It’s logical to think Matt Kenseth could be a candidate to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2018.
Kenseth, 45, is the best available driver for the upcoming season and Hendrick Motorsports doesn’t have any clear in-house replacements to put in the seat of the No. 88 car after Earnhardt retires at the end of the season.
William Byron is excelling in the Xfinity Series, but he’s just in his second full season in NASCAR. Alex Bowman, who subbed for Junior in 2016, is a candidate too, but he’s not racing anywhere outside of the Chevy simulator and as a test driver for Hendrick Motorsports in 2017.
Kenseth is a Cup champion and one of the more recognizable drivers in NASCAR. He’d be a good short term fit for Hendrick if it works out.
It may not work out. Monday, the 2003 Cup Series champion was asked on SiriusXM if he was a possibility to move to HMS and drive a Chevrolet for the first time in his Cup career. He didn’t think so.
— SiriusXM NASCAR (@SiriusXMNASCAR) July 18, 2017
“Honestly, I just don’t know,” Kenseth said when asked about his plans and the No. 88 car. “I don’t feel like that’s going to be an opportunity I’m going to have. I really I don’t know. I really honestly … I don’t really have anything lined up for sure. And I will say that I’m not really that worried about it. I’m not really losing sleep over it. I’m not that concerned about next season. I’m glad that we got it all out, got it out in the open so that everybody knows what everybody is doing and we can just kind of get it behind us and go racing.
“So I mean, It’s only July and there is a ton of racing left to do. Got a lot of things we still want to accomplish with the 20. It’s been a great four-and-a-half years, and I certainly want the last four or five months to be great as well.”
Kenseth finished fourth on Sunday at New Hampshire and is currently the last driver in the playoffs based on points. It was his first start in the No. 20 after Joe Gibbs Racing officially said Erik Jones would drive the No. 20 car in 2018.
If Kenseth isn’t a candidate for the No. 88, it’s hard to wonder at the moment just where he would drive next season. While there may be numerous openings in competitive rides as the season approaches, there’s nothing concrete as of now outside the No. 88.
But Kenseth probably has an idea of what dominoes could fall. And it’s very easy to see him in a good car in 2018 even if we have no idea what it looks like.
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