Kenseth grateful for Roush years but ready for future at GibbsBy Kelly Crandall
It hasn’t fazed Matt Kenseth what car or team he’s driving for. The changing of the calendar year, didn’t make him blink either. For Kenseth, he’s still the man atop the scoring tower at Daytona, this time during testing for the upcoming 2013 season.
Working with his new Joe Gibbs Racing team, Kenseth’s No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was the fastest thing in Saturday morning’s first session. Just as he was the fastest thing in Daytona – and Talladega – all of last season when he won two of the four restrictor plate races.
Toyota has never won the Daytona 500 and Kenseth is working on becoming the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95 to win the event in back-to-back years. While he noted how happy and content he was with his new team, Kenseth wasn’t ready to start thinking about the possibility that’s ahead one month from now.
“Man, if I could predict that I’d be making a bunch of money in Vegas, that’s for sure. These are always really unpredictable races,” said Kenseth in Daytona. “I remember you asking me the same question in 2010 after we were fortunate enough to win it in 2009.
“I don’t know – we’re going to do everything we can just like you do every year. Show up down here and try to win the race. It’s always unpredictable. It’s the biggest race of the year and there’s a lot of effort that goes into these races and certainly pate racing is anything but predictable.”
Kenseth has hope that his new Camry will be just as fast as the Fords were last year. When he and Roush Fenway were the cars to beat. So far, so good during winter testing. He and new crew chief Jason Ratcliff appear to be on the same page, something Kenseth joked came from going on dates with him in order to build a great relationship.
Then there’s his new teammates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, which he says there isn’t a whole lot left that Kenseth didn’t already know about them. He worked well with Hamlin during last month’s test in Charlotte when the two switched cars and compared data. When they head back to Charlotte for more testing next week, he’s eager to do the same with Busch.
“Daytona you can’t really compare much at Daytona. There’s not really a lot to talk about as far as car setups,” he said.
As the season quickly approaches the confidence is high, both for Kenseth and JGR. Hamlin and Busch have already spoken volumes of their new teammate and what he brings to the organization while Kenseth feels well fit in his new surroundings. And he’s looking forward, he repeatedly said at Daytona, not back.
“I’ve been extremely blessed my whole career to have been in great situations and I’ve never wished for anything or regretted any moves I’ve made or things I’ve done or haven’t done as far as racing goes,” revealed Kenseth, not wanting to go into specifics about one company compared to the other.
“So, I’m just looking forward. I’m really encouraged with everything I see. I’m really excited to get to the track and go race these guys and see how we stack up compared to everybody else.”
There are, however, notable differences between how Roush and Gibbs operate, but nothing that has Kenseth any less excited about his future success.
“A lot of differences, but everything ha been really great. I don’t think it could be any better,” he said. “We haven’t been to the race track and been racing yet and the results pretty much tell the story and we’re a few months away from really seeing results. I’ve been extremely encouraged.
“I’m really optimistic about the season, really like my group and really like the way they do things over at JGR and the cars. Of course, Denny and Kyle – there’s not many people that win more races than those guys so I’m excited to work with them guys and learn from them and hopefully be able to contribute as well.”