Suddenly, Kenseth Looking Forward To Martinsville
By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
Check in with Matt Kenseth in the spring and the fall, with a race at Martinsville Speedway approaching, and chances are he won’t be itching to get behind the wheel.
Martinsville, the shortest track on the Sprint Cup circuit at .526 of a mile, has been a thorn in Kenseth’s side virtually since the day he stepped up to the Cup series. In 25 visits to the southern Virginia paper-clip-style track, Kenseth is winless, with only three top-five runs.
Of course, many other drivers have been mostly mystified by Martinsville over the years. All-time great Bobby Allison failed to win there in 44 tries, and David Pearson, Allison’s Hall of Fame contemporary, beat Martinsville only once in 28 runs.
It’s tough, and 500 laps at the half-mile translates into a thousand left turns -- a brutal workday, even at a slow track.
Kenseth should arrive at Martinsville this weekend with a spring in his step, however.
He’s one of the hottest drivers in the sport.
On Sunday, Kenseth won a tense game of survivor to take first in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on a day in which the newly paved surface at the 1.5-mile track threatened to swallow the field.
The competition was slowed by a record 14 cautions -- the most ever at the track and the biggest race total of this season.
It took a strong driver and a strong team to finish -- much less win -- on such a spectacularly bizarre day, and Kenseth and the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 crew stepped forward to rise above.
And it wasn’t an aberration.
After a difficult start to the Chase, Kenseth has won two of the past three races in the playoffs and would surprise no one with another victory – maybe two – before the curtain closes on the season in four weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“We’ve had two great races that couldn’t be better and four that probably couldn’t be a lot worse, other than Loudon,” Kenseth said of the Chase. “It’s been up and down. … This season we started off real fast and could run in the top five every week, it felt like. Then for a couple of months we didn’t perform as well, and unfortunately one of those months ran into the Chase.
“We were a little off as a group. We made a few mistakes we typically never make and have had some other problems that cost us some finishes.”
But those tough days seem to be locked in the past now as Kenseth gained two spots in the Chase standings Sunday and looks for more in the closing month of the season.
“It feels good to get here, have a fast car, have everything happen right, be able to get the win,” Kenseth said.
In his final weeks with Roush Fenway Racing, he’s looking for more. Even at Martinsville.