Roush: Matt Kenseth's future secure

Updated: May 14, 2012, 2:17 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite sponsorship issues, Matt Kenseth's future is secure at Roush Fenway Racing.

Team owner Jack Roush said Monday that the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, in the final year of his current contract, will have a ride with RFR as long as he wants one.

Matt Kenseth is a cornerstone of Roush Fenway and he'll be part of it as long as I am, as long as he wants to be.

-- Jack Roush

"Matt Kenseth is a cornerstone of Roush Fenway and he'll be part of it as long as I am, as long as he wants to be,'' Roush said. "He certainly has a place here as long as I'm able to stay at the head of it.''

Roush's comments came during an announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame that Fifth Third Bank will sponsor Kenseth for four races in 2012, including this weekend's Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

RFR president Steve Newmark said Kenseth's No. 17 car still has eight to 10 unsponsored races. While sponsorship remains an issue for 2013 as well, Newmark echoed Roush's comments on negotiating a new deal for Kenseth.

"It is my hope, expectation and desire that Matt continue with Roush,'' Newmark said. "I expect to see him retire (at Roush). He is an integral part of the organization. When you think of Matt you think of Roush. When you think of Jack you think of Matt Kenseth.''

Kenseth, who has driven full time in Cup with RFR since 2000, said it's hard to imagine driving for another organization or with another car number.

"I don't think you can ever question loyalty on either side,'' he said. "It has been a long time and has been successful for both of us.''

Newmark said the sponsorship focus at RFR, not only for Kenseth but the entire organization, is on 2013 and getting back to four full-time Cup cars and one full-time Nationwide Series car. The organization shrank to three Cup cars this season when sponsorship couldn't be found for the No. 6 and David Ragan.

The anticipation is Nationwide Series points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will move into the No. 6 Cup car in 2013 and Trevor Bayne will drive Nationwide full time.

Roush and Newmark said struggles with sponsorship for 2012 have not put a financial strain on the company. It also hasn't hurt performance as Greg Biffle and Kenseth rank 1-2 in the Cup standings, respectively, with Carl Edwards 10th.

But Roush is concerned that complaints about overheating at Talladega will force NASCAR to make more changes to the cars before the July race at Daytona that would be costly to all organizations.

"If they make changes there'll be significant costs,'' Roush said. "As we look at going back to Daytona with all the hoopla and all the complaining there was about the cooling system, the engine failures and all that really weren't to be blamed from the cooling system, then NASCAR is under a lot of pressure.

"And if they yield to it, it'll cost teams a lot of money.''

Roush said he doesn't want changes, noting the cooling systems developed for his Fords worked well at Daytona and Talladega. Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and dominated at Talladega with 73 laps led before finishing third.

"I just wish we could stay better hooked up when it's time to go, but we kind of threw it away,'' Roush said of a late restart in which Kenseth and Biffle couldn't stay ahead of Kyle Busch and eventual Talladega winner Brad Keselowski.

"It should come down to the cars not being a factor, and the teams just standing back and watching the drivers do their stuff.''

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter