NASCAR Rumors: Matt Kenseth Still Leader To Replace Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Matt Kenseth doesn’t officially have a ride lined up for next season, but it doesn’t sound like he needs to worry.

Yet another report has tied the soon-to-be-former Joe Gibbs Racing driver to the soon-to-be-vacant seat left by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports. The 45-year-old is expected to join Hendrick, Motorsport.com’s Al Pearce reported Saturday, taking over for Earnhardt in the No. 88.

The reaction from Earnhardt fans on social media to similar, earlier reports suggested this wouldn’t be a popular move, but it probably wouldn’t be a long-term commitment. Kenseth would be keeping the seat warm, in essence, for William Byron, who has made a quick rise through the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series ranks.

“A number of sources in the (Cup) garage were saying Kenseth will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet when Junior retires next year,” Pearce wrote. “It’ll be a ‘placeholder’ deal for no more than two years while… Byron prepares to move up to Cup in Chevrolets from Hendrick Motorsports.”

With Erik Jones set to slide into the No. 20 Toyota with JGR, Kenseth therefore could find himself in his third different manufacturer in seven years, as he previously raced Fords for Roush Fenway Racing before joining Gibbs’ Toyota operation in 2013.

Alex Bowman, who filled in ably in the No. 88 during Earnhardt’s concussion-related absence in 2016, might not be left out, either. It’s an open secret that Hendrick would like to part ways with Kasey Kahne, possibly opening up a space for Bowman in the No. 5.

Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

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