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Kenseth Wants To Be Up Front When It Counts

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009
Matt Kenseth plans to use what he learned at the last restrictor plate race to do well this weekend. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Matt Kenseth won the last restrictor plate race this season. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Talladega, Ala. – Matt Kenseth won the most recent restrictor-plate race, the season-opening Daytona 500, but those results weren’t reflected in the practice speeds from Friday at NASCAR’s other plate track, Talladega Superspeedway.

Kenseth was 37th in Happy Hour on Friday. Qualifying is set for Saturday morning, and the cars will be impounded after that.

Kenseth’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards set the pace on Friday, running a best lap of 194.904 miles per hour. Kenseth clocked in at 183.603 mph.

David Gilliland, one of the “go or go home” drivers who will have to qualify on speed to make the race, looked like a shoo-in for a starting spot after posting the second fastest time of the day. Tony Stewart, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman completed the top five.

Kenseth said that despite the similarities in the sizes of Daytona and Talladega (both about 2.5 miles), the racing is entirely different.

“This race and Daytona are somewhat similar, but these races at Talladega are really all by themselves,” Kenseth said. “It’s a lot more mental than physical, or getting your car to handle. It’s more about the draft and being in the right place at the right time and not being in the wrong place and not being caught up in a wreck like it seems like we usually are.”

Like everyone who has raced in or even watched a race at Talladega, the “Big Wreck” multi-car calamity is not far from Kenseth’s mind.

“You just go out there and try to make the best decisions you can, and I guess try not to be the guy who causes a wreck,” he said. “If everybody thinks like that, there wouldn’t be a wreck usually, so I just kind of go out with that mindset.”

He said his Daytona win, his first ever in a plate race, gives him a bit of confidence heading into Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, but not much.

“[Confidence from the recent win] never hurts but it probably doesn’t mean a lot,” he said.

Talladega races often become strategy contests. Some choose to lay back, ride in the back and try to avoid wrecks for most of the race then run hard at the end. Others figure the best place to be when wrecks start is ahead of them so they try to be in the lead group all day. Kenseth said he plans to be among the frontrunners as much as possible.

“I’m just going to try to go race,” he said. “You just never know where the safe spot is.  You could hang out in the back and get caught up in something.

“Last year we were all the way up to second place behind [Tony] Stewart, who won it, and that was when Carl [Edwards] and Greg [Biffle] got together and we were collected in it.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen. You just have to do the best you can with your car, try not to make that bad move, try not to be the guy who causes the wreck and just go from there – try to be in position for the end.” 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009
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