Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – CONCORD, NC – In the days since Kyle Larson’s unexpected and controversial exit of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42, speculation arose as to who would replace the Californian in the NASCAR Cup Series. The answer to that question came on Monday afternoon as Ganassi Racing announced former series champion, Matt Kenseth as the man who will climb behind the wheel when racing resumes.
Speculation over who would take over the vacated seat swirled in the days leading up to the announcement with names like Ross Chastain being tossed around. Kenseth’s was never in the discussion.
Chip Ganassi Racing issued a statement announcing the change:
Chip Ganassi Racing announces today that when the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the track for the remainder of the 2020 season, Matt Kenseth will be behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. Kenseth, the former Cup Series Champion and two-time Daytona 500 Champion, most recently competed full-time at NASCAR’s highest level in 2017, where he finished seventh in the points and won the second to last race of the season at Phoenix Raceway.
The Wisconsin native is a 39-time Cup Series winner and will join a talented group on the No. 42 team, which entered the 2020 season following a best-ever sixth place finish in the 2019 point standings, a fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, and a playoff race win at Dover International Speedway. With a newly designed Chevrolet Camaro for the 2020 season, the No. 42 team started the year strong, with three top-10 finishes in the first four races.
Chip Ganassi, the owner of Chip Ganassi Racing said in the release statement, “I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car. We are doing exactly that with Matt. Throughout my time in NASCAR, I have always admired the way Matt Kenseth raced. He has proven to be a consistent winner, strong competitor, and respectful driver, and I’m glad we are able to add another NASCAR champion to the team for the remainder of this season.”
Kenseth, the 2005 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, has a storied career that will one day put the Wisconsin native in the NASCAR Hall of Fame but don’t expect Kenseth to be just a place-holder.
“This was an unexpected opportunity for sure. I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago. After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m excited to work with Kurt again and to meet all my new CGR team members, and I’m really looking forward to getting back in a Chevrolet. In 1988, I started my career in a Camaro and I can’t wait to finally race a Chevy in the Cup Series. I also need to thank Chip and all his partners for this opportunity. Hopefully we will be on the track soon.”
With the move to Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kenseth will have driven for every manufacturer currently competing in the series. One of the rarer statistics a driver can achieve during their career.
Racing is currently tentatively set to resume at Darlington in May with no fans in attendance. Until then, expect Matt Kenseth and CGR to get to work on building a team that can compete on a very high level for the remainder of 2020.