kenseth currently leads the point standings, with Biffle second.

"I was a little bit surprised," Biffle said of Kenseth's decision to part ways with RFR. "Matt and I are good friends but we don't talk about business much when we are together, other than racing. We don't talk contracts or anything like that. I'm going to lose a good teammate in the garage area. I'm not going to lose a friend, I guess, but I will lose a friend sitting in all the meetings and all that."

Kenseth will be replaced in the third RFR car by defending Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush said the plan is to have Jimmy Fennig remain as crew chief for the car and that it will remain the No. 17, with Trevor Bayne likely replacing Stenhouse in the No. 6 Nationwide car that will continue to have Mike Kelley as its crew chief.

"As far as crew chiefs go, the 17 program is a championship-level program," Roush said. "And for Ricky to have all the guidance and expertise and support that Jimmy Fennig and the guys can provide is essential. We will have a full-time Nationwide program next year and the plan is now for Trevor to be the driver for that program. ... That is our plan. In the same vein, we have a championship-level Nationwide program in place with Mike Kelley and my hope is to keep that together so that we can compete effectively toward a championship with Ricky this year, but also be able to do the same thing with Trevor next year."