Kenseth finds comfort zone
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media September 11, 2013 9:48PM
Federated Auto Parts 400
Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet
When: Friday through Sunday
Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223
9-10:30 a.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 (Truck Series) practice
11-11:50 a.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 final practice
Noon-1:30 p.m.: GEICO 400 (Sprint Cup Series) practice
1:40-2:55 p.m.: Dollar General 300 (Nationwide Series) practice
3:05 p.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 qualifying
4:10 p.m.: GEICO 400 qual.(ESPN2)
5:35-6:50 p.m.: Dollar General 300 final practice
7:30 p.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225(Fox Sports 1)
10-10:55 a.m.: GEICO 400 practice
11:05 p.m.: Dollar General 300 qualifying (Fox Sports 2)
1-1:50 p.m.: GEICO 400 final practice (Fox Sports 2)
2:30 p.m.: Dollar General 300 (ESPN2)
12:20 p.m.: GEICO 400 driver introductions
1 p.m.: GEICO 400 (ESPN, 95.9-FM, 98.3-FM)
Updated: September 11, 2013 10:26PM
Matt Kenseth is just one of NASCAR’s 12 Chase-eligible drivers who is going to have to get used to answering questions about the heavy penalties and fines levied against Michael Waltrip Racing this week.
NASCAR fined MWR $300,000 and docked its three drivers — Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers — 50 points each for manipulating the outcome of Saturday’s race at Richmond (Va.).
The point deduction for Truex knocked him out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup and put Ryan Newman into the final spot.
“The whole situation is so unique,” Kenseth said. “I heard that ESPN had a lot of in-car audio, and then I found out about [Brian Vickers] pitting [too slow], and I had a feeling that something would have to happen.
“I didn’t know anything about it at all until [after the race] in the media center, and we started hearing that Clint had spun out. We had our hands full with our car.”
Kenseth, the Sprint Cup points leader, is probably happy to get have someone else grab all the attention.
Kenseth was in Chicago Wednesday to promote Sunday’s GEICO 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, the first race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, has 2,015 points and a series-leading five wins.
“This is a good place for us to start,” Kenseth said. “When we got our fifth win a few weeks ago, we knew we were aiming for that spot. It took us all year to get here.”
Not only does Kenseth enjoy sitting atop the point standings heading into the Chase, he has found a comfort level with his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing. Early in the 2012 season, Kenseth announced he was leaving Roush-Fenway Racing. By the time the Chase came around, Kenseth had a deal with JGR.
Despite feeling like a rookie during the first few weeks, Kenseth said he has been able to settle in nicely with the Gibbs team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“This has been a really good fit for me and Jason is a good match,” Kenseth said. “It’s been a good mix personally and professionally. And it was different, because you don’t know who and where everything is. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first.”