Since 2000, Matt Kenseth has been a fixture at Roush-Fenway Racing, winning 23 races and a Cup Series championship (2003) under the Ford banner. In 2013, Kenseth makes the transition from security to uncertainty, Ford to Toyota, RFR to JGR - Joe Gibbs Racing, where he'll be taking over the driving duties of the #20 Home Depot Toyota Camry as Joey Logano heads to Penske Racing. In a recent NASCAR teleconference, Kenseth shared his thoughts on the upcoming changes in his racing life.
"I think right now, until the season's over, I think that I have the second longest active driver/owner relationship in the garage, I think," said Kenseth. "I'm pretty sure right next to Jeff (Gordon) and Hendrick. So certainly I've seen a lot of people switch teams throughout the years…When I've talked to Joe and JD and went and saw some of their stuff and spent some time with them, I just really felt like that was the right place for me. I felt really comfortable with everything. I feel really good about their stuff, when you watch how good all their cars perform on the racetrack and how many races they win and all that kind of stuff, I just felt like that was the place for me. It really wasn't as hard or I wasn't probably as conflicted as one might think."
Kenseth remembered his early days at RFR, and how he came to the team with someone he referred to as his "greatest advantage." "I've had a lot of great advantages through my career," said Kenseth. "And probably the greatest advantage I probably had throughout my career is Robbie Reiser. I started with him in the Nationwide Series, Busch Series over at Reiser Enterprises with him and his dad and his family owning that business. And Robbie is a great organizer, hard worker. From the first time we raced together - I remember running that first Busch race together, we were in only like our second practice session and he totally bought in what I said and totally believed in me and worked with me. And that was the start of a really great, long successful working relationship. And I think he's done a lot of great things over there."
There are still six races remaining in the 2012 season to worry about, however - and Kenseth is one of 12 drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kenseth is the most recent winner in the Chase, managing to get through the wreckage in Turn Four to win at Talladega Superspeedway. 2012 has been the year of Matt Kenseth on superspeedways: he won the season-opener at Daytona, finished third in the first Talladega race and the seconds Daytona race, and won last weekend. Kenseth said he wasn't expecting to be that good on the restrictor plated tracks.
"Restrictor plate races are one of those things that are really unpredictable," said Kenseth. "I feel through my career it's been obviously one of my weak points. I never felt like I was very good at it. I felt we make not the right decisions even when we had really fast cars. And I felt like that this year a couple of times, to be honest with you. I thought at the second Daytona and the first Talladega, those races were mine to lose and I lost them for my team. I thought they gave me the stuff we needed to win, win both of those races as well. So super, super thankful we were able to win this weekend and get to victory lane with those guys. But, again, disappointed. I feel like I let them down those other two races. So I had no idea our plate stuff was going to run that good."
Heading into the last six races of the Chase, Kenseth sits 12th, but is going to four tracks where he has previous wins: two each at Charlotte and Texas and one each at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami. Kenseth and his #17 team have high expectations going into this weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "They've been working really hard, especially on our stuff for Charlotte and our intermediate stuff," said Kenseth of his team. "So I think everybody at Roush Fenway was disappointed in our performance at Atlanta, Chicago, and really even Dover, for that matter. So they've been really on it. They've been working really, really hard to try to get our stuff better. And I'm really looking forward to getting on the track Thursday and seeing the progress that we made, and hopefully being competitive this weekend."
Source: "NASCAR Cam Teleconference with Matt Kenseth," NASCAR Media, October 9, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.