Everybody makes changes in their life at some point, some big and some not. For Matt Kenseth of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 2012 was the time for a big change.|
The two-time Daytona 500 champion announced in September that he was leaving Roush Fenway racing and the No. 17 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kensethdrove for car owner Jack Roush for 13 seasons.
"I justknew everything pointed in this direction," Kenseth said in a one-on-one interview."The timing was right and it was the right deal for me.It really wasn't one thing at Roush, it was about 20 things, but I truly think things happen for a reason. I didn't think it would go down the way thatit did, but it did."
Kenseth takes over the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, formerly driven by Joey Logano and Tony Stewart before that.Kenseth's accomplishments with Roush Racing fit the ride well --24 Sprint Cup wins,2000 Rookie of the Year, the 2003 Sprint Cup championshipand two Daytona 500 victories. The 20 has won two championships in the past decade.
"This is a great time in my career to go see what else is out there and to do something different," he said. "If you lookthrough the numbers, there hasn't been an organization more winning than these guys. They've won a lot of races and championships. It's a great opportunity for me to go and see what else is out there and move to another team that wins races and hopefully go win another championship."
For some professional athletes, changing teams can take some time to get to the level they want to perform. Kenseth doesn't expect the 2013 season to be a rebuilding year and plans to be as competive as he's ever been in his career.
"It'll be an adjustment period to get used to some of the new guys," he said. "But I don't expect that to affect how we run. I expect to run good out of the box."
The biggest change in 2013 doesn't just affect Kenseth, but the entire sport as the Generation 6 cars take over for the Car of Tomorrow. The changes arecosmetic as the car will resemble a production car even more, the chassis and mechanics of the car will stay the same.
"Everybody doesn't have as of a change as I do, but it's going to be a change for everybody," Kenseth said. "The biggest thing is working with a different group of guys and getting used to that."
With the move to Joe Gibbs, Kenseth will have to get used to some new people, including teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
"I'm going in with my eyes and ears open," Kenseth said. "I almost feel like a rookie in a way being the new guy in the organization. Those guys (Hamlin and Busch) win as much as anybody.We're all really different, and that's a good thing. They have different driving styles, different personalities and a different apporach and I think that's great.
"I hope mine is different too. Those two are teammates that are going to make you work for it. The better my teammates run, I think it will elevate my performance as well. It almost makes you work harder at it, and that's a good thing."
Kenseth's move over to his new team leaves behind legendary car owner Jack Roush and the memories they shared. He will look to create new ones asthe quarterback of thelegendary NFL coaches Sprint Cup team.
"I've known Jack for a really long time and have a really good relationship with him," Kenseth said. "We didn't talk as much as you think for as long I had been there. I've enjoyed getting to know Joe so far. He so funny and calls me usually once a week just to see what's going on. I've been getting a kick out of him and getting to know him a little bit."
Kenseth's final season at Roush Fenway Racing ended with three wins and a Chase berth. His championship hopes went up into smoke after some tough luck at Chicagoland and Dover, but still managed two wins in the ten Chaseraces finishing seventh in the standings.
"I have absolutely no regrets," Kenseth said. "Even though I've made my fair share of mistakes, I gave it my all each and every week. Even when the wheels fell off early onin the Chase, we rebounded. With all of the outside stuff going on all year, everybody did a great job."