Secret's out: Kenseth finds 'right place' at Joe Gibbs Racing

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 05, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Race for the Chase

Plenty of drama surrounds the final berths for the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. Just about all of it revolves around the reigning champion, Tony Stewart, who is 10th in the standings and has clinched a spot with three victories and a potential Chase nine bonus points. He'll stay in the top 10 with a finish of 14th at the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night. If he doesn't, then dominoes start to fall.

Looking golden: Kasey Kahne, with two victories, would clinch his top wild-card spot with a victory Saturday. If Stewart stays in the top 10, Kahne would also clinch. If Stewart falls out of the top 10, Kahne would clinch a spot if a one-win driver outside the top 10 does not win. If Kyle Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, and Jeff Gordon wins, Kahne, with one career victory at Richmond and a fifth-place finish in April, would clinch a spot by finishing 13th or better, 14th with at least one lap led or 15th with the most laps led.

Burn in up, Busch: If Kyle Busch, in the No. 2 wild-card position and a four-time winner at Richmond, wins Saturday, he's in. If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch would also clinch a spot by losing 12 or fewer points to Jeff Gordon and by losing 40 or fewer points to Marcos Ambrose.

Still wondering: Like Kahne and Busch, Jeff Gordon still has a shot at a top-10 series finish. If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon would clinch by finishing 13 points ahead of Busch and by losing 28 or fewer points to Ambrose and by losing 37 or fewer points to Ryan Newman. If Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon would clinch a Chase berth with a win and finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne at Richmond.

Needing a really, really Carl special? Carl Edwards needs to win and Busch has to finish 24th or worse (with no laps led) and Gordon has to finish 12th or worse. Ryan Newman? He's only in if he can win Saturday.

Standings

Driver

Pts.

1. Greg Biffle

879

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

-8

3. Matt Kenseth

-21

4. Jimmie Johnson

-31

5. Martin Truex Jr.

-41

6. Brad Keselowski

-48

7. Denny Hamlin

-57

8. Clint Bowyer

-68

9. Kevin Harvick

-72

10. Tony Stewart

-110

11. Kasey Kahne

-128

12. Kyle Busch

-133

13. Jeff Gordon

-145

14. Carl Edwards

-159

15. Paul Menard

-169

16. Marcos Ambrose

-173

17. Ryan Newman

-182

18. Joey Logano

-215

19. Jamie McMurray

-261

20. Jeff Burton

-270

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

It seems fitting that Matt Kenseth would formally announce his change of parties during the political convention season.

In what is perhaps the worst kept secret since Jerry Jones' association with a plastic surgeon, the perennial NASCAR Sprint Cup contender made his intentions known Tuesday that he would join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.

Kenseth will drive JGR's No. 20 Toyota, vacated through the defection of Joey Logano to Penske Racing, under the banners of Home Depot and Dollar General.

Terms and length of the deal were not released, much like the story of how one of NASCAR's pre-eminent drivers reached this point of his career.

Why Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing decided to end a highly successful affiliation in June, which included a 2003 series championship, apparently will remain a tightly held national security secret.

"I'll probably still be vague," Kenseth said when asked for specifics on his divorce from Roush. "There's just a lot of different things that go into that. It's about 2013 and beyond. I felt like and I feel like Gibbs was the right place for me.

"I know without a doubt at all it's the right place for me to be. Things happen for a reason."

Gibbs also provides an environment to win races and compete for championships, "and you want to put yourself in position to be competitive going forward," Kenseth said.

Winning races and competing for championships never seemed to be a problem for Kenseth at Roush.

The 40-year-old Kenseth is the reigning winner at Daytona and ranks third in the series standings heading into Week 26.

JGR leadership, Joe Gibbs and son J.D., were predictably giddy during a news conference announcing the team's new driver.

Kenseth and the 22 victories, 122 top-five finishes and 223 top-10s accrued over a 13-year career will be joining a driver stable that already includes Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

"In this sport you have to have somebody who can wheel it ... and make things go," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "We've had a great history because we've had great drivers.

"I'm excited to have Denny, Kyle and Matt sitting in a meeting together. I'd have to think it'd be hard to miss something with those three guys on the feedback."

J.D. Gibbs said the team wanted to also retain Logano for a full-time Nationwide role next season and for a fourth car for a number of Sprint Cup races.

Logano wanted a full-time job. Penske offered that.

"I made it clear to them I wanted a full-time Cup ride," said Logano, who has a victory on the big circuit this season and is in the hunt, albeit as a long shot, for one of the two wild-card Chase spots going into this week's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Speedway. "I feel I'm capable of doing that and winning races.

"This seemed like a perfect match."

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