SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Matt Kenseth sat down before dozens of reporters on Friday like a man in the middle of a difficult divorce.
In light of his ballyhooed move to leave Roush Fenway Racing at the end of this season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver was asked if this was something he had agonized over.
"You mean coming in here this morning?" he cracked. "Yeah."
Far from a spotlight-seeker, Kenseth nonetheless has provided the biggest buzz of this weekend's NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway after his controversial break with the team he has driven for the last 15 years.
Team owner Jack Roush also spoke about the news that broke on Tuesday. He said he was as surprised as anyone to find out that Kenseth, who has won two Daytona 500s for Roush including this year's, was leaving.
Roush swore that he and his longtime driver would remain friends. But then he added, "I have not lost respect for Matt and I hope he hasn't for me. Now, I won't have the same sense of wishing for his success on the racetrack next year that I will this year. So, from that point of view, he'll be moving to the dark side."
He was sort of kidding about the dark side. But it was hard to tell.
Kenseth and Roush both looked uncomfortable talking about their high-profile split. Both would prefer to talk about cars than contracts.
Roush conceded that had he been more attuned to personnel decisions he might have been able to head off the entire controversy.
"If I had been as vigilant and as diligent and as interested in that side of the business as I am in finding why a fuel pump broke or why a connecting-rod bearing failed or how we can get an extra pound of downforce, if I had taken care of the business side as hard as I try to take care of the technical side, I might have been able to stop that," he said.
Kenseth has not revealed where he'll drive next year, although speculation points to Joe Gibbs Racing.
He acknowledged in cloudy terms that deliberations about his future with Roush Fenway had been weighing on him.
"Getting to this point in the season it was definitely somewhat stressful not knowing 100 percent what I was going to do," he said. "It all ended up I guess coming together pretty quickly. I really felt and feel like it is absolutely the right thing to do and the right place for me next year and for my future as well. It is kind of hard to explain but a lot of things pointed and pulled me in that direction. A lot of things happened or didn't happen that led to that."