BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ross Kenseth will make his Xfinity Series debut with the same team, car number and sponsor his famous father has in the Sprint Cup Series.
How much impact did Matt Kenseth have in making it happen?
“Chances are he had something to do with it,” Ross said Friday, aping the deadpan delivery of his dad.
It will be a family affair in the June 20 race at Chicagoland Speedway, where Ross Kenseth will drive the Dollar General-sponsored No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in his first NASCAR national series start. With the Cup circuit off that weekend, Matt Kenseth will be on hand for the race after helping broker the deal to put his son in the No. 20, which is shared by JGR drivers and carried Erik Jones to victory last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Ross has been working really hard to get a good opportunity,” Matt Kenseth said before Sprint Cup practice Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I don’t think it can be any better than this. I feel the 20 is one of the best (Xfinity) cars out there. It’ll be a great shot for him. I really appreciate Joe and everyone at JGR giving him that chance, and Dollar General to sponsor his first ever NASCAR start.
“He’s never going to be more ready for the opportunity than he is now.”
The departure of Darrell Wallace Jr. from JGR for Roush Fenway Racing in the preseason opened some voids in the No. 20 schedule, allowing the team to follow through on discussions to put Ross Kenseth in the car.
“We’ve talked about it quite a bit over the last year,” Ross said. “It’s been trying to get the situation to be right. Everything came together with Dollar General, and Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs) taking a chance on me. Having everything line up where they had an open race, and it worked out to be Chicago, which I was excited about being so close to home.”
Kenseth, who will turn 22 on May 25, is a Wisconsin native like his father and has followed his footsteps in racing on short tracks around the Midwest the past few years (including a car fielded by his father in 2013). Last season, Ross Kenseth took on more responsibilities, sometimes driving his team’s hauler in between races.
“I probably ran 25 races last year, and for the amount of work I put in, it seemed like a lot more than that,” he said. “I think it worked out. We were competitive.”
Though he didn’t win last year, Kenseth turned heads with his second career ARCA start — finishing third at Kansas Speedway last September.
He will run ARCA races for Ken Schrader Racing at Michigan International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway to help prepare for his Xfinity debut, which he called “a dream come true. To get your first start with a competitive organization that’s won a lot of races, it’s everything a driver wants to have.”