Loudon, N.H. — Matt Kenseth knows his NASCAR career will soon fade to black.
But the same week he was given a pink slip by Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth hit the road for a Metallica concert instead of pounding the pavement to find a ride in 2018.
“Actually made me feel 20 again for about four hours, which was pretty fun,” Kenseth said.
If Kenseth actually was 20, he’d be an in-demand driver for a Cup Series rapidly undergoing a changing of the guard. Young is cool. And for a sport desperately angling to hook a new generation of fans, 20-something drivers such as Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones could lead the charge into the next decade and beyond. Some of that evolution comes at the expense of veteran drivers such as Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion and a two-time Daytona 500 champion, who got the official news this week he was out at JGR at the end of the season.
Jones, 21, of Byron, Michigan, will take Kenseth’s job in the No. 20 Toyota. Jones is on a one-year loaner contract to Gibbs’ sister team Furniture Row Racing, and Gibbs had to put Jones somewhere in 2018.
Kenseth’s fate had been in limbo — though it seemed obvious Jones was being groomed for the ride — and Gibbs made the transaction complete, leaving the Kenseth, 45, without a car next year.
“I’m just glad they finally put it out so I don’t have to pretend anymore,” Kenseth said at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Everybody can ask you about it, everybody can move on and get back to racing.”
Kenseth, who qualifiedfourth at New Hampshire, said Friday he had no hard feelings toward the organization and has no concerns about his future. He also has no timetable for a decision but there are few options.
The best bet could be a one-year landing…