DEARBORN, Mich. -- Matt Kenseth may never lay claim to being ‘King of the Road’ when it comes to turning left and right in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but the 2003 series champion isn’t about give up trying as he prepares for Sunday’s annual Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen.
In 25 career road course starts, Kenseth is still looking for his first victory and first top-five finish. In the only other such event this season at Sonoma in June, the Wisconsin native finished 13th but this figures to be tougher for Kenseth, who has only three top-10 performances in 12 all-time appearances at famed Watkins Glen International.
“I can’t think of one that isn’t a challenge for me. I think it is all tough,” said Kenseth when asked about the most challenging section or turn at The Glen. “I think probably for me the most important part to your lap time is getting through the esses the fastest. The more throttle you can use going up the hill and through the esses, the less you have to lift. It seems like that really adds a lot or takes a lot away from your lap time because that back stretch is long. They are all important and unique at Watkins Glen.”
Besides trying to get his initial victory on a road course, Kenseth will also be looking to get the No. 17 EcoBoost Ford Fusion its first series triumph. This is the seventh time in 2012 that Kenseth will be carrying the EcoBoost brand, which is in the midst of a global motorsports marketing campaign to raise its visibility among fans.
Last weekend, Bob Tasca ran an EcoBoost livery on his Mustang Funny Car in Seattle at the National Hot Rod Association event while Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala did the same on their Ford Fiesta RC WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship event in Finland.
Kenseth has three top-10 finishes in six races with EcoBoost on board, but in order to improve those numbers he’ll have to snap a two-race streak of bad luck that has included accidents at Indianapolis and Pocono.
Last weekend at Pocono, with rain only minutes away and a restart to decide the outcome set to take place, Kenseth lined up on the outside of race leader Jimmie Johnson in row one. Kenseth stayed with the five-time series champion as the two went into turn one, but that’s when the rear of Johnson’s car wiggled and moved up into Kenseth. That sent the No. 17 Fusion into the outside wall and eventually back across the track where it was hit by Denny Hamlin.
“We knew it was going to rain and we were about the same speed,” said Kenseth of his encounter with Johnson. “They were really fast and he had the best car, but on that restart I thought I could race him through one and maybe get a run off turn one, then maybe I could hold him off. That was the plan, to dig as hard as I could through there and try to race him off that corner. Like I said, he just drove in incredibly far and spun out. Maybe he had a flat but I am not so sure about that.”
Kenseth ended up 17th, but remains second in the overall point standings, trailing leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by five points going into Sunday’s event.
The Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen will be 90 laps and is the 22nd race of the 2012 season. Kenseth is a virtual lock to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with only five races remaining in the regular season.
“When it comes to racing, I think the last turn is very important -- to get off that and into turn one so you don’t get passed there,” said Kenseth regarding the key to getting around The Glen this weekend. “The esses are always important leading up to the bus stop because that is another passing zone. The more cushion you can get through the esses and the top of the hill, the less likely you are to get passed.”
Source: Ford Racing