It hasn’t been a great start of the 2016 season for Matt Kenseth.
Through six races this season, he only has one top-10 finish. It seemed like the second one would come last week at Martinsville, when Kenseth restarted second with 11 laps to go. But he got stuck on the outside of the track and finished 15th.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who restarted first, went on to win his first race of the season.
“I thought when eight cars stayed out, the way my car handled and the way it would restart ... and being on warm tires and all (that) stuff, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to be good,” Kenseth said Tuesday during an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, according to NASCAR.com. “But I didn’t think it would be that bad.”
Will his luck turn around Saturday night during the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway?
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion has won twice here, is tied for the track record for most top fives (13) and has 17 top 10 finishes.
So is he excited to return to the Lone Star State?
“We haven’t done too well here in recent history, but before that it’s always been a good track for us,” he said. “I like the challenges of the different ends of the race track ... and the wore out pavement. I think the aero package is going to be a lot different here. I’ve always enjoyed the track.”
He qualified ninth for Saturday night’s race with a lap of 28.072 seconds (192.362 mph). Carl Edwards won the poll with a lap of 27.748 seconds (194.609 mph).
Kenseth hasn’t won at the track since 2011. He finished 23rd in Texas last year and 25th in 2014. In the eight appearances before that, he only finished outside of the top 10 once.
Saturday night, expect cars to be slipping around all race with the new aero package. Joey Logano, who qualified second, said after 10-15 laps it was “like ice skating with dull blades. You’re slipping and sliding everywhere out there.”
Said Kenseth, “I think typically this has been a good race track, it’s got a lot of character, it’s got a lot of bumps. The track’s real abrasive and the surface is kind of wore out, so I think the track’s always been good for passing. And you always hope that that continues to get better with the rules changes.”
Kenseth has led a lap in all but one race this year, including 45 at Martinsville, 47 at Atlanta (finished 19th) and 40 in the Daytona 500 (finished 14th). At Phoenix, his lone top-10 finish, he didn’t lead a single lap.
“I think they’ve just had a tough go at it this year,” Busch said. “I’ve been in that position before. I think it was 2012 maybe – that season that I had it just seemed like nothing was going right and it has all turned around and gotten better since, so it’s just a down spot. You’ve got to fight through it.”
Kenseth brushed off any comments about this being a good stretch of races for him, with Texas this week and tracks like Bristol and Charlotte coming up in the next few weeks.
“It’s really a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter if we won here four or five years ago or whatever it was. ... If you’re going to be a contender for the championship you’ve got to run good everywhere. ...
“I think when we’ve been at our best we’ve been pretty well-rounded. We’ve been able to win short-track races and intermediate races as well,” he continued. “I don’t look at this part of the schedule as any better or wose than I looked at the last four weeks. Those have always been good tracks for us in the past, too.”