First it was Jeff Gordon. Next year it will be Tony Stewart. Will Matt Kenseth be next on the list? Not so fast.
After Gordon walked away from the sport at Homestead-Miami Speedway, questions have been raised to some of the sports more, um, experienced stars about their future. Kenseth, 43, is nearly the same age as Gordon and will turn another year older in March.
While he’s nearing the twilight years of his career, Kenseth told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he doesn’t plan on going anywhere.
“Obviously I realize more of my career is behind me than in front of me,” Kenseth said. “But I really don’t feel like I’ve been declining at all physically or mentally. I feel like we’re running good. Leading laps, we’re winning races, sitting on poles. I don’t really feel that.
“I hope to race for another five or six years at least. … I’m not really to that point. I love racing. I’m having a ton of success. I’m having a ton of fun.”
To be honest, Kenseth doesn’t appear to be slowing down. A year after going winless for Joe Gibbs Racing, he rattled off five wins and — save for a bump from Joey Logano at Kansas — was in line to compete for a championship at the end of the year.
He’s also driving for a team that was a dominant force in the sport in 2015, culminating in a championship for Kyle Busch. It was the first title for Toyota Racing in what appears to be a longstanding stranglehold over NASCAR.
However, Kenseth’s five or six years does present an issue for one driver — Erik Jones.
The 19-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was brought up multiple times in 2015 to fill in for JGR drivers. He brought home two top-20 finishes in place of Kenseth during his suspension, won two races at the Xfinity Series level and brought home a Trucks championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Suffice to say, he looks ready for the next level in two or three years. But with a loaded four-car team at Gibbs, when and where will Jones get his opportunity?
“Erik drove Kyle’s car earlier this year, and he drove Denny (Hamlin)’s car when Denny was hurt early this year,” Kenseth said. “So obviously you realize that there’s going to be a changing of the guard eventually. … You realize that’s coming sooner or later, but I didn’t really sit and think about it. I was just thinking about how I wanted to be driving it.”
With one championship at Roush-Fenway Racing already in tow, Kenseth still has five or six years to grab another with Gibbs. Already a 12-time winner in just his first three seasons, there’s no telling what the future might hold for this thriving relationship.