Disappointing end for Kenseth By Matthew Leach NASCAR Online
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 13, 1999) Matt Kenseth's 38th-place finish at Miami cost him a valuable spot in the final standings. Matt Kenseth's career as NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division regular ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. Well, with something of a bang, too. But not a good bang. Kenseth got caught in a melee on the first lap of the Hotwheels.com 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, hitting the Turn 4 wall while trying to avoid cars spinning in front of him. He lost 24 laps while his team made repairs, and finished the race 26 laps down in 38th place.
Combined with Jeff Green's fifth-place finish, the bum luck knocked Kenseth into third place in the final standings. It was not at all a fitting ending to a remarkable two seasons, during which the Wisconsin native has ascended from anonymity to stardom.
Kenseth has been compared to NASCAR Winston Cup Series superstar Mark Martin for his patience, skill and tenacity behind the wheel, but Saturday he showed another similarity to his mentor. Despite clearly evident frustration over his finish, Kenseth was cool and gracious -- as well as rather philosophical -- afterward.
"We still had a good year," Kenseth said. "We had four wins, a couple poles and led a bunch of laps. So I'm disappointed in the points outcome, but we still had a pretty good year. We just made a lot of mistakes as a team.
"Whenever you make mistakes, it costs you in the points standings. We'll just have to live with what we ended up with and look ahead to next year."
He's having a bit of a hard time looking ahead to next year just yet. He had to sit back and watch his friend and rival, Dale Earnhardt Jr., dominate most of the day and put up a great fight before finishing second. And worse yet, he had to watch Green's team right next to his hauler, jubilant at taking his spot in the points.
This time next year, though, he may be in the best position of any of them. Green will be back in the NASCAR Busch Series, where he will run for a championship. But Kenseth and Earnhardt will both move up to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, where they will battle for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. Kenseth may well be the favorite, despite finishing behind Earnhardt in points each of the last two years.
He will join Roush Racing, driving No. 17 Fords with continued sponsorship from DeWalt Tools. He'll have the expertise of Martin and Jeff Burton to call upon, Roush's near-unlimited resources at his fingertips and a lot less hype and pressure to deal with than "Little E."
His temperament should serve him well, too. Like Martin, he's a ferocious competitor who absolutely detests losing. But also like Martin, he rarely loses his cool on the track or with the media.
So while he's frustrated by his fall from the points lead earlier this season to third place at the end, he's not going to let it keep him from getting ready for 2000.
"They're already working on it," Kenseth said. "Moving into our new shop right now. Trying to get everything organized. We've got some people hired that are gonna start in a week or so, and start building cars for next year.