“Matt Kenseth, Cambridge, Wisconsin, Home Depot Toyota.” You can just hear it roll right off the 2003 champion’s tongue in the driver’s intro on PRN. Everything about this move of Matt Kenseth to Joe Gibbs Racing looks, feels and sounds right.
It’s a win for JGR. The 41-year old brings a steady, calming influence as a counterweight to the emotional Denny Hamlin and the mercurial Kyle Busch. Going all the way back to his days as coach of the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs has had his share of tempestuous types. Such “people skills” won’t be needed for Kenseth. A quiet man by nature, and groomed in a garage led by the stately Mark Martin, Kenseth will practically become a Martin-type for this team.
Gibbs hasn’t had this kind of driver since the days of 2000 champion Bobby Labonte. The low key approach will be much appreciated after years of outspoken types like Tony Stewart, Hamlin and Busch. He generally lets his driving do the talking and “incidents” involving the driver are few and far between, though you kid yourself if you think this means he’ll roll over. He wasn’t called “Matt the Brat” for nothing; the “bump and run” is more of a “touch and excuse me,” one track announcer once said.
A change will do Kenseth good. In spite of his resume, he was something of a second banana at Roush to the effervescent Carl Edwards. After 13 years of “no fuss, no muss” you tend to be underappreciated. It sure doesn’t hurt to hear that one teammate lobbied for your addition, and other had no history of issues with you.
After several seasons of “Sponsor Roulette,” the pairing of Kenseth with Home Depot is a hand in glove fit. The relationship between JGR and the home improvement giant has been long running, and they will no doubt gain from the presence of a past champion and consistent front runner in the orange and white. There should be big bang for the sponsorship buck.
It’s hard to fathom a downside. Yes, Gibbs is fraught with technical frustrations for stretches, and those can wear on a 41-year old who’s accustomed to winning. It will also remain to be seen how the chemistry will work with Jason Radcliffe as crew chief. For Radcliffe, Kenseth will be a day at the beach compared to what he’s used to.
It takes all kinds to make the world go round. For every Bobby Knight, you’ve gotta have Tom Landry. For every wild and crazy Keselowski, you’ve got to have a cool and collected Kenseth. It’s a total package of team, driver and sponsor. Between Hamlin, Busch and Kenseth, there’s the makings of a NASCAR power trio at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and producer in Southern Oregon, where he makes his home with his wife and three children. Jim is also a radio play-by-play announcer for high school football, baseball and basketball. He was recently named Oregon Association of Broadcasters 2012 Sports Announcer of The Year- Non-commercial Division.
Other articles by Jim McCoy include….