HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Matt Kenseth opened this season with a second victory in the Daytona 500, and it didn't take him long to establish himself as a legitimate championship contender. But before the midpoint of the season, Kenseth had decided he no longer wanted to drive for Roush Fenway Racing.
Tuesday, nearly two months after RFR said Kenseth was leaving, the driver finally confirmed he's moving to Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season and started at least one more domino toppling in "silly season."
"Surprise," he said as he entered a JGR news conference, a dry quip at one of NASCAR's worst kept secrets.
Kenseth was vague as to why he's leaving RFR after 13 full Cup seasons. He never has driven for anyone else at NASCAR's highest level, and paired with Jack Roush won 22 races, two Daytona 500s and the 2003 championship.
"I knew it would not only be a good fit, but it's about winning races and winning championships and you want to put yourself in a position to be competitive going forward," Kenseth said. "I felt like this was it."
Kenseth, 40, is considered one of NASCAR's elite drivers. Pressed as to what JGR offered, Kenseth knew he wasn't going to give a clear answer.
"There's just a lot of different things that go into that. It's about 2013 and beyond," Kenseth said. "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."
Kenseth was in the final year of his contract with RFR, and every one of his previous deals with Roush were extended before he got to the final season. But he indicated Tuesday things "got cloudy" after his Daytona 500 victory.
Enter JGR, who has room for a fourth car but was also eager to add an upgrade to its lineup.
"When we realized there might be a possibility to get Matt, we realized it would be foolish not to do that," said team president J.D. Gibbs.
Kenseth will be the third driver in the Gibbs team's Sprint Cup lineup, which also includes Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Fans might notice one name missing in that list.
Behind the scenes, Gibbs officials were trying to figure out how to get Kenseth and also keep Joey Logano. But Penske Racing also announced Tuesday that Logano would drive the No. 22 Ford starting next season.
"I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career," said Logano, 22. "I am looking forward to the opportunity as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships."
UNIFICATION: According to speedtv.com, Speed Channel's website, the Grand-Am series is buying the America Le Mans Series, giving America one major sports car series starting in 2014. Grand-Am, owned by NASCAR, would also buy Road Atlanta and the unified series would run both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Teams also can still run in the sport's biggest crown jewel, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. An announcement is scheduled for today at Daytona International Speedway.
FORMULA ONE: World sanctioning body FIA suspended Lotus driver Romain Grosjean one race for causing a multi-car accident in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix. He'll miss this weekend's Italian Grand Prix; test driver Jerome D'Ambrosio will step in.
Sprint Cup points
Through 25 of 36 races. The top 10 plus two wild cards (based on wins) through Saturday's race at Richmond make the Chase for the Championship.
# clinched Chase spot
* current wild-card holder
|D. Earnhardt Jr.#||871||8|