(Reuters) – Double Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth will come out of retirement and return to the NASCAR series, Chip Ganassi Racing said on Monday, taking over the seat vacated by Kyle Larson.
Larson was fired by Ganassi for using a racial slur during a livestream broadcast of an iRacing esports event. He issued an apology saying there was “no excuse” for his actions, but it was not enough to save his job.
“I can’t say racing was even on my radar two weeks ago,” 48-year-old Kenseth said in a statement.
NASCAR had run four races when the series, like most of North American sport, was shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak. When racing does resume, it will be Kenseth in the Ganassi number 42 Chevrolet.
“After spending some time thinking about it and all the unique circumstances surrounding all of us right now, it just seemed the timing and the opportunity was perfect to come back.
Multiple media reports have NASCAR targeting a May 17 restart with a race at Darlington Raceway.
“I know I have a lot of work ahead of me to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” the 2003 Cup champion said.
Kenseth, who has 39 Cup Series victories, including wins at the 2009 and 2012 Daytona 500, retired in 2017, but returned the next year to drive a partial season for Roush Fenway Racing.
“I have always said that when we have to fill a driver spot, that I owe it to our team, our partners and our fans to put the best available driver in the car,” Ganassi said.
“We are doing exactly that with Matt.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Alexander Smith