Joe Gibbs Racing extends Matt Kenseth’s contract, Dollar General sponsorship

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Even though Carl Edwards may still be heading to Joe Gibbs Racing, Matt Kenseth won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

JGR officials announced Saturday at Kentucky Speedway that they have extended Kenseth’s contract (no specifics were given, but it’s likely through at least 2016 or 2017).

In addition, Dollar General will increase the number of races it serves as the primary sponsor on Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 27 races in 2014 to 30 races in 2015, and the potential of additional races beyond.

That is significant given that Home Depot announced earlier this week that it will be ending its sponsorship of the No. 20 at season’s end after more than a decade.

Dollar General, whose corporate headquarters are just north of Nashville in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, first began sponsoring Kenseth with 17 races in 2013, and then increased that number to 27 for this season.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to drive for Dollar General,” Kenseth said in a JGR media release. “They have great enthusiasm for our sport, and as a driver, it’s great to have such a supportive sponsor behind you.

“When you meet the people behind the organization, it is easy to see why they have had so much success in recent years. I’m looking forward to continuing our partnership together for many years to come.”

Kenseth is ranked fourth in the Sprint Cup standings heading into Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

After joining JGR for the 2013 season following more than a decade with Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth went on to win a series- and career-high seven races.

This season, however, Kenseth has yet to reach victory lane. But he’s shown significant consistency nonetheless with five top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes in the first 16 races of the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule.

“Extending my deal with JGR is exciting and I’m still hoping we can match our win total from last year, but it’s really been a special year-and-a-half together,” Kenseth said. “Joe and J.D. (Gibbs) have been fantastic and show a commitment to providing all of us with the resources needed for a winning organization and I’ve been blessed with a great team led by Jason (crew chief Jason Ratcliff).

“The support we get from TRD has been tremendous and I’m excited for the future here with the No. 20 Dollar General team.”

Added team owner Joe Gibbs, “This is a big day for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt has obviously had a big impact across our entire organization and our partnership with Dollar General has been fantastic. It’s exciting to be able to announce both extensions that will keep this team together for years to come.”

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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.