- Terry Blount, ESPN Staff Writer
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SPARTA, Ky. -- NASCAR team owner Jack Roush said Friday he was surprised to learn Matt Kenseth was leaving Roush Fenway Racing, and Roush wished he would have done more things to keep him.
RFR announced Tuesday that Kenseth would leave the organization at the end of the season and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the defending Nationwide Series champion, will replace Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford in Sprint Cup.
Kenseth said Wednesday that he has a new deal in place with another team but isn't ready to make an announcement. Speculation has centered on a move move to Joe Gibbs Racing. It's not clear if Kenseth is headed to the No. 20 car to replace Joey Logano, or if a fourth team is being created for one of the drivers.
"I will say I was surprised when I learned [Kenseth] would not be signing with us," Roush said at Kentucky Speedway. "I won't comment on any of the negotiations because we have an agreement not to talk about that."
But Roush added that he probably could have done more to re-sign Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, had he known Kenseth was serious about leaving.
"If I was as diligent on that end as I am about finding out why a fuel pump broke, I might have been able to stop it," Roush said. "From my standpoint, he will be moving to the dark side.
"But the friendship part for us will survive. I've not lost respect for Matt, and I hope he hasn't for me. I've enjoyed the 15 years with Matt and the success he's had as a driver. He is a cornerstone here, and his DNA is all over this organization."