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Kenseth's 'jump' is big, but ...


- Contributor
Thursday, Jun. 28, 2012

Sure, Matt Kenseth’s pending departure from Roush Fenway Racing is a major development.

Some observers are treating it as the major move of its kind in NASCAR history. After all, they contend, Kenseth is a former Cup Series champion and he presently leads the points standings toward the season-closing “playoff” for perhaps another title. And he is a two-time Daytona 500 winner.

Hey, folks, slow down a bit.

With all respect to Kenseth, who I consider an admirable pro in every regard, and to the highly respected Roush Fenway team, there have been bigger surprise "jumps" in the sport’s past.

I’ll list them chronologically (bear with my memory), not in order of importance. Heck, all of these were important!

1972 – Bobby Allison, a future NASCAR Hall of Famer, leaves the operation of Junior Johnson despite winning 10 of 31 races during a magical season and finishing in the top five 15 other times. Allison forms his own team, then later has great success with other outfits.

1980 – Cale Yarborough, future Hall of Famer, quits the Johnson squad in order to run a limited schedule for a team owned by M.C. Anderson and spend more time with his family. Yarborough had won 52 races and three championships with Johnson.

1983 – Richard Petty, future Hall of Famer, stuns all of motorsports by leaving the family owned and operated Petty Enterprises to join a team fielded by Hollywood figure Mike Curb. Petty wins two races in 1984 with Curb, including his memorable 200th triumph in the Firecracker 400 on July 4 at Daytona International Speedway. He returns to Petty Enterprises in ’86 and completes his career with the "home team" where he achieved 198 wins and seven championships. Seven of his Petty Enterprises triumphs were in the Daytona 500.

1986 – Darrell Waltrip, future Hall of Famer, departs Johnson in favor of Hendrick Motorsports and a pairing with crew chief/engine builder Waddell Wilson. Waltrip had won 43 races and three titles with Johnson.

There have been other very significant moves among drivers in the past, including Tim Flock, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Neil Bonnett, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the Labonte brothers, Bobby and Terry.

Kenseth’s upcoming change of uniforms is indeed huge.

My point is that it has happened before.

And it will happen again…

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