It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Joe Gibbs Racing. The team picked up its first win of the season on Sunday at New Hampshire after Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson, and they announced a big change for the future earlier last week.
JGR announced that Erik Jone will replace Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 car next season, which leaves the 45-year-old Kenseth without a car for next year.
Gibbs said he thinks Kenseth is a great driver and the team will hate racing against him in the future. He said the timing of the announcement wasn’t what he’d planned for, but Gibbs decided to go ahead and make the announcement last week.
“I think on the overall picture though for us, we just got put in this situation with a lot of things happening to our race team over a period of about a year and half where we wound up at this spot,” Gibbs said. “We didn’t want to be here, but we wound up here and then we had to make a decision.”
If the postseason started today, Kenseth would be the last driver in the field. His replacement, Erik Jones, would just miss the cut.
“To be quite truthful, none of our guys want to race against Matt and now we’re going to be in a situation where we are racing against him,” Gibbs said.
“This wound up being a team decision, and obviously, me owning the team, it fell to me to make this decision. We didn’t want to do this, it wasn’t the right timing for us, it’s just a lot of things played into it where we had to make a decision.”
Kenseth has been with Joe Gibbs Racing since 2013 after spending 13 years with Roush Fenway Racing. He has 14 wins since joining JGR.
Kenseth will have options on where to race if he chooses to continue next season. He could take over the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a short term basis, and if he decides he wants to compete full-time next year, someone will find a spot for him.