Race Weekend Central

Kenseth is Leaving? No Big Surprise Here

NASCAR experienced a huge upheaval on Saturday as the news broke that Matt Kenseth would be stepping away from racing in 2018.

Well, actually it was more of a slight tremor. Despite the fact that this story was featured on every single racing site across the world, probably the only person who was really shocked that he didn’t garner a multi-million dollar contract for next season was the man himself.

No, seriously.  We all know Kenseth is a killer wheelman and he has more than a few stats to back up this reputation.  But the sad fact remains that the reason why he is going out with a wimper, rather than a bang, has everything to do with his on-air persona, not his driving ability.

There are two things that the average NASCAR fan knows about Matt Kenseth.  He was the 2003 Cup champion and can be cited as the reason NASCAR decided to implement a play-off scenario (because he won the championship while taking home only one race trophy all year–and even failed to finish the final race of the season!)  Other than those notable moments, he has remained as nearly invisible to the camera as a top-flight driver can be in this series.

He’s reliable. He’s…polite. He’s…consistent.

With television ratings on a downward path accompanied by way too many empty seats at the track, is a sponsor or a top-tier team going to want to hire a safe, reliable, pleasant competitor especially when his background indicates that he is worthy of an eight digit salary?

Well, we got that answer this week.  It’s a resounding no.

It is sad that Kenseth won’t be receiving a yearlong farewell, but I’m not even sure what kind of festivities could be concocted for the self-effacing personality.  Fireworks and rock concerts are just not his style, are they? Would we know?

The other drivers that have been enjoying the fruits of their careers in an extensive last lap include Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and of course Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Even if they weren’t your driver, you can most likely tick off at least a half dozen stories from their popular and noisy careers. They represented the meat and potatoes of dinner conversation for NASCAR Nation for the better part of two decades.  Kenseth is the asterisk that appeared alongside their triumphs.

I really do wish Kenseth the best of luck and goodwill for his future.  I hope we will see him behind the wheel of something in a year or two after he has had time to be just a dad. I hope he can decide that it was all a really good ride. It was. But in the end, it takes more than sterling consistency if you want to be part of the most popular form of motorsports in America.  We knew it in 2003, and the same still applies today.

SOMETHING SHINY

I think I’m repeating myself.  The closing laps of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 were absolutely awesome.  We had two of the best drivers duking it out for the win and it wasn’t dumb luck, a wreck, or even a miscalculation that dashed the hopes of Truex this week.  It was the knife-edge control and bravado of Kevin Harvick that made the day.  Can we have more of that please? Please?

 

 

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