Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 1, 2012 in Dover, Delaware.
(May 31, 2012 – Source: John Harrelson/Getty Images North America)
(PhatzRadio / USA Today) — DOVER, Del. – Matt Kenseth is one of the quietest drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, but when it comes to racing at Dover International Speedway, he has been known to roar like a lion.
Kenseth made his first Cup Series start at Dover when he filled in for Bill Elliott on Sept. 20, 1998. The rookie drove his way to an eye-opening sixth-place finish.
Ever since that day, Kenseth has had an affinity for the Monster Mile. He has won two races here, including last spring’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
Jimmy Fennig, Kenseth’s crew chief, can sense a different vibe on their Roush Fenway Racing team when they load up the hauler and head off to Dover.
“Dover is Matt’s favorite track and that always gives us motivation heading into the weekend,” Fennig said. “Last year we had two great finishes at Dover with a win and a top five, so I’m looking for similar results this weekend.”
“I think we need to pick it up a little bit,” Kenseth said. “(Dover) has been a track I really enjoyed and we’ve had some success and some bad runs too, usually from accidents.
“I feel like in the past I have known what I wanted it to feel like and we have been able to achieve that more times than not.”
One of Kenseth’s more forgettable moments came several years ago when he crashed into a tire barrier at the entrance to pit road.
“There are certainly a lot of things you have to watch out for,” said Kenseth. “It is one of those tracks that is not only challenging to race other cars and figure out how to pass them, but it always challenges you every single lap, even when you are by yourself. It is one of those tracks you can’t let your guard down.”
Among the competition, Kenseth sees Jimmie Johnson as another Dover threat.
“I think he has been the strongest car here the last few years, even last spring when we got the win he really dominated the race and we got him on pit road getting two tires,” Kenseth said. “I think we have some work to do to make it better and be dominant, but we have been pretty respectable here.”
That, in the quiet world of Kenseth, is as about as boastful as it gets.