Michigan: Matt Kenseth preview

WHERE THE '05 TURNAROUND BEGAN Matt Kenseth reflects on last year's dreadful start and remarkable comeback CONCORD, N.C. - Matt Kenseth arrived at Michigan International Speedway last June with a daunting task ahead of him and his No. 17 ...

WHERE THE '05 TURNAROUND BEGAN

Matt Kenseth reflects on last year's dreadful start and remarkable comeback

CONCORD, N.C. - Matt Kenseth arrived at Michigan International Speedway last June with a daunting task ahead of him and his No. 17 DEWALT team. With only 12 races remaining before the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup officially began, Kenseth sat 24th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings, 700 points behind the leader and 320 points behind the 10th-place cutoff. Little light remained at the end of the tunnel as Kenseth, the 2003 NEXTEL Cup champ, had recorded only two top-10 finishes and three DNFs in the series' first 14 races.

"At the start of the 2005 season, we were trying some different things with the car to try to pick up some speed here and there," Kenseth explained. "Obviously, it wasn't working. After Darlington we went back and looked at what we were doing whenever we ran good the previous years and then compared that to what we were doing at the moment, and it wasn't close. So we scrapped the new stuff and went back to a lot of what we knew worked and everything seemed to fall in place. Plus, we started to have some things go our way on the track as well."

Kenseth's comeback was nothing short of amazing. In the 12 races that followed, beginning at Michigan, Kenseth scored one win, six top fives, nine top 10s, and closed the gap on the leader to 602 points. More importantly, Kenseth secured a spot in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup by being ranked ninth in the standings, 59 points clear of 10th place.

"Looking back on it, I can say I'm definitely glad we've started 2006 the way we have," smiled Kenseth. "The first 14 or so races of 2005 were not a lot of fun. I wasn't sure we could make the Chase, but we all knew what it would take. The problem was up until that point we really hadn't been competitive all year, with the exception of a couple of races. We couldn't afford any more mistakes, and luckily, we didn't make too many more before the Chase and that's what it took."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth