It's tough for 31-year-old NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth to be in the limelight. Kenseth, the Cambridge, Wisconsin native, much prefers existing in the low-lights rather than having the glare of attention strewn on him. But, this week, it's all about Kenseth.
He's trying to adjust.
"I'm not more private than the next guy," said Kenseth. "There are a couple of guys in the sport that look for the camera, and that's not me. But, I am not hiding."
Good thing he's not trying to hide, because he'd be unsuccessful at it. With a week full of festivities celebrating his championship, he's the man in the demand. His week kicked off with a visits to "The Today Show", "Live with Regis and Kelly", and stops at the 17th precincts of the NYPD and FDNY. But the commitments didn't end there.
Tuesday, Kenseth and nine of the other top ten drivers, jetted down to Washington D.C. to meet President Bush and tour the White House. Also in attendance from the No. 17 Ford team were crew chief Robbie Reiser and car owner Jack Roush.
"I was overwhelmed," said Kenseth of his visit to the White House. "I was nervous meeting the President and being in the White House. It's something I think that Jack, Robbie and I are going to look back on and remember for a long time."
Kenseth, who reigned the Winston Cup top-ten for 33-weeks, still has a lot of obligations to fulfill for NASCAR and the media before his ultimate crowning at the NASCAR Banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria Friday night.
On Wednesday, Kenseth, Reiser and Roush lunched with members of the media at New York's famed 21 Restaurant. On his plate for the remainder of the week are numerous other dinners, appearances, photo ops, and a Times Square proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
All these activities could be daunting to anyone; it's the kind of whirlwind schedule even rock stars scream at their publicists for planning. But, for Kenseth it's the opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment a lifetime in the making.
"It's hard to put it in perspective," said Kenseth of the championship. "It's beyond anything I ever expected. Before coming to NASCAR, I was at a point in my career that racing in Busch or Cup seemed like that time had passed. I was 26. I was surprised when I got the call.
"This passes any goal I had set for myself."
Perhaps, the most endearing quality Kenseth brings with him as the last Winston Cup champion is a sense of reverence. He seems genuinely awed that he managed to win the title, respectful for those who came before him, and in grasp of the history of the sport that ends in some ways with the exit of RJR as title sponsor next season.
"I am just so thankful," said Kenseth. "There are a thousand drivers out there, I am thankful that I have had a chance to drive these cars. Not that many people get the chance."
For Kenseth, this week isn't just another day at the racetrack.