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Matt Kenseth feels a mix of disappointment and relief as he prepares to leave NASCAR

Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Auto Racing

Matt Kenseth has always been a "take it in stride" kind of guy, and he insists that's the way he's looking at the latest turn in his racing career, even if it's the last one.

No, of course, this isn't how Kenseth would have drawn up his departure from NASCAR. And yes, of course, he is disappointed he's stepping away in two weeks because there are no opportunities for him.

But, this is his reality.

"I wish things would have worked out differently or got handled differently or all that kind of stuff, or (I) could have finished (my) career there or at least had the opportunity to another year or two," Kenseth said Monday. "That part, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really disappointed the way that all went down.

"But other than that, no. Probably August or so I 80 or 90 percent accepted it. You have to embrace it and have to make the most of it."

Kenseth, the 2003 champion and a two-time Daytona 500 winner, said publicly for the first time Saturday he would step away from NASCAR at the end of this season. If a top-notch opportunity came along, he'd certainly be interested, but at age 45 he really isn't expecting that either.

Kenseth has two races -- Sunday in Phoenix and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup finale in Homestead, Fla., a week later -- to add to a resume that includes 38 victories and 20 poles, 180 top-five finishes and 235 top-10s in the top division. The first of those wins came in a crown jewel event, the 2000 Coca-Cola 600, and with his two Daytona 500s victories and a Southern 500, he won three of NASCAR's four crown jewels.

If nothing comes along after this season, Kenseth will finish a career that began in 1998 with 650 starts in NASCAR's top division.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced this summer that 21-year-old Erik Jones would replace Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota.

"Man, I'm a super-blessed guy," Kenseth said in his first comments with reporters in his home state. "I've had an awesome career for a lot of years. I've been in good cars with good people my whole entire career.

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