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Quiet Kenseth Refuses To Give Too Much Away

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 10 2013

Matt Kenseth goes about his business very quiety. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Back in the day when such things were still allowed, a “sit-down” interview was held with Matt Kenseth in his hauler in the infield of a NASCAR track. Kenseth’s PR rep was more than happy to set the thing up. Kenseth, still a couple years away from winning the 2003 Cup championship, didn’t appear to happy once it started.

He picked away at a plate of food which sat in front of him and offered up little more than short, ambiguous answers. Even when the questions concerned his beloved Green Bay Packers. Lengthy eye contact? Forget it.

Kenseth wasn’t rude or dismissive in the one-one-one. He was just super guarded in what he had to say. Jazz great Mile Davis is quoted as saying he seldom got effusive with reporters or anyone else because he didn’t want to “give too much away”. That could have been Kenseth’s rationale, as well.

These days, Kenseth’s answers to questions have gotten longer. And, especially, more charged with wit and personality. The mass meetings with media which have replaced quality-time sit-downs with NASCAR competitors can be a hoot when Kenseth is the interviewee.

But when it comes to mining something important or telling about the man or his thoughts, Kenseth still is wont to “give too much away”.

His Friday media scrum at Phoenix International Raceway, site of Sunday’s second-to-last 2013 Cup race, was fairly typical Kenseth.

Here is a sampling of how the Qs and As began:

– How much have the cars changed since the Spring race? “I don’t know, to be honest with you how different they’re going to be or how different it’s going to be than it was in the spring race.”

– How much of an obstacle is seven points when racing for a championship? “Well, it all depends on – I don’t know – it’s seven spots. That’s a tough question. What is seven points?”

– How have you been able to display your driving talent this year compared to years prior? “I don’t really feel like I’m a different driver than I have been in the past, you know necessarily.”

– Did you feel that a season like you’ve had was possible at the start of the year? “That’s hard to say right now because of the year we had.”

– Did you believe winning the championship would be possible? “Probably the same answer.”

– Have you used any sort of ‘special’ technique to prepare for the next race? “I guess I don’t. I guess I’m not that smart. No, I guess I don’t. Kind of like the same answer as before.”

Each of the above answers were expanded upon, but at the end of the session, nobody knew much more about the guy who has a great shot at winning his second Cup championship than they did before the scrum started.

There are a lot of terrific interviews in the Cup garages. Every time that Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jeff Gordon, or Greg Biffle or Clint Bowyer or Jimmie Johnson step in front of note pads and recorders you come way with a bit more understanding about what makes them, well, them.

The thought here is that when Kenseth leaves the sport in 10, 15, 20 years, with one, two, five championships, it will be with people saying we never really knew who he was.

But that’s OK. In fact, it may be good.

These days, Miles Davis’ music still thrills: In part because as you listen, it’s a bit more tantalizing as you wonder what it is that went on inside his head. You wonder what it was that he refused to give away.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 10 2013
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