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Woody: Two Views of Kenseth’s Complaints

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 12 2010

Matt Kenseth appears to be fed up with not being able to win races. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Following the 2003 season in which Matt Kenseth’s lackluster cruise to the championship nudged NASCAR into a radical new format, Matt felt he was being unduly criticized.

During a weekly media conference call I introduced myself before asking a question and Kenseth interrupted by asking:

“Are you that guy who wrote that I should quit crying and concentrate on driving?”

I confessed that yes, I was that guy.

But I wasn’t the only one who at the time felt that Kenseth was being overly defensive and taking things too personally. My gripe wasn’t so much with Kenseth as with NASCAR for having a points system that encouraged non-racing and theoretically could produce a winless champion.

Kenseth’s complaint came to mind last weekend when he moped his way through a woe-is-me press conference at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kenseth took several swipes at his struggling team, including this one: “We all have ideas and theories (about what’s wrong) but the people running the place don’t like mine, so we’ll just keep going the way we are and hope that things get better.”

Frankly it wasn’t one of Matt’s finer moments. The flapping of dirty laundry in public is not a pretty sound.  Most of the time it’s best to hold such disparaging discussions in private rather than in front of a media microphone.

At least that’s one notion. On the other hand you have to give Kenseth credit for being open and honest – perhaps to a fault. Someone asked him what was wrong with his team and he told them. Or at least he gave his opinion.

The problem with Kenseth’s complaint is that none of his Roush teammates are exactly setting the woods on fire. It’s not like the situation at Hendrick Motorsports in which some drivers are doing well while others (well, at least one) are floundering.

At Roush, Kenseth’s not the only one having problems but he’s the only one who’s been publicly critical.

You never know how that kind of thing will play out. Kenseth’s complaints could create dissension and disharmony on the team and further erode morale.

Or it could light a fire under some people and inspire them to do better. Maybe Kenseth said something that needed saying.

Critics will fault him for casting blame and finger-pointing; defenders will praise him for refusing to be satisfied with poor performances and having the grit to speak out.

Kenseth’s so-so 13th-place finish Saturday dropped him a position in the standings, to 8th. But with just seven races to go to set the Chase field, he should be OK. But he remains winless and seldom in contention, and he’s clearly not happy with the situation.

It’ll be interesting to see the response of his team in coming weeks. Did Matt fan the competitive flames or further dampen the enthusiasm? We’ll soon see.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 12 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Adeck says:

    Give Him a competitive car and team then you will see what he can do. Steal a crewchief from the competition.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    The HMS drivers in Cup are 2nd, 3rd, 13th, and 14th. Which “one” is floundering?

  • john says:

    I agree, Kenseth’s probably been the most underrated driver over the course of the decade. Sometimes your overall results are more important than the number of wins in a season. Terry Labonte and Benny Parsons both one a relatively small number of races, and both only one once or twice in their championship seasons… Yet they’re held as legends, while Kenseth is bashed for not winning enough.

    Much like Dale Jr, people glaze over his past accomplishments just because he’s having a couple bad years. Kenseth fought for the Busch Series title with Dale Jr for two seasons before coming up to Cup, and has since won 18 races (a good career in itself), 25 Nationwide Races, Cup Rookie of the Year, a Daytona 500, a Coke 600 (the only rookie to do so), an IROC Championship, and of course a Cup Championship.

    But all anyone can ever focus on is how he won a championship with only one race (even though, again, Benny Parsons and Terry Labonte essentially did the same thing.)

  • patton says:

    since matty k won his championship in 2003 every media member has neglected his accomplishments and talent. Your a senior writer who gives credence to my theory. Matt kenseth is the most underrated driver in the history of the sport. i know this, the drivers know this (see 2007 sports illustrated poll) writers like you Mr. Woody enhance this opinion. I never understood why he always got the short end from the media, its beyond me. Lunkheads like you should be pulled from your media credentials because your competence is void. How many drivers in the entire world can make a save like he did two weeks ago at daytona? t
    The answer is zero. Not Jimmy, not Jeff, and not Tony. When will you see the light?