RICHMOND, Va. – Matt Kenseth understands why his name gets lumped into the retirement talk around the Sprint Cup Series garage.
At 44 years old and having already put in 16 full years at the sport’s highest level, Kenseth believes he and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who began his full-time career the same year he did, are naturally the next ones to be looked at to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.
Last weekend at Bristol was not the first time the 2003 Cup champion was asked about stepping away, but he will joke about getting a complex because of it.
“It doesn’t bother me either way. Yeah, there was some questions about it last week, but I don’t know why or where they came from,” Kenseth told POPULAR SPEED on Friday in Richmond. “I don’t think it’s necessary negative or has anything to do with my performance; our results haven’t been there, but our performance has been good.”
Aside from his uncharacteristic start to the 2016 season, performance has never been an issue with Kenseth.
While driving for Jack Roush from 2000-2012 he won 24 races and a championship. Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, Kenseth’s statistics have been just as good, if not better in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.
In addition to the 12 races he’s won – seven in 2013, five in 2015 – Kenseth went toe-to-toe with the Jimmie Johnson / Chad Knaus championship juggernaut in 2013 before ultimately falling short in the final two races. He’s also knocking tracks off the win list such as Chicago, Darlington, and Loudon.
There has also been the improvement on other, like Martinsville, following his transition from one organization to another. Although he’s still winless at the half-mile, Kenseth has tripled his laps led at the facility in just seven races with Gibbs.
Physically, he feels better now than he did 10 years ago and he’s even been working much harder at it. So, yes, while the questions are natural, there is no reason for him to retire anytime soon, nor does Kenseth think about it.
“I can’t predict the future,” Kenseth said when asked where he sees things going with his 20 team. “I feel like certainly our performance has been really good. Last year we performed well as a group, as a team. I feel like this year we’ve been performing really well, too.
“The numbers don’t show it or our finishing position, but we ran really well. So we’re just looking to keep building on that and get better, and hopefully, we’ll start getting some results.”
The Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday in Richmond will be the ninth race of the Sprint Cup season. Kenseth, a two-time Richmond winner, enters with a lone top-10 finish after leading in seven of eight races, including a week ago at Bristol when he blew a tire.
While many would call it bad luck, Kenseth said he doesn’t believe in that.
“There’s certain things that were out of our control but there’s a lot of things affected our finishes that were in our control as well,” he said. “You just keep trying to learn and keep trying to do the best job you can controlling the things you can control and the rest of it, if it doesn’t go right, you just don’t worry about it. You just keep working on it.”
Because just as Kenseth looks to remain behind the wheel for the next few years, he also hopes there are more wins and perhaps another championship left in him.
“There’s a lot of things that affect championships as you’ve seen the last couple of years with the new format, so I don’t know that you can even judge things by championships necessarily the way that you used to because it keeps leaning less and less towards a whole season’s performance and more toward a race or two or three or four or five,” Kenseth said.
“But I think on average each and every week we’re a contender more often than we’re not.”
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