What happened: Matt Kenseth, responding to a question about his 2018 plans from ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass during a media availability at Kentucky Speedway, said he likely will not be back at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season. “I don’t think I will have the option to return to race for JGR next year, unfortunately,” he said.
What it means: Kenseth’s contract was up at the end of this season, which was why his name was floated for the No. 88 car opening in the past couple months. The 2003 Cup champ has said several times he does not intend to retire. Meanwhile, it’s been known JGR would like to get driver Erik Jones back in house from a one-year deal at affiliate Furniture Row Racing. With Suarez, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin all locked in, that did not appear to leave room for the 45-year-old Kenseth; now we have some degree of confirmation.
News value (scale of 1-10): Six. Though this is not a surprise given Kenseth’s expiring contract and age, it is unusual to hear a straight answer like that during a news conference. Also, this will serve as an unofficial kickoff to Silly Season in the public eye because now one domino is obvious to everyone.
Questions: Where will Kenseth end up next season? If Jones leaves the No. 77 car, who fills that very attractive ride? Will we have to wait until August before the first actual move is announced?