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Daytona 500 winner ready for more at Talladega

April 30, 2012, Dave Rodman,

Kenseth winless at 2.66-mile track but Daytona has him aiming high

Matt Kenseth's 2012 Daytona 500 winning car is sitting in the Daytona 500 Experience fan attraction in Daytona Beach, Fla., so it will be of no use to him and his Roush Fenway Racing team this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

But Kenseth's experience at Daytona last February, which included winning his Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race and then easily capturing his second edition of the "Great American Race," has him feeling pretty special as he travels later this week -- particularly since he's fourth in the Sprint Cup standings coming into the 10th race of the season.

"I think this is the most I have ever looked forward to going to Talladega. Our Speedweeks was really good ... this is probably the most I have ever looked forward to getting there."


"I think this is the most I have ever looked forward to going to Talladega," Kenseth said. "Our Speedweeks was really good and Carl [Edwards, Roush teammate] was on the pole for the [Daytona] 500 and Greg [Biffle, their other teammate] had a really dominant car and we were able to win our qualifying race and the 500.

"I feel like, as a group we have had, throughout all of Speedweeks, really fast race cars. Without the tandem [drafting] thing you can actually make some moves for yourself and are racing against everyone else, which is fun and refreshing for plate racing, I think [so] this is probably the most I have ever looked forward to getting there."

Kenseth's record belies any other way of looking at Talladega. The 2003 Cup Series champion was bad there in his title year, with finishes of 27th and 37th, but that hasn't been his career experience.

In 24 career starts on the massive 2.66-mile oval, Kenseth has only six top-10 finishes but he has 15 top-20 finishes. One of his most impressive stats is he's led at least one lap in 18 of his 'Dega starts. In fact, Kenseth led at least a lap in his first eight starts at Talladega, including his debut as a rookie in 2000.

But maybe his most important statistic is he's been running at the finish of 20 of his 24 starts, and he has only four finishes of 30th or worse. But even at that, Kenseth acknowledges there are no guarantees when it comes to the facility that should have the tag of "NASCAR's most unpredictable track."

"You never know what is going to happen when you get there," Kenseth said. "You might be like Jimmie [Johnson at Daytona] and come in and only do like one lap but I am looking forward to getting there."

Probably the most enticing factor for Kenseth when it comes to Talladega is the current NASCAR rules package that, in a nutshell, virtually eliminated the tandem drafting tactic that dominated superspeedway races in 2011.

Kenseth provided an analytical comparison when he was asked what the state of pack racing would be at Talladega.

"Well, a couple things come to mind," Kenseth said. "In the middle of those races everyone would get lined-up on the top but with plate racing it isn't like one guy can decide that he is going to pass everyone and lead -- you just can't.

"If everyone is in line and you pull out of line then all you are going to do is have the line pass you until you get back up in line. There has to be an effort and fair amount of people trying to do that at the same time. I know I have been in that situation and been in that line and maybe been sixth. You think, 'OK, I am going to try to get this guy to go with me.'

"You get maybe two guys to go with you and lose 10 spots and then get back in line. If you try that three or four times then you are in the back. When you get down to the end or after a pit stop when it all gets shuffled up you are too far back to do anything. It isn't like you are trying to log laps, you are trying to keep the best position you can for when it gets crazy at the end when everyone is three- or four-wide the last few laps and you can hopefully not get in a wreck and hopefully have a chance to win the race."

Even though Kenseth has only the two Daytona 500 victories as plate-race scores on his resume, in nearly 50 attempts, his laps-led log shows he's got a pretty good handle on what it takes to succeed.

"I think you will see racing similar to Daytona," Kenseth said. "I don't know why it would be much different. Daytona has the new pavement and a lot of grip, just like Talladega. It is the same rules package so I think you will see racing like you did during Speedweeks."