By Jerry Bonkowski,The Sports Xchange
SPARTA, Ky. -- Reports that Matt Kenseth is already signed, sealed and delivered to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 are now being countered by other reports that have the 2003 Cup champion heading to a surprise new home.
While Kenseth and soon-to-be former boss Jack Roush are remaining mum, one web site reported Friday that Kenseth has admitted he's joining a "new team" in 2013, something that Kenseth has been coy about.
That, in conjunction with other reports that IndyCar owner and former driver Michael Andretti is interested in forming his first Sprint Cup team next season has the NASCAR rumor mill on overdrive.
Kenseth, who started the season with his second career win in the Daytona 500, could indeed be headed to a "new team" if JGR expands to four teams for next season. But like seemingly everyone else in the midst of all the speculation, JGR team owner Joe Gibbs and son and team president J.D. Gibbs have both been very limited in their comments.
"Hopefully sooner rather than later. That ball is out of my court, unfortunately," said Kenseth, who hopes to end the speculation with an announcement this week. "I'm trying to get that done as soon as possible, just so it's out there and everybody can go on with their lives. Half the story is out there. Hopefully we can get that other half out there as well real soon and go on."
The other pressing issue is whether his current team falls apart in the season's remaining 20 races. Kenseth has been the points leader for the last three weeks and would like nothing more than to win his second Cup title with Roush Fenway Racing before moving on.
"I think everything is good and for the rest of the season it is only a distraction if we let it," Kenseth said. "I think it is totally up to me and the race team with how we handle this going forward. I think this is the toughest weekend and after that I think things will settle down a little bit and we will be just fine for the rest of the year."
Other reports circulating through the garage this weekend have Richard Petty Motorsports shifting from its current affiliation with Ford to Dodge for next season, essentially replacing Penske Racing, which is switching from Dodge to Ford. Officials at both RPM and PR denied multiple reports Friday and Saturday.
--Early indications Saturday afternoon showed that the Kentucky State Police, as well as officials from Kentucky Speedway and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc., all lived up to their promises to make traffic ingress and egress into the 1.5-mile track significantly better.
In fact, it was a night and day difference. Traffic on adjacent Interstate 71 moved smoothly and consistently, unlike last year prior to the inaugural Sprint Cup event at Kentucky Speedway, where some race fans were stuck in traffic for as much as eight hours -- with many never being able to make it into the track at all to enjoy the race because of traffic gridlock and not enough parking places.
Of course, officials were expecting Saturday night's at-track attendance will be about 30,000 less than last year's debut sellout may have something to do with the lighter traffic.
Police and track/SMI officials are expected to give some type of public comment on the traffic in the next few days once they've reviewed all reports associated with traffic, expanded parking, shuttle tram ridership, etc.
--With Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally breaking his 143-race winless streak two weeks ago at Michigan, several other fan favorites remain mired in lengthy winless streaks of their own.
Among full-time Cup drivers, Bobby Labonte holds the longest winless streak among regulars at 304 races (since 2003), followed by Martin Truex Jr. (183 starts, last win 2007), Casey Mears (178, 2007) and Jeff Burton (129, 2008).
As for part-time or semi-retired drivers, Michael Waltrip hasn't won in 230 starts since his last triumph in 2003, Joe Nemecheck hasn't won in 268 starts since his last win in 2004 and Ken Schrader has not won in 569 starts, with his last win coming over 20 years ago in 1991.