Matt Kenseth sat with car owner Jack Roush during last week’s NASCAR Awards Banquet, just a few feet away from his future boss, Joe Gibbs.
Two tables over, Kevin Harvick was with Richard Childress, while his future car owner, Tony Stewart, was within arm’s reach.
Kenseth knows what it’s like to drive in limbo. He just spent the final five months of the just completed Sprint Cup season knowing he was going to leave for a new ride with Gibbs next year. There were some awkward moments, he said, especially once the Chase for the Championship started.
Sitting between one jilted car owner and his next employer put Kenseth in a bad spot during on the final day of his employment with Roush.
Kenseth’s discomfort lasted five months. Harvick’s will last an entire racing season. Although he hasn’t confirmed his move over to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Childress admitted fans won’t be spending a lot of money next year on souvenirs for Harvick or the No. 29 team.
To get ready for a 12-month cold shoulder from his team, Harvick already has reached out to Kenseth for ways to handle what’s ahead.
“You look at a lot of situations that are around you that you can kind of take advice from people and things and just try to do the best you can,” Harvick told The Sporting News.
“Everybody wants to know what’s going on or what’s going to happen or how it is going to work and we want to tell everybody. But we’re just not in a position.
“With a lot of uncertainty, Matt has handled his situation very well. I definitely have talked to Matt.”
Harvick is expected to be the fourth driver in Stewart’s stable – a group that already includes Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick. Harvick’s current sponsors, Budweiser and Jimmy Johns, reportedly are going with Harvick. That could make things even worse between Childress and Harvick since Childress now will have to find new sponsorship if he wants to keep the team alive.
Harvick insists his only focus in 2013 will be winning a championship for Childress. But as others have found out in the past, that might not be easy.
In 2007 Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced six months in advance he was leaving his family’s race team to drive at Hendrick Motorsports. He had six engine failures after that.
A shock absorber fell off Kenseth’s car during the first Chase race at the Chicagoland Speedway in September. Three weeks earlier a brake line fell off at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Even with two wins in the playoffs, Kenseth only managed a seventh-place finish in the Chase.
“I could tell everybody was getting real close to being at each other’s throats,” he said. “I just wanted to leave that thing as good as I can.”
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.