By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
The list of veteran drivers that won’t be behind the wheel in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season has grown by one as Matt Kenseth, who has been looking for a ride since mid-summer, announced that he would be stepping away from the sport at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
“I’ll just take some time off, whatever that means,” said Kenseth. “I don’t know if that’s a year, two years, three months, four months, I mean you never know what happens. Maybe something comes along that really makes you excited and it feels like it’s going to be a fit, you might go do. Certainly not gonna rule that out, but for now, I’m not making any plans for 2018. I just plan on having some time off.”
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, has been driving for Joe Gibbs Racing since 2013 after moving over from Roush-Fenway Racing, where he started his career back in 2000. The Cambridge, Wisconsin native has scored 38 wins in his career, along with 179 top-five finishes, 324 top-10 finishes, and 20 poles in 647 starts.
Midway through this season, which has gone winless thus far, Kenseth’s future in the sport was up in the air after Joe Gibbs Racing announced that starting in 2018 Erik Jones would be taking over the No. 20 car that Kenseth currently drives, thrusting him into the scarce job market in the driving corps.
Though Kenseth joked around about his job prospects for next season, ultimately, he was unable to find a ride for the upcoming campaign, leaving him on the outside looking in and unable to exit the sport under his own terms.
“Obviously it’s not a situation I wanted to be in,” he added. “I don’t — in a lot of ways I don’t feel like I’m ready to retire. In other ways I do. I don’t know. It’s been a really long, frustrating disappointing season on a lot of levels to be honest with you. It’s the end of the year I’m pretty tired right now with the way everything ended up and the way everything went. I’m just gonna take some time with my family and go from there.”
With Kenseth out of the car next season, he joins a handful of others that have stepped away in recent years, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will be retiring at season’s end, Carl Edwards, who stepped away before the 2017 season, as well as Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who retired in 2015 and 2016, respectively.