News & Media

Kenseth looks to make U-turn at road course

August 10, 2012, Joe Menzer,

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- To say Watkins Glen International isn't one of Matt Kenseth's favorite stops on the Sprint Cup Series schedule might be a bit of an understatement.

Heading into Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 At The Glen, Kenseth's career record at the 2.45-mile road course isn't real pretty. In 12 starts, he has only three top-10 finishes -- none since 2004, when he finished ninth. His average finish is 15.6, and of the 1,083 laps he's completed at the venue, he's led a grand total of one. That came more than a decade ago, in 2001.

"This has not been our best track on the circuit, but after the last two weeks, it can't be much worse."


"This has not been our best track on the circuit," Kenseth said, "but after the last two weeks, it can't be much worse."

Kenseth was sitting first in the point standings prior to getting caught in wrecks in each of past two starts, relegating him to a 35th-place finish at Indianapolis and 23rd at Pocono after he thought he had put himself in position to race for the win in the rain-shortened event.

At a road course such at Watkins Glen, Kenseth likely would be shocked to be in contention for the win toward the end. He's more into simply trying to survive.

For all his great accomplishments in NASCAR -- two-time winner of the Daytona 500, 2003 Cup champion -- Kenseth never has fared well on road courses. At Sonoma, the only other road course besides Watkins Glen, Kenseth has run 1,418 laps without leading a single one. He has only one top-10 there and an average finish of 20.8.

"We only go to two road courses, obviously. ... Everybody kind of groups road courses together, but that would be like grouping all the ovals together," said Kenseth, who remains second in the point standings despite his poor finishes the past two races. "I think this place reminds me a lot of Michigan or something like that. It's real wide. It's got a lot of room to work with where you can build a lot of momentum and some long, fast straightaways, so I think this road course is great for our cars. [Sonoma] is really small, tight, technical, slower."

With all of his 22 career Cup wins coming on ovals, Kenseth admitted it has been a bit of a mystery to him as to why he's struggled so much on road courses in his 13 full-time Cup seasons. Mostly, he thinks it has to do with communication -- or lack thereof -- between him and the respective crew chiefs he's worked with through the years.

It is something he said he continues to work on.

"I think this year at [Sonoma] we did a little bit better [starting ninth and finishing 13th]. I feel like that's one of my worst tracks on the circuit, and this place I feel like there have been times we've run pretty competitively," Kenseth said. "We've been OK, but it's just totally different than oval track racing. It's a totally different technique and approach.

"I think the hardest thing probably for me through the years is to give [crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig] and the guys working on the car the best feedback I can or help them get what we need in the car to go fast. That's probably been my biggest challenge -- to help those guys help me."