By admin | September 5, 2012
By Richard Allen
In what was one of the worst kept secrets in recent NASCAR history, Matt Kenseth was named as the driver of the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for the 2013 season on Tuesday. The 2003 Sprint Cup(then Winston Cup) champion had announced his intentions to leave longtime team Roush Fenway Racing weeks ago but had been unable to officially say where he was headed until now due to contractual limitations.
With all things considered in today’s racing climate, who could blame Kenseth for bolting?
When Jack Roush stated that he had been unaware Kenseth was even considering leaving, he revealed a great deal about why this driver had sought other opportunities. The longtime owner and highly respected gear head said that he concerned himself less with the business of racing more with the mechanics of racing.
Twenty-five years ago, the better cylinder head or the next great design in suspension components were difference makers in NASCAR racing. But now, it is sponsorship that drives the modern day sport. And RFR has proven to be lacking in the ability to secure sponsorship for its organization.
As Kenseth looked at the current landscape, he had to have noticed that JGR has three fully funded Sprint Cup teams as well as sponsored Nationwide Series cars under its umbrella while RFR can not make the same claims. The company Kenseth is leaving was unable prior to the season to secure fulltime backers for his #17 ride despite the fact that he is a former champion and Daytona 500 winner.
Also, RFR had to shut down its #6, the team that was the original Jack Roush entry into NASCAR and the organization’s flagship car, after last season due to a lack of funding. More, RFR could not keep the Nationwide car driven by Trevor Bayne on track despite the fact that he too is a former Daytona 500 winner.
While Kenseth has spent his entire career behind the wheel of the #17 Ford, he is leaving a team with an uncertain future in terms of financing for a team with Home Depot and Dollar General locked in place for 2013. Although RFR had assured Kenseth that he would have a place with them no matter what, there had to be a certain degree of concern in his mind as the potential of blank quarter panels loomed.
In the end, Matt Kenseth’s decision to leave RFR for the Gibbs organization may have been a difficult one, but it also was a no-brainer.
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