You have to go back to November 2015 to find when Ross Kenseth last climbed behind the wheel of a race car. It’s been even longer since he was in a Super Late Model, going back to September 2015 in the Alabama 200 at Montgomery Motor Speedway.
His long hiatus from racing is set to end this weekend the former Winchester 400 and All American 400 winner will get back behind the wheel for the Blizzard Series finale at Five Flags Speedway.
The former Short Track Draft number one pick announced his intentions over the weekend on Twitter, then joined Speed51’s “The Bullring” to discuss his long-awaited return to racing. He will compete for Illinois racer and friend Jim Weber this weekend, with multi-time ASA National Tour winner Mike Garvey calling the shots on top of the pit box.
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s been about five years now. I’ve been pretty good friends with Jim Weber and them up there in Joliet (IL),” Kenseth said. “They have good cars and they’ve wanted me to drive their Super for a handful of years now and I finally got talked into it.”
His last season behind the wheel was in 2015, which was spent mainly in the Super Late Model ranks driving for himself, and eventually with Carswell Motorsports in the No. 98. Kenseth also competed in select NASCAR Xfinity, Trucks and ARCA Menards Series races, winning at Michigan International Speedway in ARCA competition driving for Ken Schrader. His last race to date was at Phoenix Raceway in November 2015 with the Xfinity Series for Hattori Racing Enterprises.
Kenseth admitted that he hasn’t really put too much thought into missing the racing scene in the years since due to being so busy. However, he has been itching to get to Five Flags ever since the deal was made to compete with the Blizzard Series.
“I’ve been so busy, my daughter’s two and I’ve been working full-time and I’ve been going to school. Five years goes by a lot faster than you think it does. I do a little bit here and there but I haven’t been around it a whole lot. I didn’t know I missed it or really thought about missing it a whole lot until I put this deal together. I’ve been very excited about it these last couple weeks. They have some really good stuff so hopefully we can go out there this weekend and be competitive and have some fun.”
Speed51 talked to Kenseth back in March for a story on what he’s been up to since exiting the sport. He echoed some of the sentiment behind moving on from racing, while going deeper into the day-to-day grind that it took for him to remain behind the wheel for the last couple years of his full-time run.
“Since I was probably 12 or 13, I always viewed racing as a full-time job, that’s what was going to be my career. I’ve always been on the mindset that if I couldn’t make a living doing it then why am I doing it? The last few years, it became clear and it kind of got old begging for money every year and trying to find sponsorship, going into March or April every year not knowing when your next race was and when you’re going to get your next paycheck.
“I think early 2015 I became aware that it would be hard to find any opportunities at the next level,” he added. “I made a decision to take a break, finish school, find a job and figure out what I’m going to do outside of racing and if I wanted to get back into it, there would always be a way. The opportunity lined up where I was comfortable with all the people working on it and it’s good stuff. Regardless of how the weekend goes we’ll have an enjoyable time.”
As he makes his triumphant return to racing this weekend, the expectations remain simple – to have fun. While this weekend’s race remains as a one-off deal for now, Kenseth did not rule out more potential races in the future. How he and the team perform Saturday night could play a factor on where everything will go into the future.
“I have no idea, we haven’t really talked about it a whole lot. Who knows, it’s been five years. I might go out there and run dead last and be like you know what, let’s just move on and keep on doing what we’re doing; or we can go out there and have fun and run top-five and who knows what can happen after that.
“That’s not my decision, I think that would be something to talk about. Depending on how the weekend goes, you never know. We have no plans at all going into it, this is a one-time thing to see if it would work out and see if we can be competitive, see how we run.”
Stay tuned to Speed51 for broadcast information for this weekend’s Blizzard Series and Allen Turner Pro Late Model finales at Five Flags Speedway.
Click here to watch a replay of Monday’s episode of “The Bullring.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo