Though Matt Kenseth leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, he is set to leave Roush Fenway Racing after the season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will get his ride in 2013.
By Lee Spencer FoxSports
After 14 years, one Cup championship and 22 wins, Matt Kenseth will part ways with Roush Fenway Racing at the end of this year.
Team co-owner Jack Roush delivered the news to his Concord, N.C.-based organization on Tuesday morning. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, will be promoted as Kenseth’s replacement next year.
“Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the racetrack,” Jack Roush said in a release. “We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team.
“Of course, I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service. Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family."
Matt Kenseth was not at the Tuesday morning announcement, but tweeted the following statement:
"I'm very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he's given me over the past 14 years. Together we have enjoyed a lot of success.... And as a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a 3rd sprint cup title for Jack and RFR. Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013, I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up... Darien and Tony proved to us last year there is no such thing as a "lame duck" team or season. We will continue to go to work and race hard."
The 40-year-old native of Cambridge, Wisc., who beat out Dale Earnhardt Jr. for rookie of the year in 2000, leads the Sprint Cup point standings by 11 points over teammate Greg Biffle.
“We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago," Roush said, "and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins.
“The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”
Roush Fenway general manager Robbie Reiser guided Kenseth to Roush Fenway’s first Sprint Cup title in 2003, working as crew chief.
“Matt and I broke into this sport together, learned the ropes and were able to bring home a championship,” Reiser said. “Over the 20 years we have worked with each other, Matt has been a fierce competitor and become a close friend, not only for me, but as a mentor to young drivers like Ricky. I wish Matt nothing but the best for the next phase of his career, and know that we’ll remain close.”
It’s been speculated, but not confirmed that Kenseth will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. In 2005, Gibbs expanded to three teams. On Sunday, JGR president Joe Gibbs told FOXSports.com that a fourth team was a distinct possibility.
Stenhouse, 24, has five Nationwide Series wins. He has made two Sprint Cup starts, with his best result coming in last year in the Coca-Cola 600 driving for the Wood Brothers. Stenhouse qualified ninth and finished 11th in his Cup debut, substituting for Trevor Bayne.