Despite impending loss of Kenseth, Ratcliff has eyes forward

For the first time since 2013, Jason Ratcliff has to contemplate racing without Matt Kenseth.

Despite impending loss of Kenseth, Ratcliff has eyes forward
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Jason Ratcliff
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Jason Ratcliff
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Race winner Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with crew chief Jason Ratcliff
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crew chief Jason Ratcliff
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

On Tuesday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Erik Jones will take over the No. 20 ride in 2018.

So where does that leave Ratcliff?

“I’m not sure about that right now,” Ratcliff said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Thursday. “I think it’s pretty new. I think it’s pretty early, I should say in the planning stages of what that team will look like next year.

“For me, I’m still focused on this season. I can only focus on one thing at a time and I got my hands full right now, trying to get the 20 car back up front. I think we’ve made a lot of progress — especially in the last month and a half. But we still need a win to lock ourselves in the Chase
and put ourselves in position for a championship.”

Ratcliff joined the organization in 2005. Over the last five years, the crew chief/driver combination has scored 13 wins, 11 poles, 47 top fives and 86 top 10 finishes in 161 races. And Kenseth has qualified for the post-season each year. He finished second to Jimmie Johnson in 2013, tying his best result (2006) in the standings since winning the title in 2003.

2017 season

This season, JGR has yet to win a race. The organization’s drought dates back to Texas Motor Speedway in last November when Carl Edwards won 21 races ago. Of the remaining Gibbs’ drivers, Denny Hamlin was the last to find Victory Lane — at Richmond in September, 2016.

Kenseth is currently 11th in the Monster Energy Cup standings. His last victory came here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway one year ago. As the defending winner of the Overton’s 301, Ratcliff says the crew brings a lot of confidence to the Magic Mile — particularly given the No. 20 team’s recent success.

Since joining JGR, Kenseth has scored three wins, five top fives and seven top 10s at NHMS. He’s led 321 laps and enjoys an average finish of 5.625.

“We’re going to a really good track this weekend,” Ratcliff said. “We’ve had some success there. Hopefully, we can get the thing into victory lane this weekend. That will be a step in the right direction in staying focused on what we need to stay focused on.”

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