Saturday, 22 June 2024

Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch … Reunited and it feels so good

Posted On Tuesday, 28 April 2020 00:15 Written by
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Matt Kenseth is pictured in 2004, during the time when he was first paired with Kurt Busch. Matt Kenseth is pictured in 2004, during the time when he was first paired with Kurt Busch. Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR


Let’s have a little history lesson, folks.

The year is 2003. Matt Kenseth wins the Winston Cup championship, with a grand total of 1 win. 2nd place points finisher Jimmie Johnson had 3 wins and ended up 90 points behind Kenseth in the standings. Meanwhile, Ryan Newman won a stunning 8 races that year (by far the most wins in his career in one season), but finished just 6th in points. Kurt Busch had 4 wins, and he came in 11th in points.

Matt Kenseth showed us in 2003 that consistency will win you a title, even moreso than wins. In addition to his 1 win, he had 11 top 5 finishes, and 25 top 10 finishes in 36 races. His average finish was 10.2, with only 2 DNFs. Newman, meanwhile, had an average finish of 13.9, and 7 DNFs. Stay out of the wall and finish well every week, and you’ll be champ without a showroom full of trophies.

The outcry was, of course, plentiful (yes, even before social media, people complained about everything in NASCAR). “How can you have a champion with only one win?” was the refrain often heard. 

And so we got (drumroll, please): The Chase. Yes, starting in 2004, NASCAR launched its own version of the playoffs, in large part a reaction to how Kenseth won in 2003. Winning through consistency was boring, and they wanted drama. And drama they got that first year.

That first year of the Chase saw Kenseth’s Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch take the title in dramatic fashion — literally losing a wheel at one point at the perfect position to allow him to enter pit road and replace it. If that happens anywhere else on track, he is not the champion.

So the end result is Kenseth and Busch, Roush teammates, won the last non-playoffs Cup title and the first Chase Cup title — The only two Cup titles Roush has ever earned.

Why am I discussing this right now? Because this dynamic duo will be back at it again in 2020. 

Yes, in the strangest of twists in this strangest of years, Matt Kenseth will be back in a Cup car, a couple years after he officially retired. This is his second fill-in stint back, after he filled in driving the 6 car for Roush.

The circumstances couldn’t be more unpredictable. It’s like the ultimate butterfly effect. Kyle Larson says a word he shouldn’t have said, is promptly out of a ride. Most fans assume Ross Chastain will be the one to take over the ride due to his relationship with Ganassi. But Chip is the ultimate wild card. 

He is like that NFL general manager, looking for the “best player available” in the draft, not just someone he is connected with. So he looks in the not-so-wayback machine and finds a recently retired driver like Kenseth, and lures him to come back. Pretty brilliant actually.

I still think Chastain is in the 42 next year, but in the meantime we get this great duo of champions, Busch and Kenseth, together again to make another stab at a title and try to get Ganassi what he’s never won in this series — a Cup title.

Can the 48-year-old Kenseth (provided he gets a waiver) and 41-year-old Busch use their collective wisdom and make Ganassi’s team good enough to take down Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney for the championship?

I don’t know, but it’ll be fun to watch. And this pairing is one Chip Ganassi should be very happy about, even if it ends after 2020. The circumstances that led to it are not ideal, but it’s a pairing that many fans of the sport, myself included, are excited to see happen.

Forget the young guns, let’s see what the old dogs can do.


Matt Myftiu can be reached on Twitter @MattMyftiu, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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