NASCAR: Matt Kenseth to replace Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing

Matt Kenseth, Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Matt Kenseth is set to replace Kyle Larson behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing for the remainder of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth has been named the replacement for Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2020 season after Larson lost his ride with the team a few weeks ago.

Larson, who had driven the #42 Chevrolet since arriving at the team ahead of the 2014 season, said the N-word during a virtual race on iRacing which was being live streamed on Twitch back on Easter Sunday, April 12.

He was first suspended by Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR, but he was then dropped completely by multiple sponsors, and that ultimately led to Chip Ganassi’s organization cutting ties with the 27-year-old Elk Grove, California native and looking for his replacement.

Here is what Kenseth had to say about the opportunity to get back into full-time Cup Series action in a statement released by the team, according to NASCAR.

"“This was an unexpected opportunity for sure. I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago. After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.“I’m excited to work with Kurt (Busch) again and to meet all my new CGR team members, and I’m really looking forward to getting back in a Chevrolet. In 1988, I started my career in a Camaro and I can’t wait to finally race a Chevy in the Cup Series. I also need to thank Chip and all his partners for this opportunity. Hopefully we will be on the track soon.”"

The 48-year-old Cambridge, Wisconsin native last competed in the Cup Series in the 2018 season as a part-time driver for Roush Fenway Racing.

The 2019 season ended up being the first season in which he did not compete on some level since before he made his series debut back in 1998. He last competed full-time in the 2017 season for Joe Gibbs Racing before Erik Jones replaced him behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota.

In 665 career starts over the course of 21 seasons, Kenseth has won 39 races and recorded 181 top five finishes and 329 top 10 finishes. He has taken 20 pole positions and led 11,756 of the 189,762 laps that he has completed. His average starting position is 17.1 and his average finishing position is 14.2.

Here is what Chip Ganassi Racing had to say about their decision to hire Kenseth in a statement.

"“I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car. We are doing exactly that with Matt. Throughout my time in NASCAR, I have always admired the way Matt Kenseth raced. He has proven to be a consistent winner, strong competitor, and respectful driver, and I’m glad we are able to add another NASCAR champion to the team for the remainder of this season.”"

Ross Chastain had been widely speculated as the most likely replacement candidate for Larson given his ties to Chip Ganassi Racing.

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But given his status as a full-time Xfinity Series driver for Kaulig Racing, it was unlikely that he would give up his points eligibility at NASCAR’s second highest level, even though he would have been eligible to compete for the Cup Series championship.

He has competed in all four Cup Series races so far this season, one for Spire Motorsports with Chip Ganassi Racing and the other three as the replacement for the injured Ryan Newman at Roush Fenway Racing, ironically behind the wheel of the car that Kenseth last drove (#6 Ford). He sits in fifth place in the Xfinity Series championship standings through four races.

The 2020 season is currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there is no confirmed resumption date at this point. The most recent Cup Series race was held at Phoenix Raceway, and it was held back on Sunday, March 8.

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Right now, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is scheduled to resume on Sunday, May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but that could change. There are rumors that it may start back up on Sunday, May 17 at Darlington Raceway with a previously non-scheduled race, and of course, there are rumors that the unexpected stoppage could be extended.