Kansas City: Event preview

Kenseth in' hog heaven' as he enjoys a career-best season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2002) - Roush Racing driver Matt Kenseth made a promise to himself during last season that he would splurge for ...

Kenseth in' hog heaven' as he enjoys a career-best season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2002) - Roush Racing driver Matt Kenseth made a promise to himself during last season that he would splurge for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle if he won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race.

Unfortunately for Kenseth, his garage remained void of a motorcycle last year but that is no longer the case. He now proudly owns two Harleys and if he held his promise to the fullest he actually could have an impressive stable of four, thanks to his success this season.

"I decided that I would buy a Harley if I won a race and we ran so horrible last year that at that rate I thought I would never have one," Kenseth said."I bought one (this season) after Rockingham and Texas, and that is enough for me. It is hard enough just to try and ride two. The garage is full."

And so is the promise of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year.

Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford) has a series-leading four wins and sits eighth in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship with eight races remaining as he heads to Kansas Speedway for Sunday's Protection One 400.

Kenseth, a career-best 13th in the championship last season, trails points leader Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) by 235 points and fifth-place Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) by just 45.

"We haven't given up on the championship," said Kenseth, who has 15 top-10 finishes, including 10 among the top five, this season."It's not quite as realistic as being third in the points - we're 235 out - and it's tough for all seven ahead of us to have a bad day and beat them all, but we're still in it. Realistically, the way things are going we should get fifth, but I think we still have an outside shot (at the championship) and we're going to challenge for the whole thing.... It's been a weird year. Often the leader has finished 16th or 17th and if you can finish first, second or third, you are able to pick up a whole bunch of points in a hurry."

Kenseth has been in the midst of the championship battle nearly the entire season, having been perched among the top 10 since winning the second race of the season (Rockingham).

He added wins at Texas in April, Michigan in June and Richmond in September, but a bad stretch around the Michigan victory may prove costly in the title chase. In that seven-race span - from Dover in June to New Hampshire in July - he endured five finishes of 30th or worse that dropped him from second (87 behind) to ninth (311 back) in the championship.

"We've had cars to challenge with most weeks, but I've made some mistakes and we've had some stupid stuff cost us some points. The only place we have not run well is the restrictor-plate races," Kenseth said."We had some problems for sure (during that stretch). We had a good car at Sears Point, but had a gear problem (finishing 39th); at Pocono, we were running second and broke a transmission (finishing 35th). Those were sure top fives. I also made mistakes that cost us a lot of points by trying too hard and trying to get more than we were capable of instead of taking what we could get."

Kenseth, a 30-year-old Wisconsin native, has rebounded strongly in the nine races since, having earned six top-10 finishes, including the win at Richmond, to move back into a more prominent contending role.

"It's been a great year, and to win four races is pretty amazing," said Kenseth, who also recorded his first career pole earlier this season at Dover."When you're running good, you always tend to look back and wish you should have finished farther up in the points in some of the races and think maybe you could have done something different, but we couldn't ask for anything more. It may not have been a perfect year for us to win the championship, but we still have a shot at it."

NEWS OF NOTE

Eight to go... Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford), who finished second at Dover, maintained the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points lead for the second consecutive week, but rookie Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) closed to 30 points with his win at Dover. The last time Martin led the championship for two consecutive races was late in the 1990 season, when he finished runner-up."This business has dealt me some very cruel and heartbreaking blows and it's not going to this year, because it just won't," said Martin, a three-time series runner-up."I'm prepared for whatever happens. I'm so proud of this team and we're going to bust our butt to win this championship...." The top four are separated by just 81 points. Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) moved to third, 74 back, while Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) dropped to fourth, 81 back. Defending series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is fifth, 190 behind. The 190-point spread between the top five is the closest in NASCAR history under the current points system, which was established in 1975.

TV timeout... In the overnight ratings from Nielsen Media Research for the weekend of Sept. 21-22, the MBNA All-American Heroes 400 at Dover attracted 3,497,000 households on TNT. ... In the final ratings from Nielsen Media Research for the weekend of Sept. 14-15, the New Hampshire 300 on NBC drew 3,965,000 households, an increase of 17% over last year's event. The race attracted 5,762,000 viewers, more than double the combined viewership of the IRL season finale (ABC), Formula One (ABC) and CART (SPEED) events that weekend (2,671,000). NBC's pre-race show also attracted more viewers (3,184,000) than the combined motorsports trio's races.

Double your pleasure... Jack Roush is looking to become the first NASCAR owner to capture the NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Busch Series championships in the same season. Roush finds himself in an enviable position with Martin leading the NASCAR Winston Cup race with eight races to go and Greg Biffle (No. 60 Grainger Ford) leading the NASCAR Busch Series title race by 35 with seven races remaining. Should Roush accomplish the feat, he also would become just the second owner to win a title in each of NASCAR'S national series. Richard Childress is the only owner to earn the triple, having won titles in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1986-87,' 90-91,' 93-94; the NASCAR Busch Series last season and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the inaugural 1995 season.

Jackin' it up... Jack Sprague (No. 60 Haas Automation Chevrolet), a current NASCAR Busch Series title contender and former three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, will attempt to make his NASCAR Winston Cup season debut this weekend with the Haas CNC team he will drive for on that level next season. Sprague was initially scheduled to make his debut with the team earlier this season, but the car was not ready. "We've been looking forward to our first race for awhile now,"said Sprague, who also will compete in the NASCAR Busch Series event this weekend."Charlotte was supposed to be our first race, but we were having such a good run in the Busch car nobody, not Rick (Hendrick, whose organization is mentoring this program), (owner) Gene (Haas), (crew chief) Dennis (Connor) or myself wanted to take any focus off the Busch car at that point. We just wanted to make sure everyone was ready and I think we are. We've been able to get some good test sessions in and get comfortable with the car. The test we had here a few weeks ago was just awesome." Should Sprague qualify, it would be his fourth career NASCAR Winston Cup start.

Walk this way... The "On Track For Charity" Presented by VISA fundraiser will be held Friday, Oct. 11 at Lowe's Motor Speedway to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp and Speedway Children's Charities. Following the final NASCAR Busch Series practice that day (approximately 4:45 p.m.), registered participants will get the opportunity to walk the track with various drivers including Kyle Petty, John Andretti and Jerry Nadeau. The pre-registration fee through Oct. 1 is $15, and includes an event T-shirt and a goody bag with products from NASCAR sponsors and licensees. Children under 16, accompanied by a registered adult, can participate for free. For more information or to register, go to speedwaycharities.org or call (704) 455-4396.

Bigger and better... The Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum and National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame at Darlington Raceway is preparing for major renovation and expansion. The project tentatively is scheduled for completion by the spring of next year."Being the home of the Weatherly Museum and the NMPA Hall of Fame is a real point of pride for Darlington Raceway," track president Andrew Gurtis said."We are very excited about the opportunity to expand and upgrade these facilities and provide a better showcase for the history of our sport."

Etc.... There have been 16 different race winners and 14 different Bud Pole winners through 28 NASCAR Winston Cup races. ... The NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus will be worth a record $240,000 to the driver who wins Sunday's Protection One 400 and emerges as the series points leader following the race. The bonus, which rolls over in $10,000 increments, has been won twice this season, both by Marlin. He won $30,000 at Las Vegas and $20,000 at the first Darlington race.... The No. 41 Dodge of Jimmy Spencer will feature a special one-race paint scheme at Kansas Speedway. Spencer, sponsored by Target, will have a black-and-silver paint scheme that will feature the Energizer Bunny on the hood.... Stuart Kirby will be driving the No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge this weekend.... Hideo Fukuyama (No. 66 Haas-Carter/World Berries Ford), of Owase, Japan, became the first Asian driver to compete in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race when he finished 39th in last week's MBNA All-American Heroes 400 at Dover. He earned the 43rd starting position on a provisional with Haas-Carter Motorsports. Fukuyama is the second Asian driver to compete in a NASCAR national series event. Fellow Japanese driver Kenji Mamota competed in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Phoenix in 1995, finishing 37th. Fukuyama is considering competing at Martinsville (Oct. 20) and Rockingham (Nov. 3).

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) won the inaugural Protection One 400 last season and will be looking to become the third driver since 1988 to win the first two races at a new track. Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) accomplished the feat at Homestead (1999, 2000) and Kevin Harvick No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet) matched it at Chicagoland (2001-02).

Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) led a race-high 117 laps en route to a fourth-place finish in last season's Protection One 400.

In one of his seven starts during a limited 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule, Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Ford) finished a season-best second in the Protection One 400.

WHAT'S THE WORD?

"This car has done me no wrong. I'm confident in everything I drive at RCR, but when you're in a car that has the history that Old Faithful does, it brings it to a whole new level. It's like the car doesn't know anything that's not a top-10." - Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet), who will use a car this weekend known as"Old Faithful," which has posted four top-six finishes this season, including a win at Chicagoland.

"This place is like a fine wine, it's only going to get better with age." - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet on Kansas Speedway.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In the inaugural Protection One 400 last season, Jason Leffler earned his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series pole in the No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge with a lap of 176.499 mph (30.595 seconds).

-nascar-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jason Leffler , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Jerry Nadeau , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jack Sprague , Stuart Kirby , Hideo Fukuyama , Jack Roush , Mark Martin