REGAN SMITH: Roush Fan Day. They say you can’t go home again, but you’re back home again now, it appears. Did you ever envision yourself being back here again for this?
MATT KENSETH: I hoped to maybe be, someday. Mark came back, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle. And I got to sign autographs with those three guys. And the best thing about that is, I was the youngest guy at the table, by far.
REGAN SMITH: Nice. I thought it was neat, they brought everybody back for today. So I was going to come anyway, so it’s nice that I’m going to be able to drive at the same time.
SPORTSCASTER: It’s official. Joe Gibbs Racing announced during a press conference today that Matt Kenseth will drive the number 20 Toyota next season with Home Depot as the primary sponsor.
REGAN SMITH: Let’s go back in time just a little bit here, when you left Roush Racing in 2012. When you made the decision, you were leading the points at the time. What was that like for you, and why did you make that decision?
MATT KENSETH: Well, you’re really digging into the past right now. Six–
REGAN SMITH: Well, I got to dig into the past to get to the future here.
MATT KENSETH: –six years ago, it was just kind of time, I guess. There’s a lot to be said about being in the same place your whole career. And there’s also something to be said about always wondering what it might be like to be somewhere different, with a different group, and see if you can still succeed and do all that kind of stuff.
REGAN SMITH: Was there ever a moment where it seemed like maybe the bridge was burned?
MATT KENSETH: The hardest part, obviously, was talking to Jack and telling him that I wasn’t going to be back the next season. That was, by far, the hardest part. And I got to be honest with you, I don’t think he ever got over it. I still don’t think he’s over it.
REGAN SMITH: So you go to Joe Gibbs Racing and have success there. But last year find out, roughly in the middle of the year, that you’re not coming back for another season. Where was your mindset at after you announced that?
MATT KENSETH: I wasn’t super stressed out about it, either way. I figured whatever was meant to either happen or not happen, it’ll work out.
REGAN SMITH: You don’t stress about much, do you?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, mean I figured it was going to happen. You’re either going to get some offers and one of them was going to feel right, or you’re going to get some offers and none of them are going to feel right and you weren’t going to do it.
REGAN SMITH: As the year progressed on, the couple months the first part of the season, you’re not doing anything, did you even once think about racing, or was it just, hey you know what, I’m focused on my kids and my family, and being Dad right now?
MATT KENSETH: I didn’t really think about it, no. I really didn’t. I was 100% content and happy. And probably as happy as I’ve ever been. I kind of still believed something like this was going to happen part way through the season this year, but honestly if it did or didn’t, I was OK either way. I felt like what was meant to be was going to be.
REGAN SMITH: Was Jack the first one to call, or was Mark? I’d heard Mark maybe kind of broke the ice just a little bit, there.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, Mark did. And then, said they wanted to try to get me in that car, and see if I can come over here and help evaluate, and see how we can try to make things better. And that’s kind of how it started.
REGAN SMITH: What was the first phone call, or in person– I’m not sure which would have happened first with Jack. Like, was it just like the old days? Was it–
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, we didn’t sit down and make a list of goals. I think that’s one thing we’ve probably always appreciated about each other is that we don’t have to do stuff like that. I think it’s blatantly obvious what we both– what we both want, and what we’re both looking for. It all went full circle. I’m glad to be back. I’m hoping we can get this thing running good. And hopefully be back up front again where Jack has been for so many years.
REGAN SMITH: Does it seem like there’s a little bit of a different vibe around this place now, with you being back here, with him getting voted into the Hall of Fame?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it’s great to be back, for Jack to be voted in. I thought he should have been last year, honestly. Certainly has done a lot for the sport, winningest car owner in the sport. Has dedicated a lot of his life, money, resources. He deserves to be there, if anybody does. I’m happy for him.