Matt Kenseth: 'Winning Races Is On The Top Of My Priority List'

After speaking with Matt Kenseth via phone on Wednesday afternoon, I feel like I have a better grasp on why he made the decision to leave Roush Fenway Racing for a yet-to-be-named team (likely Joe Gibbs Racing).

While Kenseth can't or won't say everything that led to his decision, he was very forthcoming about the details he felt he could talk about.

Here are some common questions from you and a few answers that might help you understand the move:

Kenseth doesn't have a full-time sponsor at Roush this year and might not have had one next year. Was stability the reason he left?

The stability of just having a job and staying in the sport ranks "almost on the bottom" of his priority list, Kenseth said.

"Winning races and trying to race for championships is on the top of my list, because you never know how long you can do this stuff," the 40-year-old said. "You never know when your last race is or your last lap is or your last win is or any of that."

Reading between the lines on everything that's happened, it seems like the decision to leave was Kenseth's -- though it certainly doesn't hurt Roush to move one of its younger, cheaper drivers in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. up the ladder into the Sprint Cup Series.

If Kenseth is having such a solid year and leading the points, why did he go looking for another team?

He didn't. Other teams knew Kenseth was a free agent who was unsigned past this season, and the driver said he was approached by one who had an opportunity that intrigued him. As recently as a month or two ago, Kenseth planned on being at Roush for his entire career -- just as team owner Jack Roush said he did.

When he got the initial phone call expressing interest, Kenseth said he didn't think, "Yeah, that's what I'm going to do for sure."

"But after some talking and getting to know some people and some things that were happening, I think it just felt like it was the right thing to do," he said. "You look back and you're like, 'Oh man, I hope this is right.' But I felt really strongly it was the right thing to do and that was the place for me and the time to go do that. And I still feel like that."

Was there a behind-the-scenes argument at Roush that we don't know about?

Not according to Kenseth, who said he knows the lack of "one great reason" makes it harder for reporters and fans to understand his decision.

"It's a combination of a lot of things and timing," he said. "There's nobody that was mad. There wasn't a fight, there wasn't a disagreement or somebody not doing something. There wasn't really any of that. I know that doesn't sound like a good answer, but that's really the truth."

Kenseth said there was "no resistance from anywhere," and that it felt like all the pieces just fell into place for his move to happen. It certainly helped Kenseth to know Roush wanted to get Stenhouse Jr. into a Cup car.

"I really think things happen for a reason and things line up like that sometimes," he said. "When they do, that's how it was meant to go – and that's what happened here."

OK, but this is all about the money, right?

Kenseth has always been sensitive about his contract situation and won't discuss financial details. And this year, it's worth noting, Kenseth wouldn't even publicly acknowledge his free agent status.

If he was going for a big payday, he perhaps could have used the media to gain leverage -- either with Roush or potential suitors -- but instead, he kept quiet about it the whole time.

Sources told SB Nation that Kenseth might actually be taking a pay cut with his new team rather than scoring a bigger deal. If he'd remained at Roush, though, he may have gotten even less due to the sponsorship situation there.

Roush will save millions per year by signing Stenhouse Jr. instead of Kenseth, which will lower the price point for sponsorship.

Why can't Kenseth and his new team (again, likely JGR) just announce their deal now? Are there sponsorship concerns still to be worked out?

Kenseth said he simply couldn't talk about the details of where he's headed in 2013, even the reasons why an announcement can't be made yet. He said the news will be made public "hopefully sooner than later" and all sides had already reached an agreement, including his new sponsors.

"Everything is set; everything is in place," he said. "I think we're good there. I feel good about '13 and beyond. I don't think it's any of that."

The driver said his new team -- which he called "another very winning organization" -- is a good fit for him and he believes he can be successful there.

Isn't Kenseth getting kind of old to start over with a new team?

Not at all. Though Kenseth is 40, that's not old for a race car driver. Tony Stewart just won the championship at 40 last year, and Mark Martin is still racing competitively at age 53.

Kenseth said Wednesday it's impossible to say right now how much longer he plans to race.

"I just don't know," he said. "And by saying 'I don't know,' I feel like that means I'm so far away from the end or when I want to walk away that I can't even fathom when that is. I sure hope to be driving for a long time."

Why can't the media just respect Kenseth's decision and leave him alone?

Kenseth knew there were questions about his move and wanted to fulfill interview requests for as many reporters as possible. It was his decision to talk for so long.

He spent three straight hours on Wednesday afternoon doing phone interviews with 13 different reporters and answering mostly the same questions the entire time.

I'm still confused. Will all the details about Kenseth's decision come out eventually?

Not if the driver has his way. Kenseth, who has always been a private person, said there's nothing to be gained by talking about some of the specific conversations or factors that led to the move.

"There are a fair amount of closed-door things or feelings or circumstances or whatever that will probably never get talked about, just because it doesn't do anybody any good at the end of the day," he said.

That said, once Kenseth and his new team make their announcement, everything might make more sense.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.