NASCAR: Why Matt Kenseth is the right choice for Chip Ganassi Racing

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 01: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #6 Ford Ford, stands in the garage during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 1, 2018 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
LONG POND, PA - JUNE 01: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #6 Ford Ford, stands in the garage during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 1, 2018 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) /

Matt Kenseth is making another unexpected return to the NASCAR Cup Series after being hired by Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the #42 Chevrolet. With all things considered, the team chose the right driver to replace the recently released Kyle Larson.

It was announced Monday that 48-year old, 2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth is set to take over as the driver for one of Chip Ganassi Racing’s two Cup Series entries.

Kyle Larson’s tenure with the organization, which began in 2014, ended abruptly after he said the N-word during an iRacing event on Sunday April 12, which was being live streamed on multiple Twitch channels.

The seemingly clear choice to replace Larson had been Ross Chastain, a Chip Ganassi Racing developmental driver who currently drives for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. Many other names had been considered to be a possibility to jump in for Chip Ganassi Racing, but almost no one surmised the return of Kenseth.

More from NASCAR Cup Series

However, upon further consideration of all relevant factors, Chip Ganassi ended up making the correct decision. Kenseth, a 39-time Cup Series winner, checks all of the necessary boxes. He is an ideal choice in terms of retaining sponsors, Cup-level experience and availability.

Despite sponsors dropping Kyle Larson left and right, those same sponsors stayed committed to Chip Ganassi Racing for the remainder of the 2020 season. The hiring of Kenseth is certainly the best-case scenario for the partners of Ganassi’s team.

Kenseth, who has been in the sport for over two decades, is popular with fans and already has an established fanbase. He will be able to generate more interest in the #42 car than a less-successful Cup Series driver or a young developmental talent would.

Moreover, with the NASCAR season temporarily halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many sponsors may face uncertainty over their involvement in NASCAR for the 2021 season and beyond.

While there were certainly other sponsor-friendly options to replace Larson, Kenseth provides the most stability for 2020, which is critical considering the unknowns of many sponsors’ futures.

As for on-track performance, the Cup-level experience and success held by Kenseth is one of the main benefits of Ganassi’s decision.

Having won 39 races in 665 starts, the former champion was presumably the most experienced and acclaimed driver willing to return. The only known option that could come close to matching Kenseth’s achievements, Carl Edwards, declined to leave retirement, according to the Associated Press.

The welcoming of Kenseth to the #42 team will also reunite him with former Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch. The two had been teammates in the Cup Series from 2000 to 2005, and the presence of Busch will lend Kenseth a familiar face in the garage on which to lean.

Finally, the veteran Kenseth made the most sense to sign in terms of accessibility. Kenseth had last raced for Roush Fenway Racing part-time during the 2018 season and was under no contract before signing with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Conversely, presumed top option Chastain would have had to been bought out from his Kaulig Racing deal if Ganassi were to hire him and have him be eligible for Cup Series points.

Related Story. Why Matt Kenseth is the wrong choice for Chip Ganassi Racing. light

Other young Xfinity or Truck drivers who could have been looked at as options, such as Justin Haley, Brett Moffitt or Daniel Hemric, would have also required some sort of buyout or negotiation to lure them away from their current organizations.

As for current Cup drivers, there is no option that makes sense from both a team and a driver perspective. Young drivers such as John Hunter Nemechek or Daniel Suarez would have to be properly bought out of their current contracts as well, and they would have to be willing to join a new team with no guarantees for 2021.

The most logical name aside from Chastain to take over the driving duties of the #42 Chevrolet was former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jamie McMurray. The 2010 Daytona 500 winner had driven for Ganassi from 2002 to 2005 and 2010 to 2018 before retiring from full-time racing at the end of the 2018 season.

McMurray landed a job with FOX Sports ahead of the 2019 season. But even if he were willing to abandon his analyst role with FOX, it would not make sense from a talent perspective for Ganassi to bring in McMurray over Kenseth, unless he was simply looking for familiarity.

Next. 5 drivers who could retire next. dark

With consideration of all these key factors, Matt Kenseth is clearly the right guy to wheel the #42 Chevrolet for the rest of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. He brings a great amount of Cup experience, Hall of Fame-worthy success and stability to Chip Ganassi Racing amid uncertain times.