Kenseth Stays Focused on 2012

M.Kenseth

Kenseth says he's still sharply focused on the 2012 season despite this week's announcement that he'll leave Roush Fenway Racing at season's end. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Matt Kenseth has started 451 Sprint Cup Series races for team owner Jack Roush.  But it’s the next 20 that may draw as much attention as the hundreds that have come before.

With this week’s news that Kenseth is parting company with Roush Fenway Racing at the conclusion of the 2012 season, the focus will be even more sharply trained on the driver and team currently leading the championship standings with just 10 races left in the regular season.

Surely, breaking up was hard to do after more than 13 years together.  But Kenseth told Motor Racing Network on Wednesday that his team’s goals are the same today as they were nearly five months ago heading into Speedweeks.

“It’s tough for all of us to get to that point,” Kenseth said of the circumstances that led to the split.  “At the end of the day, it’s going to be good for me and for Roush Racing, also.  It’s a little bit uncomfortable right now, but this will pass.

“We’ve got a great opportunity this season to still do a lot of great things in the ‘17’ car for all of our partners.  I’m looking forward to racing hard for the rest of the year.  Hopefully, we can grab a few more wins and challenge for that championship.”

Kenseth began the season with a victory in the Daytona 500 and currently holds the points lead heading into Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 in Kentucky, enjoying an 11-point edge over teammate Greg Biffle.

Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, said it wasn’t one particular issue that led to his departure from RFR.

“There are a lot of things that get you to this point,” he said.  “There is no argument, no disagreement.  There’s really none of that stuff.  Everything happens for a reason.  There are a lot of things that pointed us in this direction.

“I had an opportunity for 2013 and beyond that interested me and I thought it would be a good fit, and a good time in my career if I was ever going to try something different, to see what’s out there.”

Kenseth sidestepped the question of timing on the announcement of his plans for 2013 and beyond.

“That decision’s not in my hands,” he said.  “I hope it’ll be sooner rather than later.  It’ll be easier to get it behind us and move on to finish 2012.”

As for the timing of his decision to leave the Roush organization, the promising future of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – who will replace Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford – had as much to do with that as anything else.

“Jack (Roush) and everyone in management was excited about trying to get Ricky moved up to Cup,” Kenseth said of the 2011 Nationwide Series champion.  “This gave them an opportunity to do that.

“Ricky is ready.  You can see how much he’s learned over the last two or three years.  He’s always been really fast.  He just needed to be a little smarter in certain situations.  He has what it takes to be a winner at any level.”

As for the championship Chase that lies ahead in the coming months, Kenseth remains confident.

“If this hasn’t affected our performance by now, I don’t think it will for the last half of the season,” he said.  “(Crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig) and I have a great relationship.  He does a great job leading that team.  They won’t let that thing go downhill, let somebody have a bad attitude or not give it their all.

“If anything, everyone’s as motivated as ever to go out and try to win races, run for this championship and try to finish this long relationship that we’ve had on top.”

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