On a Roll
Kenseth to defend his title at
2014 Quaker State 400
Wisconsin native notched nine
top-10 finishes through May
(June 2014) – Matt Kenseth made a deal with his father, Roy, that Roy should buy a car and race. Matt’s end of the deal was that he would work on the car until he was old enough to race. Kenseth remained true to his word and began stock car racing in 1988 at age 16.
Matt Kenseth perfects his burnout after winning last year’s Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway.
He’s been quoted as saying, “Neither of us knew much and it was a learning experience.” What he learned has propelled him to become a heavy contender in the world of NASCAR.
Last year’s Quaker State 400 champion and Cambridge, Wisc., native returns to Sparta, Ky., on June 28 to compete in this fourth annual Sprint Cup Series competition in Kentucky. Last year, Kenseth took the lead at Kentucky Speedway after Jimmie Johnson spun out and held off Jamie McMurray to take his fourth win of the season.
So far, Kenseth has had a busy year in stock car racing. He won his first pole of the year at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, finishing fourth.
At Daytona for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he held off Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne for the win in a three-wide finish. The win placed him in the third position in the Daytona 500, where he finished in sixth position.
He also raced this year at Phoenix, Las Vegas and Bristol. At the latter track it looked as if Kenseth would score a win, but he ended up finishing 13th.
Kenseth finished third in the Sprint All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 19. Kenseth and his No. 20 Home Depot Husky team began the race in eighth place.
He finished third May 25 at Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 for his ninth top-10 finish so far this season.
Kenseth, 42, began his racing career on several short tracks in Wisconsin, winning track championships at Madison International Speedway, Slinger Super Speedway and Wisconsin International Raceway.
He moved on to the ARTGO, American Speed Association and Hooters Late Model touring series before getting a full-time ride in the NASCAR Busch Series (now known as the Nationwide Series).
In 1991 he won the ARTGO race at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, becoming the youngest winner in the series’ history. His first car was a 1981 Camaro that Todd Kropf had driven to championships at Madison and Columbus 151 Speedway.
Kenseth now drives the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time, as well as the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on a part-time basis.
The 1994 and 1995 racing seasons established Kenseth as a short track star. He made a name for himself while driving at several Wisconsin tracks, beating such nationally known drivers as Dick Trickle and Robbie Reiser. Kenseth raced 60 times in three different cars in 1994.
In 1996 Kenseth decided to race for engine builder Carl Wegner in the Hooters Series Late Model championship. He finished third in the Hooters Series, nearly winning the series championship as a rookie. In 1996, Kenseth made his Busch Series debut at the spring race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for Wegner, finishing 22nd after starting 30th. Due to lack of sponsorship, The Wegner-Kenseth team closed at the end of the season.
In 1997 when driver Tim Bender was injured, Bender’s crew chief-car owner Robbie Reiser hired his former competitor and rival Kenseth to race for him despite having only one Busch start.
Kenseth qualified third for the new team’s first race. He had two top-five finishes during the partial season and the following year he raced full-time all season. Kenseth’s first Winston Cup race was at Dover in 1998 when he filled in for Bill Elliott. He finished sixth, the third best debut of any driver.
Kenseth quickly moved up in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (later NEXTEL Cup Series and now Sprint Cup Series). He took home the coveted Rookie of the Year title in 2000.
That same year Kenseth’s entire team joined the Roush Racing organization. In a milestone event, he beat out Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. He also won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, being the only rookie to win the famed 600 mile event. He went on to finish 14th in points with four top-fives and 11 top 10s.
In 2001 Kenseth finished 13th in points with four top-fives and nine top 10 finishes. The next year he had wins at Rockingham, Texas, Michigan, Richmond and Phoenix. In 2003 Kenseth dominated in the points standings for almost the entire season and became the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion.
The 2004 season saw Kenseth win the coveted International Race of Champions (IROC) championship. He qualified for the inaugural Nextel Cup, finishing eighth in the final NASCAR point standings. The 2005 season brought Kenseth his 200th career start and he led a career high 1,001 laps.
Kenseth had a fast start to the 2006 season. He won the California Speedway, the spring race at Dover, and the Sharpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway, securing his spot in the chase for the Nextel Cup.
Kenseth won the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18, 2007. The race was the final event under series title sponsor NEXTEL. Kenseth finished fourth in series points, and as a result, finished in the top 10 in the standings for six consecutive seasons, tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most wins.
Kenseth broke an 18-race winless streak when he won the 2008 Nicorette 300 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. His 23rd career series victory came after the series was renamed the Nationwide Series.
He won a rain shortened Daytona 500 the following year, the first Daytona 500 victory for his owner Jack Roush after 20 years as a car owner. De Walt decided to drop its sponsorship with Kenseth, and Crown Royal took over its sponsorship in 2010 for 35 races. Valvoline also announced sponsorship for three races.
On June 26, 2012, it was announced that Kenseth would leave Roush Fenway Racing after the 2012 season. He joined Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, driving the No. 20 Toyota.
In 2013, Kenseth returned to the Nationwide Series for 16 races driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota. He is slated to drive 17 races in the No. 20 Toyota for the 2014 season.
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