Season Review: Matt Kenseth
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on November 26, 2012 | 1:33 P.M. EST
"I have to thank Jack Roush and (competition director) Robbie Reiser and (former teammate Mark Martin. Without them, I would have never been at Roush Fenway Racing." (Photo: Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth’s farewell season at Roush Fenway Racing started with a Daytona 500 win and ended with two more trips to Victory Lane.
Kenseth made the Chase and finished seventh in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings on the strength of those three victories, in addition to 13 top fives and 19 top-10 performances.
But his accomplishments were overshadowed by his announcement earlier in the season that he would end his tenure at Roush to join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
"I don't think either one of us expected it, I think both of us expected I would retire driving for him and driving the 17 car," Kenseth said of his conversation with team owner Jack Roush regarding the decision to change teams. "It was difficult, one of the top-10 hardest conversations I've ever had, and it made for an uncomfortable last weekend for both of us. It felt kind of weird and now that it's out there, I think it will be fine.
"I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I think in the long run, everyone is going to be fine."
Kenseth started his year in fine fashion with a second career Daytona 500 victory. On the green-white-checkered restart to end “The Great American Race,” Kenseth got a push from RFR teammate Greg Biffle to the lead and was able to hold off a hard charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the checkered flag.
“I really have to thank Greg Biffle. We both had really fast rockets, it just ended up whoever was in front in the end,” Kenseth said. “He pushed me and we could get clear of the car behind me and that was a big key.”
Kenseth didn’t win again during the regular season but did secure a spot in this year’s Chase. However things got off to a rough start in the Geico 400 opener at Chicagoland Speedway when a shock absorber fell off Kenseth’s car and thwarted any opportunity to challenge for a win.
Kenseth dropped to the bottom of the Chase standings and did his best to climb out of the early hole but to no avail despite taking a pair of checkered flags in the next nine races.
He scored a second restrictor-plate win when he was able to survive the last lap chaos of a 25-car crash to win the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kenseth was ahead of the melee that was triggered by Tony Stewart’s move to try and hold the lead and declared the winner for his 23rd career Sprint Cup Series triumph.
“I kind of let Tony have his spot there,” Kenseth said of the wild dash to the checkered flag. “It didn’t look like he had a big push behind him and lined up with Kevin (Harvick) and we pretty much stayed locked together there until we got to turn three and I thought it was gonna be a drag race to the finish. I didn’t know what was gonna happen and I’m still not sure what happened. Somehow I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck.”
As the year wound down Kenseth fought bittersweet emotions as his career with RFR came to an end. He was able to celebrate one last time with the team when he was victorious in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
"It means lot," Kenseth said in an emotional Victory Lane celebration. "I just have to thank God for the opportunities he has put in front of me and the guidance he has given me throughout my whole life. I have to thank Jack Roush and (competition director) Robbie Reiser and (former teammate Mark Martin. Without them, I would have never been at Roush Fenway Racing."
Kenseth leaves RFR after scoring 24 victories, two Daytona 500 wins and delivering car owner Jack Roush his first championship in NASCAR's top division in 2003.
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2012 Top 12 Season Reviews
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kasey Kahne
5. Greg Biffle
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Tony Stewart
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Martin Truex Jr.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.