Matt Kenseth says he doesn’t envision the 88 car being an option for his 2018 season. We agree. Fortunately, it’s hard to imagine the 2003 champion not driving in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series next season. It wouldn’t seem logical to go to Hendrick.
Now if he did, it wouldn’t be the first time a time a rent-a-ride scenario has played out. Fans may remember Kasey Kahne’s cameos with Team Red Bull in 2011. Just last season, Clint Bowyer toiled with H.Scott while awaiting to take over Tony Stewart’s ride. How did that work for them? To be fair, Kahne wasn’t bad at all in the 4 car, before moving to the 5 at HMS. It can be done, but at least in the case of the 88 car, it just doesn’t seem logical.
It would be one thing if there wasn’t a young driver currently not in Cup to fill the seat. The 88 would seem to have William Byron’s name written all over it. Is there any reason to think he’s not ready for it? Between Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series, Byron has nine wins in 40 races. Few in the pantheon of NASCAR history can boast results like that at such an early age. Sure, he won’t turn 20 until November 29th, but what does he have left to prove?
Beyond Byron, there are numerous other options. More than a few believe his connection to Dale Earnhardt Jr. would lead to the move of Ryan Blaney to the 88 car. It’s hard to believe the youngster wouldn’t leave without a fight from all those associated with Ford. Stranger things have happened. Don’t forget Alex Bowman. He quietly served in the 88 last season while Junior sat out with his concussion problems. Bowman flew a bit under the radar, but didn’t perform badly. He’s one of those guys that make you wonder what he would do knowing his ducks were in a row with a top flight team.
From here, it sure looks like the 10 car at Stewart-Haas will play a large part in where Matt Kenseth lands in 2018. Regardless of your sentiments towards Danica Patrick, the point of critical mass has hit. What would be the point of continuing on? Well, there is the marketing dollars she can fetch, but come on, sponsors would rather back a winner. Patrick simply hasn’t moved the needle in terms of progress. If she moves on, Kasey Kahne could move over and drive for his old buddy Stewart. Then, Kenseth could take over the 5, or Kenseth could rejoin the Blue Oval brigade himself.
No matter what, there are plenty of youthful options for the 88 car. Kenseth still has his driving chops, but taking that assignment on a one-year basis looks like an unsatisfying solution. Rick Hendrick has loads of possibilities, and while Matt Kenseth is one of them, it sure seems all would be better served with a younger fanny in the 88 car.