Matt Kenseth to step away from driving in 2018

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FORT WORTH, Texas — NASCAR veteran and 2003 Monster Energy Series champion Matt Kenseth revealed Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway that he does not expect to race full-time in 2018 after 18 accomplished seasons in NASCAR’s premier ranks.

Kenseth, 45, didn’t want to go so far as to call it “retirement” in the truest sense of the word, but he did say he fully intended to take time off to spend with his family, in a story first reported by NBC Sports. It may be a year or more, or, he said, it could be only three or four months should the right situation arise.

“I don’t know if I’d necessarily call it an announcement,” Kenseth said after final practice for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. “I’m not looking at anything for 2018, the retirement word doesn’t really make a lot of sense in this sport really because you don’t officially retire and get a pension.

“Mostly, that’s for people like Junior, when you have to fill a seat and find a sponsor. For me it’s different, I didn’t really have that option. My seat got filled before I had that option.”

Kenseth is referring to the decision this summer that his Joe Gibbs Racing team made to replace him in the No. 20 Toyota with 21-year-old driver Erik Jones beginning next year.

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Kenseth’s friend Earnhardt announced in April he will step away from full-time Cup competition after the Homestead-Miami season finale in two weeks. The two will end their NASCAR careers as they began them — together.

Kenseth finished runner-up to Earnhardt in the XFINITY Series in 1998 and third place to him in 1999.

Kenseth then moved up into the Cup ranks in 2000 with the same Roush Fenway Racing team he drove for in the XFINITY ranks and quickly established himself of Cup championship caliber. He won five races in 2002 then the Cup championship trophy the following year. He was runner-up in 2006.

He moved from the Roush Ford team to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota operation in 2013 and quickly flourished, earning a career-best seven victories that year and finishing runner-up in the Cup championship once again.

He is currently ranked 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings after falling out of playoff contention two weeks ago in Kansas.

Kenseth said he had no specific plans after this race season, other than anticipating the birth of his fifth child — news he also revealed this week.

“I’m just going to take some time off, whatever that means, take a year or two … or three months, four months,” Kenseth said. “You never really know what happens. Something could come up that makes me excited and looks like a fit and I’m not going to rule that out.

“But I’m not making any plans for 2018 just going to take some time off.”

Kenseth conceded that at times his future plans seemed out of his hands and that before this month, he had genuinely not made a decision about his career.

“Obviously it’s not a situation I want to be in because I don’t really feel like I’m ready to retire or step away,” Kenseth said. “In other ways, I do. It’s been a really really long and frustrating season on a lot of levels.

“With the way everything ended up, I’m just going to take some time for me and my family.”