Matt Kenseth was able to enjoy one year of retirement before he decided it was a perfect time to get back in the saddle, again.
But, boy, did he live it up.
Kenseth spent the better part of 2019 traveling around the country with his wife, Katie, and four children, visiting his home state of Wisconsin, as well as various beaches and mountains in what he described as “probably the best summer of my life.”
Once fall approached, it was off to Berlin, Germany, where he and Katie competed in a marathon and stayed an extra week to tour parts of Europe.
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But the complexion of the remainder of 2020 is going to be drastically different after it was announced Monday that he would come out of retirement, replacing Kyle Larson as the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing once the season resumes.
Was he surprised he got the call? A little bit.
“I knew they needed a driver, but I didn’t think I’d be on the list since I hadn’t been around for a while,” Kenseth told NASCAR.com. “I thought about it for a little bit and came up with a bunch of questions and called him back. Katie and I spent a lot of time kind of talking about it and learning as much as I could about it. Really, it just happened kind of fast.”
But is he ready to showcase his veteran talents once again? Now more than ever, especially since this isn’t his first go-around when it comes to getting up from the rocking chair.
After Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing parted ways, it was Roush Fenway Racing that reached out to him about a part-time opportunity to race the No. 6 Ford alongside Trevor Bayne in 2018 with the hopes that he could get the team back on a competitive track.
“I expect it to be different,” Kenseth said. “It was a really good experience for me to go back and do that. It was a challenge that I really wanted at the time for a lot of different reasons. It’s a bit different because I didn’t jump in and run the whole season there, it was kind of part-time.”
This time around, Kenseth won’t have the same rapport he did with Jack Roush, admitting he didn’t know team owner Chip Ganassi that well before the deal was put together. But it’s Ganassi’s style and performance of the No. 42 team over the past handful of seasons that sparked Kenseth’s interest when he received the initial phone call from managing director Max Jones.
“Chip always strikes me as one of the guys that, you know, when you’re on his team, I think he’s going to be great and when you’re not on his team, you’re maybe the enemy,” Kenseth said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know him better and working with him. I’ve talked to him for a few times on the phone now. He’s really excited. I’m really excited.”
Kenseth goes into this new adventure with optimism and confidence. He likes what he’s seen out of crew chief Chad Johnston, the No. 42 team made the Round of 8 in last season’s playoffs, and he feels he’s in the best shape of his life. He also gets the chance to link up with Kurt Busch once more after previous years together at Roush.
“Kurt’s a great teammate. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kenseth said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with him. Looking forward to working with him again.”
But what drives him personally to strap on the helmet once again? What is there left to prove for the 48-year-old NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner?
“You don’t always get those opportunities,” Kenseth said. “I really don’t feel like I have anything to prove necessarily. Unfinished business might not be the right word either, but there’s certainly some things that I still want to do that maybe I haven’t done just for myself. I can’t really give you a particular list, but there’s certainly some things that I’d like to go back and do.
“I’d like to go back and be competitive and maybe win another race or win some races. … I’m looking forward to going and working as hard as I possibly can at it. Hopefully being able to contribute and have some success and be competitive again. It’d be fun to know that I can do that.”