You hear that deep sigh of relief? That’s the folks at Toyota Racing Development after the win by Matt Kenseth. You know who else is breathing a little easier? Matt Kenseth. You want to talk about a honeymoon? The new pairing of the 41-year old with JGR is like a two week soirée in Cabo.
“I felt a lot of pressure that I put on myself to come in here and perform. I felt like coming over here and getting to know Jason, and really everybody in the shop and the organization and everything, you know, just it’s a great feeling about the season.” After finishing 37th at Daytona, and 7th at Phoenix, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion picked up his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing in his third start with the team. “We’re only three weeks in, but man, all three races we had a car, if everything would have went right, that we could have won, and it feels pretty awesome to have this win here.”
Sometimes, even in a healthy partnership, it’s time for the parties involved to move on and start anew, and see what else is out there, and gain a fresh perspective. After 13 solid seasons with Jack Roush, the argument can be made it was time for a fresh fanny in the 17 that Kenseth had piloted for so long, and time for the steady veteran to take his talents and his understated style to a shop where a little mellow mojo would be found refreshing. For Roush, defending Nationwide champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is thus far managing the demands of life at the top level about as well as anyone should expect, while Matt keeps being Matt. It looks like a win-win so far.
Granted, this was a no-brainer for Gibbs; swapping out a young driver trying to make his way in Joey Logano for a driver who came in to 2013 with a championship and 24 Cup wins to his credit. Even better, he gets a driver a bit more in the mold of his drivers of yore: guys who spoke more with their driving like Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte.
Perhaps the most relieved party in this mix is Toyota. If there’s been one nagging hindrance to Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s been mechanical issues. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have both fallen prey to ill-timed mishaps beyond their control. The newest kid on the NASCAR block- and one from a faraway land at that- does not need any rice burner jokes to stoke the fires of the naysaying critics. Getting a JGR in victory lane, and all three of Coach’s cars in the top 15 is a nice rebound effort, not to mention a total of five bearing the Toyota nameplate in the top 20.
Variety is the spice of life. While a good many fans love the fire and spunk of a Tony Stewart or a Brad Keselowski, there are others who appreciate the quiet strength and the dry humor of a Matt Kenseth- a driver whom we may be seeing plenty of in 2013 to give the Jimmies, the Bad Brads, the Dale Juniors and Kasey a run for their money.