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Kenseth Making No Long Term Plans For 2013

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 23 2013

Matt Kenseth says yes, it has been a good season. But, he is not thinking Chase just yet. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Things have gone dang well for Matt Kenseth this season. So well that he was named the winner of the first quarter Driver of the Year award on Thursday. So well that he even beat NASCAR law enforcement officials by having the massive penalties he was issued after the Kansas race trimmed back to insignificance.

But not so well that Kenseth is allowing himself to think the 2014 season – his first at Joe Gibbs Racing – is going to wind up being anything all that special.

“I think you basically always try to take it one race at a time,” Kenseth, a notoriously composed thinker, said Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Coca-Cola 600.

If you look at Kenseth’s season to this point one race at a time, you see things like his Sprint Cup Series leading three victories. You see that he has won two of his 10 career poles this season. You see the seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts and you see that he is third in points as the weekend begins.

You see those things. Kenseth does not. Refuses to.

“I think if things go good or they go bad when you get done with Monday,” he said, “going through everything and talking about everything and what you want to work on and what you did good and what you did bad – all that stuff. You try to learn what you can from it and get it behind you and move on to the next week. Whether it was a great week or a terrible week, I think you always have to get focused on what’s coming next and keep working on trying to get better. I think that’s about it.

“It’s a long season and all of us have been through it for a long time and when things go good and you get a win, you need to enjoy it and you need to learn how to enjoy it. You also have to unfortunately get it behind you by Monday or Tuesday or whatever and really get focused on the next week.”

No surprise then that the 2003 Cup champion, who is coming off a victory at Darlington two weekends ago, slid right around a question about his chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, which is four months away.

Slipped around it even though his three victories make him a heavy favorite for a wild card berth in the Chase at the very least.

“I think it constantly changes,” Kenseth said when asked if he has a feel for how the Chase is shaping up. “I think the other teams are always getting better and you have to make sure that you get better along with them. Certainly, you get to Easter break and you have a few races and you kind of look at all the different tracks and kind of get a feel for where you’re at compared to the competition – the All-Star break is another chance for that.

“Then we have one last off-weekend in July and you can get another snap shot of that. It’s still a long ways from the Chase and you start trying to run for a championship – we feel good about where we’re at today, but there is still a lot of racing to do. I think we’ve done a lot of things really good the first 11 races, but I also think there’s room for improvement and room for us to grow as a team and me to grow as a driver to continue to try to get better.”

Kenseth did come out of his cocoon of caution long enough to voice some positive thoughts about the 600 and his feelings about the race and the CMS 1.5-mile quad-oval.

“The 600 has always been unique,” the Wisconsin native said. “We have our first win here so maybe that’s part of it. This is the first track that I made my first Nationwide start at and have more miles here at this track than any other on the circuit.”

Kenseth has two Cup victories at CMS – both of which came while he was driving a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. He won here in May of his rookie year of 2000 and he also won here a year ago.

In 27 starts, Kenseth has an average finishing position of 14th.

On the down side, he has five career DNFs.

Still, love the 600, he said.

“You only race a 600-mile race once a year – Memorial Day weekend,” Kenseth said. “Just a lot of different things. The track goes through huge changes, typically it’s very different in the beginning of the race when the sun is still out. It’s usually hot and slick and then at the end of the race, after four hours of racing or four-and-a-half hours of racing, the track is as fast as it’s ever going to be and everybody picks up a second and it’s on. It’s like you wait four hours to run a trophy dash. It’s just a fun event.”

But just one fun event with 25 left to go this year.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 23 2013
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