BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 16: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Ford EcoBoost Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
NASCAR's Silly Season opened with a bang on Tuesday morning when Roush Fenway Racing announced Matt Kenseth, the 2003 champion and current Sprint Cup Series points leader, is leaving the team after the season.
Roush announced it will elevate reigning Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the No. 17 car next year. Rumors have Kenseth headed to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
"Of course, I'd like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service," team owner Jack Roush said. "Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family."
Roush is the only team Kenseth has driven for since entering the series on a full-time basis in 2000. The Wisconsin-born driver has 22 career victories for Roush.
While the No. 17 car has struggled to find sponsorship this year, some of the cost has to go toward covering the salary of a star driver. Kenseth comes at a price toward the upper echelon of Cup drivers, while Stenhouse Jr. is relatively cheap.
If Kenseth is headed to JGR to drive its No. 20 car, it could mean Joey Logano will be offered a full-time Nationwide ride with JGR next year – or perhaps if Logano wants to stay in Cup, he'll have to look elsewhere.
Many drivers, including Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, still have uncertain situations for next year, so this is only the first of many dominoes to fall in Silly Season.