Matt Kenseth should be starting to get comfortable in his new reality about now.
Participating in Champions Week in Las Vegas less than two weeks after the checkered flag in Miami made it hard for Kenseth to shake race mode. However, the NASCAR garage is a week away from 2018 mode ahead of the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.
The 2003 Cup series champion does not expect to be part of the field in the sport’s biggest race or any other next year after 18 full seasons at NASCAR’s top level. Erik Jones is replacing him in the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We got a lot to look forward to,” Kenseth said in Las Vegas, alluding to the upcoming birth of his fourth child with wife Katie. “Really, the racing season isn’t over until I walk out that door [in Vegas]. … So, for me, it’s hard to be like, how settled in are you? How do you feel about it all? Because I don’t know, I’m not really done with ’17 yet.
“Until I get home and get settled in for a little while with everything we got going on, it’s hard to say. But I feel good about everything. Feel like I got a lot to be thankful for, a lot to look forward to.”
Even with the disappointment, perhaps even the tinge of frustration with how things ended at Gibbs, Kenseth has kept a positive attitude. He certainly still wants to be competing and at 45 years old, feels he could continue doing so competitively. Yet Kenseth got to a point late in the year where he acknowledged there would be no quality ride for him.
Yes, he’ll be fine at home with his kids. No, he does not expect to have to deliver pizza to make ends meet.
“I feel good,” Kenseth said about the future.
Aside from fatherhood, there is no telling what else Kenseth’s future will look like. For 18 years he was one of the most competitive and successful drivers in the Cup series, earning 39 wins and 20 poles to go with a championship, two Daytona 500 wins and a Coca-Cola 600 victory.
Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs were the only two full-time car owners Kenseth competed for in the Cup series. And when it comes to car ownership, that is one thing Kenseth said is certainly not in his future.
It’s all about racing. Hopefully something Kenseth does again. Maybe even on dirt.
“There’s a chance of that,” Kenseth said. “Way more than owning something.”