HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Oct. 18) -- Four events remain on the 1999 NASCAR Busch Series schedule, but Matt Kenseth is already looking ahead to the season finale, the Nov. 13 Miami 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kenseth was one of four drivers testing...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Oct. 18) -- Four events remain on the 1999 NASCAR Busch Series schedule, but Matt Kenseth is already looking ahead to the season finale, the Nov. 13 Miami 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kenseth was one of four drivers testing at Homestead on Monday in preparation for the race, which will share the billing with the inaugural Pennzoil 400 presented by Kmart NASCAR Winston Cup Series event on Nov. 14.
Joining Kenseth at the private test were Bobby Hamilton Jr., Jimmy Johnson and Phil Parsons.
"We’re just trying to work out our race setup and decide which car we want to run," said Kenseth, on hand with a pair of DeWalt-sponsored Chevrolets fielded by Reiser Enterprises. "We’re trying to get a baseline for when we come back. We’ve never run real great here, so we’re trying to feel a little better.
"I hope the championship comes down to right here," Kenseth continued. "We’ re a little behind right now (he trails defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 117 points), so we’d like to get caught up a little bit before we come back here."
Kenseth finished fourth in the 1998 Miami 300, trailing only the blanket finish put on by Jeff Burton, Jimmy Spencer and Mark Martin. While Earnhardt went out with a blown engine and finished 42nd, his point lead entering the race was enough to give him the title.
Unofficially, Kenseth, Hamilton and Johnson were about ten-tenths of a second off Casey Atwood’s track record of 36.422 (148.262 mph).
"I’m real happy with the way the testing went," said Hamilton, 22-year-old son of the Winston Cup regular. "This was my first time here in a Busch Series car, but I’ve found my Homestead experience driving in the NASCAR Slim Jim All-Pro Series has been real helpful driving the BGN car."
Speed was not the goal for Parsons, who will be completing his ninth season on the Busch tour driving his own car.
"We’re chasing stuff with the setup," Parsons explained. "We’re not touching anything with the motor. Homestead is challenging because the straightaways are so long and the corners are relatively flat for a high-speed racetrack. We were able to run decent laps on worn tires."
Johnson will be making his second start in Miami. He finished 33rd in last year’s Miami 300, struggling after being involved in an early incident.
"I like the track," said the 24-year-old native of El Cajon, Calif. "Last year we had a good car, and it was a good feeling making the show. The test is going very well. This track is like a bigger version of Milwaukee, and I’ ve had good races there."
Johnson finished seventh in this year’s race at Milwaukee. He plans on running the final four races of this season, setting the stage for an all-event run for the Busch Series rookie of the year in 2000. Johnson finished third in the ASA championship this year. He won two races, including the final race of the year at Orange Country, N.C. He also won five pole positions, driving for Pennzoil.
"My goal when we come back is to make the race, stay on the lead lap, and get experience. These cars are about 600 pounds heavier than what I’m used to in ASA. You’ve got to be real smooth and patient driving these cars. That ’s my main plan, to get experience for next year."
Testing continues Tuesday.
Tickets are still available for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Kmart and the Miami 300 by calling (305) 230-RACE.