* Indy Test Prepares Drivers for Next Month's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard * Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin welcome Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2006) -- It's been an eventful 24 hours for Matt Kenseth (No....
* Indy Test Prepares Drivers for Next Month's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
* Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin welcome Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2006) -- It's been an eventful 24 hours for Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Power Tools Ford), currently the second-place driver in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.
After a frustrating Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway -- Kenseth finished 22nd following two late incidents despite leading a race-high 112 laps -- the 2003 series champion experienced a typical commuter's headache Monday morning.
En route to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first of three days of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup testing, Kenseth felt something tag the rear of his rental car at a stoplight. He thought it was Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), who'd followed him from a local airport.
"He always runs into me, so I thought it was him joking," Kenseth said. "It wasn't. It was a student driver and instructor; just plain drove into the back of me. That was exciting."
Ever even-keeled, the Wisconsin native recited the story with a smile. It's a sign of his trademark unflappability, significant in the wake of a pair of closing laps spin outs Sunday at Chicagoland, that resulted in Kenseth falling from a probable top five finish to a 22nd place finish.
Kenseth says what's done is done and that this week's test session and next week's event at New Hampshire International Speedway are his focus.
"I'd rather just keep to myself and go and do my job and not have any of that," said Kenseth. "But if you're going to be competitive and you're going to try as hard as you can every week, try to run up front, do all that, it's pretty hard not to ever get in a conflict with anybody. It's just part of the business."
This week's business is preparation for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on Aug. 6. It's race No. 5 in the Race to the Chase -- the 10-event span that began with the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 1 and ends with the Sept. 9 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The Richmond event is race No. 26, the cutoff event that sets the field for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Following the season's first 26 events, the top-10 drivers and any within 400 points of the leader will battle for the series title over the final 10 races.
"I feel like it's very important to keep the momentum and keep running good," said Kenseth, one of three drivers who visited the IMS media center during Monday's lunch break. "I think you take your best stuff every week and you keep looking for new stuff; trying to make yourself better every week."
The Indianapolis test marks the fifth of six designated 2006 tests for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams. This year, NASCAR has scheduled those tests as a cost-containment measure at tracks that host series events, and those dates are the only test opportunities at those tracks.
Fifty-one drivers were scheduled to test at Indianapolis, beginning Monday and ending Wednesday. Teams may test on two of the three available days.
All sessions begin at 9 a.m., and end at 6 p.m. (EDT), weather permitting, with a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.
DRIVERS EAGER TO COMPETE WITH JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ... Sunday's announcement by Chip Ganassi Racing that Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya will succeed the departing Casey Mears in the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge in 2007, was welcomed by the three drivers who visited the Indianapolis media center during Monday's lunch break.
"Obviously, everybody knows who he is, how talented he is," Matt Kenseth said. "I think that will be really great for the sport. I mean, I've heard everybody's reaction that I talked to; they are really excited about it and think it's really cool. It was kind of a surprise to me, when I heard it."
Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) echoed Kenseth's sentiments about Montoya, a seven-time Formula 1 race winner and the 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion for Ganassi's open-wheel team.
"He's at the age that he can come and do this," said Martin, who will retire from fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition at the end of the 2006 season. "It's not getting late in his career, like some other open-wheel drivers that probably would like to make the switch now. It's good timing. I think I'm going to watch with great enthusiasm from the couch with a remote control."
"He's a winner in everything he's ever been in," Kahne said. "You know, racing with -- whether it's F1, IndyCars, IRL; he won the Indy 500 in only one attempt. It's pretty neat for NASCAR. It's neat to be able to race with him; someone I've always enjoyed watching and thought was one of the best race car drivers."