By David Morgan, Associate Editor
For the second time in the last three years, Matt Kenseth is coming out of retirement to climb back into the cockpit of a race car and compete at NASCAR’s highest level.
On Monday, Chip Ganassi Racing announced that for the remainder of the season, the 2003 Cup Series champion will be driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for the team, taking over the seat vacated when Kyle Larson was fired for using a racial slur two weeks ago.
“I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car,” said team owner Chip Ganassi.
“We are doing exactly that with Matt. Throughout my time in NASCAR, I have always admired the way Matt Kenseth raced. He has proven to be a consistent winner, strong competitor, and respectful driver, and I’m glad we are able to add another NASCAR champion to the team for the remainder of this season.”
Kenseth made his Cup Series debut in relief of Bill Elliott at Dover in September 1998 before running part-time for Roush Fenway in 1999 and taking on his first full-time season the following year. Kenseth drove for RFR until the end of the 2012 season, when he moved over to JGR for the next five years, and made his way back to Roush for a part-time schedule in 2018, finishing out the year in the No. 6 car.
Over the course of his career, Kenseth has accumulated numerous accolades, including a Cup Series championship, Rookie of the Year honors in 2000, and two Daytona 500 wins. To date, he has scored 39 wins in 665 starts.
“This was an unexpected opportunity for sure,” said Kenseth. “I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago. After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back.
“I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
In Cup Series competition, Kenseth has competed for teams utilizing the Ford and Toyota brands, but he has yet to drive a Chevrolet, which he will do when he climbs behind the wheel for Ganassi. The Cambridge, Wisconsin native will also reunite with former teammate Kurt Busch at CGR. Kenseth and Busch raced together for six seasons between 2000 and 2005.
“I’m excited to work with Kurt again and to meet all my new CGR team members, and I’m really looking forward to getting back in a Chevrolet,” Kenseth added. “In 1988, I started my career in a Camaro and I can’t wait to finally race a Chevy in the Cup Series. I also need to thank Chip and all his partners for this opportunity. Hopefully we will be on the track soon.”
The Associated Press reported that in addition to Kenseth, Ganassi also reached out to Carl Edwards, another Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway alum to fill the seat, but Edwards turned down the offer.
As for Ross Chastain, who many expected to take over Larson’s vacated seat, Ganassi told The Associated Press that ‘We’ve got plans for him.’