News & Media


Cup Preview: Kenseth knows Martinsville will test his patience

October 28, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

You wouldn't think that maintaining a calm disposition would be a problem for Matt Kenseth. Ever. Like, those drinks designed to keep people energized for five hours don't get the Roush Fenway Racing driver through breakfast.

But, Kenseth says, there are a couple of occasions during the Sprint Cup season when even his cyborg-like demeanor is tested. And with Sunday's race being at Martinsville, this weekend is one of those occasions.

"For me, a lot of times I get credit from [the media] about not doing something stupid. That is probably a place I have done more stupid stuff than any other track."

--MATT KENSETH

"Probably over the years," Kenseth said, "besides the challenge of getting around Martinsville at a competitive pace, probably the most challenging part for me is being calm and using my head and thinking through things and not doing something because you are mad. More so than any other track."

And more so than in recent years, Kenseth may want to detour around Starbucks on race day this weekend. Because this fall, the 39-year-old driver from Wisconsin is in prime position to win his second Cup championship.

With four races left to go in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kenseth sits second in points. He is just 14 points behind Carl Edwards, his Roush Fenway teammate.

And after Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville -- where he has never won -- Kenseth will head to three tracks to where he has won.

So, while Kenseth's team has horsepower and setups on its mind, the driver has his mind on his mind.

"The first thing is getting the car to go fast all the time, be smooth and drive it like I am supposed to there," Kenseth said of Martinsville. "After that, it's being patient and using your head to get the best finish you can."

The reason that Martinsville becomes such a big test of patience is the track itself. At .526 miles around, it is the smallest -- and hence, most crowded -- circuit on the schedule.

Its shape also presents calmness-robbing aggravation: Its paperclip configuration, with relatively long straights leading to tight corners, tends to "accordion" the field and make passing difficult. "It is like racing around two light poles in the parking lot somewhere," Kenseth said.

And with 42 other cars.

"For me," Kenseth said, "a lot of times I get credit from [the media] about not doing something stupid. That is probably a place I have done more stupid stuff than any other track. I don't like getting run into and I don't like running into other people. It is bound to happen there and it is such a small little track.

"There is no room to move and there is not an outside groove where you have another choice to pass. It is one of the tracks that takes all the patience that I have usually. Especially when your car isn't running good because I hate getting passed and you feel like you are getting passed all day and you are in the way and that is frustrating."

Kenseth has only two top-five finishes in 23 Martinsville starts. He knows he needs to do much better than his average finish of 15.8 on Sunday.

Hence his answer when asked if he has allowed himself to think about becoming the 2011 champion.

"You can't help but think about it a little when you are asked about it," Kenseth said. "You realize you are in the Chase and running good but I honestly don't spend much time thinking about it at all. I am glad we are in the mix but ... there is a ton of racing to do and it really doesn't matter until we get to Homestead where we are."

Spoken like a true cyborg.