Former champion Matt Kenseth says in an in-depth interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he hopes to race “another five or six years,” that there remains a little uncertainty in what’s acceptable and what isn’t in paying back a driver and that it was important to return for the season finale after being suspended two races.
Kenseth turns 44 in March and is among a growing group of drivers 40 years old and over. That group includes Greg Biffle (46 on Dec. 23), Tony Stewart (44), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (41), Jimmie Johnson (40), and Kevin Harvick, who turned 40 Tuesday.
Asked how much longer he’ll race, Kenseth said: “I realize more of my career is behind me than in front of me. But I really don’t feel like I’ve been declining at all physically or mentally. I feel like we’re running good. Leading laps, we’re winning races, sitting on poles. I don’t really feel that. Now, if you’re asking if I’ll be racing 10 years from now like Mark (Martin) was, then no, I don’t think I’ll race that long. But I certainly feel I’ve got enough in front of me that I’m not looking at the calendar and trying to pick a time I’m going to be done, that type of thing. I hope to race for another five or six years at least.”
Kenseth won five races and a career-high four poles this past season. Eighteen of his 36 career Cup victories have come in the past five seasons. He had 20 top-10 finishes and has had 19 or more top-10 finishes in each of the past five seasons.
Kenseth’s numbers could have been higher had NASCAR not suspended him two races for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville. Kenseth’s retaliation came in response to the contact they had at Kansas racing for the lead that spun Kenseth. At Martinsville, Kenseth’s car was damaged after contact with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski. Kenseth returned to the race nine laps down and wrecked Logano after Logano lapped him.
NASCAR sat Kenseth for races at Texas and Phoenix.
“I still strongly disagree with the penalty,” Kenseth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think it’s really inconsistent with anything that’s ever happened in the past for a penalty. There’s still a little up in the air about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable from my standpoint, honestly. Obviously it wasn’t very subtle. I could have been more subtle about it and tried to do it a different way if I felt like I needed to even the playing field. There’s always things you learn no matter what you go through in life, good and bad.”
Asked if there was some way to get the clarity he seeks on what’s acceptable in paying back a driver, Kenseth said: “I think that’s why they make penalties, is to tell everybody what’s unacceptable, which, don’t get me wrong, I knew I stepped over a line there. But I didn’t think I stepped over a line any more than Jeff Gordon had at Phoenix two years ago (wrecking Clint Bowyer). Probably less so. It was just me and one other guy. I didn’t have any other collateral damage. The situations really weren’t much different, and he didn’t get a suspension at all. Then I get a two-race suspension.”
Kenseth returned for the season finale at Homestead and finished seventh.
“I wanted to get back to the track and get back with your team and go back and go run a race and go do all those things before you go into the off-season and, like you say, try to get it behind us,” Kenseth said. “It was definitely good to be back.”
Kenseth also discussed his season overall, teammate Kyle Busch winning the title, son Ross’ racing career, plans during the winter and more in the interview.