SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth said Friday he has no job lined up next year and likely has no future at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I’m not really worried about it but as of today, I do not have a job for next year. Hope to still be racing,” Kenseth said at Kentucky Speedway. “I think I got some wins left in me and hopefully race for championships. Right now, I’m focusing on finishing up this year.”
Kenseth is the 2003 champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner. He is in his fifth season driving for Gibbs and his 18th overall. But, he does not believe returning to the No. 20 Toyota is an option for 2018. Erik Jones is likely going to be moved into that car from Furniture Row Racing, Gibbs’ sister team.
“I do not think I will have the option to return to race at JGR next year. Unfortunately,” he said.
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One possibility is replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports — or even sliding into the No. 5 should Rick Hendrick decide to release Kasey Kahne. But, a slot at Hendrick may not be a slam-dunk. Kenseth is 45 and would likely be a place-filler until a younger driver is ready and that could be sooner rather than later.
Xfinity Series driver William Byron has back-to-back wins, and along with Alex Bowman — who filled in for Earnhardt last year — the duo could be positioning themselves for early promotions into Hendrick’s top rides.
Kenseth could also swap positions with Jones, a development driver for JGR who is really just being stashed at Furniture Row until Gibbs has a Cup seat for him.
Beyond saying JGR wasn’t an option, Kenseth wouldn’t tip his hand.
“I probably already said too much about what I’m not doing next year, so I don’t really have anything to talk about what I am doing at this point,” he said. “At this point, I don’t have anything going on next year and trying to get focused on running better and winning races.”
Kenseth is 11th in points with six top-10 finishes in 17 starts. All four Gibbs drivers are winless in the Cup Series this season.
Jones is on a one-year contract with Furniture Row. He is 17th in the standings with four top-10s, but he’s among a current crop of young drivers poised to take over the Cup Series. He declined on Thursday to discuss his future.
“I’m just driving. For the most part, for me, I don’t know where I’m going to be yet. They haven’t let me know,” he said. “Hopefully I know soon. You know it’s kind of getting down to that point. I guess it’s July now, so I’m sure we’ll have an answer here soon.”
Kenseth has 38 victories in 631 Cup stars. He joined Gibbs in 2013, led the Cup Series with seven victories and finished second in points that year.
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