The Kenseth-Stewart Feud Has Petered Out
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sprint Cup’s hottest feud is over after all of three days as both Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart said Tuesday that it’s time to get back to racing for the 2012 series championship.
Kenseth said it after a tire test at Kansas Speedway on Tuesday afternoon and in doing so, echoed what Stewart told reporters during a sponsor appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier in the day.
“Tony and I have raced together for a really long time,” Kenseth said. “We’ve rode motorcycles together, we’ve raced sprint cars together, late-models together…you’re always going to have problems with people here or there. Most of the time it’s not one person’s fault. People don’t always see things the same way.
“I’m sure we’ll get it all worked out.”
On Sunday, Stewart did not look or sound like he would get much anything worked out.
In the race at Bristol, he and Kenseth tangled on the track. It led to a wreck that took Stewart out of the race.
After the wreck, Kenseth pitted for repairs and on his way out of the pits, Stewart was waiting for him. Standing near the pit exit, Stewart threw his helmet at the Roush Fenway Racing driver’s car. The helmet hit Kenseth’s Ford squarely in the front grill.
After the race, Stewart said, “I learned my lesson there. I’m going to run over him every him every chance I’ve got from now ‘til the end of the year, every chance I’ve got.”
On Tuesday in Charlotte, Stewart backed completely off of the threat.
“We’ve been racing each other for 15 years,” said Stewart, the reigning Cup champion. “It’s not like we’ve not been through this before. We both know what we expect out of each other. Talking about it, it wouldn’t be a new conversation. So it’s not something that has to happen.”
Kenseth added, “It’s not like Tony and I are enemies.”
The former champion added that he was mad after the race – but not strictly at Stewart.
“I was mad we both wrecked,” Kenseth said. “I thought we had a good spirited battle for the lead.”
Kenseth is second in points and is locked into the Chase. Stewart is ninth in points and just 34 ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne. But, Stewart has three victories.
Kenseth was among eight drivers at the Kansas test, which will continue on Wednesday.
The verdict on the new track was: too early to tell.
“It’s nice to get out on the track. It’s nice to see the track. I like this place,” said Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “The banking will add speed to the race track and one and two definitely have more banking. This should be a fast little race track.”
Kenseth, who holds the track record of 180.856 mph set back in 2005, expects a new track record this fall.
“We’re already running, the last lap was 30.30 or something,” said Kenseth. “You know it’s going to be faster when everybody runs in qualifying runs. I expect it to be the high 28s in a qualifying run.”
The surface was tricky in the morning, drivers said, but in the afternoon, the new asphalt began to rubber-up, and it began to come around.
“It took a little while to start coming in,” Regan Smith of Furniture Row Racing said. “It started to take rubber a little bit and gain some speed, and a little bit of security with the cars. I know I was fighting some security issues with my car. Once it came in, it started to feel pretty good.”
The old surface, which was in place when the track opened in 2001, had began to come up.
Drivers initially balked at repaving Kansas as it had gotten very racy over the years.
“The general perception of drivers is not positive about repaves. They worry about what the track is going to be like when they come back, they worry about what kind of grip they’re going to have,” track president Pat Warren said. “What I was really pleased about is that the response from the drivers was overwhelmingly positive about the new configuration.”
Earnhardt said the changes were evident in Turns 1 and 2, but the other two turns appeared to be the same. Earnhardt also said the entrance to pit road has become more challenging because of the way the banking meets the apron of the track.
Other drivers who are taking part in the two-day tire test, which wraps up Wednesday, include Mark Martin, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya.No Comment