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Matt Kenseth doesn’t dwell on the danger in NASCAR

Matt Kenseth  looks during qualifying for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series  Pure Michigan 400 Michigan International Speedway last month.

Matt Kenseth looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway last month. | Getty Images

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NASCAR Contenders Live

Friday, Sept. 12, Navy Pier Grand Ballroom, 600 E. Grand

1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Tickets $10-$20

(Event also broadcast live on starting at 1:30 p.m.)

Geico 400 (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)

Sunday, Sept. 15, Chicagoland Speedway, 500 Speedway Blvd., Joliet

Tickets $30-$180

(888) 629-7223,

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Updated: September 12, 2013 3:20PM

In advance of his Sunday, Sept. 15 appearance at the Chicagoland Speedway for the Geico 400, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth (who also will participate in NASCAR Contenders Live at Navy Pier Sept. 12) told us what he knows about cars, tracks and danger.

At Chicagoland, I think we’re upwards of 190 miles an hour for top speed, and I’d guess our average would be somewhere around 180.

It’s the track that’s located closest to where I grew up. I’m from Wisconsin and it always, in a way, feels like a home track race for me.

My goal there is the same as everywhere: to win.

It’s different than any other sport. It’s not just a group of guys and their uniforms and their tennis shoes. You’ve got to have a car that’s fast and you’ve got to have a pit crew that comes over the wall that’s really fast and gets you in position. You’ve got to have somebody calling strategy. There’s a lot that goes into making this happen.

Every week there’s a different set of challenges. Certainly the weather plays a lot into those challenges. The hotter it is during the day, the more extreme our environment.

Chicago has been there for about 12 years and the track has really aged. It’s really losing a lot of grip, really slick, a lot of different grooves. So it’s a lot of fun to race on and puts on a really competitive race. It’s a place I think we all look forward to.

My son [20-year-old] Ross has been racing, and I have two little girls at home. I’m hoping they don’t become interested in racing.

I have a lot of reasons for that, but mainly by the time they would be ready to get into it, I’ll probably be ready to exit the sport. There’s a lot of other things I’d rather do with my little girls than have them get into racing or go to the racetrack.

There’s a certain amount of risk you take in everything you do in life, and I think you have to manage that risk. But that’s not something I really think about a lot. They’ve done a lot with racetracks and cars to make them safer.

I like cars. I like motorcycles. I like hotrods. But I’m not a big hot-rodder on the street. Honestly, the street can be a lot more dangerous than the racetrack at times, because you don’t know who you’re out there meeting head-on on the highway or on a two-lane road. So I’m probably way more careful on the street than I ever would be on the racetrack.

Everybody has a different personality, a different way of looking at things, attacking things. And that’s part of what makes the sport interesting.

I’ve never taken for granted being here, and you realize you’re only as good as your last race. It’s a performance business. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you did. Well, sometimes it matters how bad you did, but you’ve got to continue to perform or you won’t be here long.

The day you spend much time dwelling on the danger or thinking about it or having it on your mind when you’re trying to figure out how to make your car as fast as you can or execute a plan on a track, you’re certainly not at the top of your game and you should probably think about doing something else.


Twitter: @MikeTScribe

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