MATT KENSETH JOINS DETROIT LIONS FOR TRAINING CAMP VISIT BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 17, 2006) -- Matt Kenseth grew up just three hours from the home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and once traded helmets with legendary Packer quarterback Brett...
MATT KENSETH JOINS DETROIT LIONS FOR TRAINING CAMP VISIT
BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 17, 2006) -- Matt Kenseth grew up just three hours from the home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and once traded helmets with legendary Packer quarterback Brett Favre before a Monday Night Football audience, but on August 17, Kenseth spent his day with a rivaling NFC North squad.
Before coming to Michigan International Speedway to prepare for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250 and Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series GFS Marketplace 400, Kenseth was in nearby Allen Park to visit the training camp of the Detroit Lions as they did some preparation of their own for the 2006 NFL regular season. While Kenseth will have just completed his final race before the start of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, the Lions will host the Seattle Seahawks on September 10 to open their 2006 campaign.
Though a lifelong bearer and supporter of the Green Bay green and gold, the driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford had no problem blending in with the rivaling Lions and enjoying the sights as the squad ran through drills just hours before boarding a bus to Ohio for a preseason contest against the Cleveland Browns.
"I'm just a big football fan so it's cool to come out and see the Lions," said Kenseth over the roar of artificial crowd noise used for game simulation. "Obviously, I'm a big Packer fan but it's cool to watch them work. I've seen the Lions play quite a few times both in the playoffs and since they're also in the NFC North."
"It was cool to meet the guys and to talk with (Lions president and CEO) Matt Millen. When you get to find out more about a team it definitely makes you more of a fan and it makes you pay attention to them."
A 34-year-old native of Cambridge, Wisconsin, Kenseth was quick to point out the similarities and differences between the NFL and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
"One of their games is like us running at Martinsville and Bristol every weekend. It is definitely a lot more physical sport than what ours is though, so that's why it's fun to watch how they prepare," he said.
This weekend, Kenseth will take a double dip on the MIS oval, entering cars in both the Busch Series and the NEXTEL Cup Series, where he currently sits second in points behind Jimmie Johnson. Though he ultimately qualified for the Chase in 2005 after being in 17th place with just six races remaining before the start of the playoff, Kenseth would seemingly feel more comfortable entering the end of 2006 given his high position. However, that is not necessarily the case.
"It's not a whole lot different. Last year, actually, when we got back in it I felt really good about it because we were running really good and we got into the Chase on a strong note even though we only entered eighth in points," said Kenseth. "It's important to make it and after this weekend we'll have a better idea of whether we're in or not yet."
"You don't want to be like we were in 2004 when we were solidly in it the whole time but saw our performance steadily decline so that when we went into the Chase we were nowhere near ready to win a championship," he added. "It's more important for me to perform at a level where we can win the Chase once we get in."
Though normally humble and quiet, Kenseth brimmed with confidence when discussing his approach to the Chase.
"We're in a pretty good spot so we won't make many changes. We maybe want to gain a little (on Johnson) but we're going to approach this one race at a time. It's one thing to make the Chase but we need to have a little momentum and hit the Chase on a high note."
As the Lions retreated to the showers at the conclusion of practice and Kenseth's No. 17 showcar was rolled out onto the practice turf, members of the squad roared with approval. Former University of Wisconsin Badger and current third-year linebacker Alex Lewis asked for a picture with Kenseth. Fourth-year tight end and NASCAR fan Casey FitzSimmons examined the inside of the car, perhaps a little disappointed that he would have a difficult time fitting his six foot, four inch, 258-pound frame into the tight confines of the stock car.
"Last year I went out to MIS and I got to see the cars. I actually got to sit in the pits on a pit stop so it was pretty cool to see these guys go," said FitzSimmons. "I'm going to run down there Sunday and check out a few laps."
FitzSimmons wasn't the only Lion impressed by the No. 17 machine.
"You think they'll let me take a lap?" questioned third-year linebacker Teddy Lehman as he lifted weights.
"Look at this thing. It ain't got no brake lights! I guess you don't stop," offered starting wide receiver Roy Williams.
Offensive line coach Larry Beightol had fun of his own. Driving his own golf cart replete with a pink paint job and black racing stripes around the facility, he pulled his chariot next to Kenseth's Ford and offered a challenge. Coach "Beck" then traded helmets with Kenseth and joined first-year head coach Rod Marinelli in thanking the driver for visiting practice.
"From one good guy from Wisconsin to another, we wish you the best," said Beightol, a former Packer assistant.
Though Kenseth's NFL loyalties may now be mixed after his visit to the Lions' camp, one sure thing is that each of the Lions will be pulling for one man during Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400: Matt Kenseth.
Tickets to all remaining events during the 2006 MIS season delivered by Domino's Pizza, including the ARCA RE/MAX Series Hantz Group 200 on August 18, the NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250 on August 19, and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series GFS Marketplace 400 on August 20, are currently on sale at MIS's official website, www.MISpeedway.com, or by calling the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010.