cloudy
Sunday October 22nd, 2017 11:41AM

Kenseth puts on brave face as he's being shown the door

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — It could have gotten very uncomfortable as Erik Jones and Matt Kenseth sat side-by-side shortly after an intriguing race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Both drivers wanted to win for very different reasons, both came up short , then circumstances put them together in a post-race news conference.

Jones, the rookie, was seeking his first Cup Series victory Saturday night. He wound up second to Kyle Busch, his soon-to-be teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing. He started from the pole, led the most laps, and really needed that win to lock him into NASCAR's playoffs.

Kenseth hasn't won a Cup race in a little over a year and also could use an automatic berth into the playoffs. And, he's on his way out at Gibbs — perhaps even NASCAR altogether — because Jones has been hired to drive Kenseth's car next year.

So when Jones used his bumper to knock Kenseth out of the preferred driving lane at Bristol, a move that took Kenseth from contention to a fourth-place finish, things could been very awkward after the race.

But Kenseth smiled, cracked jokes, ribbed Jones a little bit and assured everyone that everything is just fine.

"I don't really have anything to be unhappy about," he said. "Things can turn on dime. But my life couldn't be much better. I've never really been in a better place. I don't think I've ever been happier. There's more to life than racing."

Indeed, there is a lot more ahead for Kenseth, a father of four who turned 45 in March. His choices are just limited because of the rapid changing of the guard in NASCAR.

Almost overnight, the veterans are being squeezed out of the Cup Series because of the difficult economic climate in racing. Sponsors are very hard to come by, almost every driver needs to find some sort of his funding on his own, and corporate America's current appetite is to back the young kids just breaking into the sport.

That's fantastic news for car owners, who don't have to shell out millions in driver salary to a veteran. Kenseth, a two-time Daytona 500 winner and former Cup champion, makes a lot of money. Jones, at just 21 years old, draws a fraction of Kenseth's salary.

So even though he wants to keep driving, is a proven winner, still challenges for victories and is an asset to any race team, there may not be a seat for Kenseth next year. On Saturday night, his use of past tense in discussing his situation, made it sound as if Kenseth knows his days as a full-time driver will end after these final 12 races.

"I wish it kind of maybe would have went down a different way or maybe I had another year or two there," he said. "That's not the way it worked out. I think everything happens or doesn't happen for a reason. It will all become clear."

Kenseth is far from alone in this predicament.

Stewart-Haas Racing did not pick up the 2018 option for Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, and his future with the team will depend on sponsorship. Same goes for Danica Patrick at SHR.

Kasey Kahne is looking for a landing spot after Hendrick Motorsports said he'll be replaced by 19-year-old William Byron, and the ride Jones currently drives for Furniture Row Racing? Well, that could vanish unless one of those free agents can piece together a sponsorship package that makes it economically viable to keep the car running.

Even then, a veteran driver must ask himself if its financially worth it to keep racing at a drastically reduced salary.

When Juan Pablo Montoya was let go from Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2013 season, the only offers he received in NASCAR were losing propositions. By the time he subtracted his expenses from the proposed salary, those 38 weekends on the road were going to put him at a financial loss for the season.

Four years later, the economic correction in NASCAR is now hitting everyone. The wads of money that used to be flying around the garage are gone, and everyone is evaluating their options.

For a driver such as Jones, well, that means racing for wins even if it means bumping the guy you are replacing.

"I think when you're out there, you just see, it's just another car to pass," Jones said. "At least I'd assume that's how most people look at it. That's how I look at it. You race everybody, your teammates, you race them like teammates for the first 300, 400 laps. When it comes down to the last 100, 150, it's time to go. You're just racing everybody for the next spot."

On and off the track.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Auto Racing, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Prosecutors: Chicago slaying was part of sexual fantasy
Prosecutors say fatal stabbing of hairstylist in Chicago was part of sexual fantasy hatched online between professor and university employee
5:04PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Spanish town struggles to square growth of extremist cell
Spanish town where alleged members of extremist cell accused of attacks grew up struggles to reconcile the violence with the boys and brothers it knew
4:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
NBA investigating Lakers amid George tampering allegation
The NBA has opened an investigation to see if the Los Angeles Lakers tampered with Paul George while he was under contract with the Indiana Pacers
4:45PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
More Wembley woes for Spurs, Chelsea reignites title defense
Marcos Alonso's double reignited Chelsea's Premier League title defense by securing a 2-1 victory over Tottenham after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris blundered to enable the champions to recover from its opening weekend loss
4:14PM ( 58 minutes ago )
No hits till 6th: Verlander, Tigers top Maeda, Dodgers 6-1
Justin Verlander and Kenta Maeda both took no-hitters into the sixth inning, but only Verlander was able to keep his outstanding performance going as the Detroit Tigers beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1
3:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
US beats Europe in Solheim Cup in Iowa
Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer won singles matches Sunday to help the U.S. beat Europe in the Solheim Cup.
3:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
IndyCar driver Hunter-Reay cleared to race following wreck
Ryan Hunter-Reay has been cleared to drive in Sunday's IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway following a violent accident during qualifying that sent him to the hospital
10:19AM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: About 20 protesters linger near Dallas cemetery
Only about 20 protesters remain across the street from a Dallas cemetery where police in riot gear broke up a clash over a Confederate monument
12:00AM ( 17 hours ago )
Kyle Busch completes Bristol sweep with 20th win at track
It's Bristol Motor Speedway and Kyle Busch practically owns the place
11:16PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Auto Racing
Eclipse eve: Millions converge across US to see sun go dark
Millions of Americans are converging on a narrow corridor stretching from Oregon to South Carolina to watch the moon blot out the sun Monday in the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast-to-coast in the U.S. in 99 years
4:19PM ( 52 minutes ago )
Attack victims came from around world to celebrate Barcelona
The victims of the vehicle attacks in Barcelona and a nearby resort town came from around the world and across generations
1:52PM ( 3 hours ago )
Incentives offered for new agents at remote border crossings
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is offering hiring bonuses and job security to people willing to work at some of the nation's most remote border crossings with Canada and Mexico
1:01PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
Trump remarks could sidetrack Democrats from other issues
Responding to Trump's remarks about white supremacist violence could sidetrack Democrats from issues important to a wider range of voters in 2018 midterm elections
11:10AM ( 1 day ago )
11 US states added jobs in July
11 US states added jobs in July, unemployment rate tumbled to record lows in 2 states
11:06AM ( 2 days ago )
Trump defends Confederate statues, berates his critics
Under fire over competence and moral leadership, Trump defends Confederate statues and attacks his critics
9:45AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Economy
Kyle Busch wins at Bristol for 19th time in NASCAR
Kyle Busch continued his domination at Bristol Motor Speedway with a victory in Friday night's Xfinity Series race
10:17PM ( 1 day ago )
Erik Jones wins 1st Cup pole in critical Bristol race
Erik Jones has won the first Cup Series pole of his career with a quick run at Bristol Motor Speedway
7:16PM ( 1 day ago )
Larson snatches another win at Michigan on final restart
Kyle Larson snatches another win at Michigan on final restart
8:50PM ( 6 days ago )
NASCAR
Kyle Busch ends winless season with Cup victory at Pocono
Kyle Busch used a bump-and-run on Kevin Harvick to take the lead and held on to snap a 36-race losing streak and win the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway
6:47PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Earnhardt defends crew chief Ives in shaky final season
Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends crew chief Ives in shaky final season
6:36PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Kasey Kahne ends victory drought at marathon Brickyard 400
Kasey Kahne survived a crash-marred Brickyard 400 for his first NASCAR Cup victory in three years
10:54PM ( 3 weeks ago )
NASCAR Sprint Cup
Prosecutors: Chicago slaying was part of sexual fantasy
Prosecutors say fatal stabbing of hairstylist in Chicago was part of sexual fantasy hatched online between professor and university employee
5:04PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Spanish town struggles to square growth of extremist cell
Spanish town where alleged members of extremist cell accused of attacks grew up struggles to reconcile the violence with the boys and brothers it knew
4:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
NBA investigating Lakers amid George tampering allegation
The NBA has opened an investigation to see if the Los Angeles Lakers tampered with Paul George while he was under contract with the Indiana Pacers
4:45PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener
Barcelona made its Spanish league debut with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis
4:45PM ( 26 minutes ago )
US beats Europe in Solheim Cup 16 1/2-11 1/2 in Iowa
Lexi Thompson got things going with a big rally and Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer won key matches to help the U.S. beat Europe 16 1/2-11 1/2 on Sunday in the Solheim Cup
4:36PM ( 35 minutes ago )