News & Media

Kenseth ends RFR tenure on disappointing note

November 20, 2012, David Caraviello,

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Former champ, others have mixed results before moving into new rides in 2013

It wasn't the way Matt Kenseth wanted his long and storied career at Roush Fenway Racing to end.

This season's Daytona 500 winner competed in the final race Sunday for the only Sprint Cup organization he's ever known, finishing a disappointing 18th at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He briefly flirted with the top five before his car began to fade and climbed out of his No. 17 for the final time after his second-worst result of the Chase.

"It was frustrating. A frustrating ending to the season."


"It is really frustrating for me [Sunday night]," said Kenseth, who beginning next year will drive the No. 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing. "I thought we had a top-five car in the beginning, and we put two tires on one time and the handling totally went away from us, and we were junk from there on out and the rest of the race. We were one of the cars that didn't pit to make it on fuel, and then that cost us a good 10 spots. It was frustrating. A frustrating ending to the season."

A season that had a promising start, given that Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and was among the Sprint Cup points leaders for much of the year. He won three times, scoring two of those during the Chase, although those victories came too late to get him back in the championship hunt after a difficult start to the playoffs.

So Sunday brought a disappointing end to a Roush tenure that saw Kenseth score 24 race victories, twice claim the Daytona 500, and deliver car owner Jack Roush his first championship in NASCAR's top division in 2003. After the Homestead race, he admitted it felt a little strange to climb out of his No. 17 car for the last time.

"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "I think I will probably think about that on the way home, though."

Kenseth isn't the only driver on the move for 2013. Joey Logano, the driver he's replacing at Gibbs, was forced to start at the rear in a backup car because of a practice crash and rallied to finish 14th in his final run in the No. 20 car. Beginning next year, Logano will be at Penske Racing as a teammate to new Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski. Logano will drive a No. 22 car that Sunday was piloted to a 22nd-place finish by Sam Hornish Jr., who stepped in for AJ Allmendinger at midseason and will return to the Nationwide ranks next year.

So will Regan Smith, who won in his first start for JR Motorsports on Saturday night, and on Sunday finished 30th in his final run in James Finch's No. 51 car. That vehicle opened the season with Kurt Busch behind the wheel, and the 2004 champion finished ninth Sunday to deliver the Furniture Row Racing team three consecutive top-10s for the first time. Busch drove the car for the final six races of the season and will pilot it full-time in 2013.

Busch said he was in position for a top-five until he ran out of fuel on the final lap. "All in all, we finished the season strong, with three straight top-10s and four straight top-15s," he said. "You can't ask for much more in a short period of time together. We've made a tremendous amount of progress in six weeks. Some of the handling issues we've had have been narrowed down in these six weeks, and that's a big plus heading into the offseason."

Kenseth wasn't the only Roush driver to have issues Sunday. Making his fourth Cup start of the season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. cut a tire early in the race and hit the wall. The contact broke a suspension piece and led to a 39th-place finish. Stenhouse will have plenty more chances next season in NASCAR's premier division, when the two-time Nationwide Series champion moves up to replace Kenseth in the No. 17.

"It was fun, and we learned a lot," Stenhouse said of the experience. "I'm looking forward to next year."