Victories Not Enough For Kenseth
September 9, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
And Matt Kenseth would be in the thick of the NASCAR Winston Cup points race.
While it could be argued that being 248 points out of the lead with 10 races remaining isn’t out of the points race, being in eighth AND 248 points out makes it more difficult.
What can’t be argued is that Kenseth probably should be in the thick of the NASCAR Winston Cup points race. With his victory at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, Kenseth has more wins than any driver in Winston Cup.
Only two drivers have more Top 5s, and only six drivers have more Top 10s. And Kenseth has only one race in which he didn’t finish.
So what gives? How can he be that good and not be closer to points leader Sterling Marlin? And with the way Marlin has made the points lead available to anyone who wants it, a four-time winner like Kenseth would seem a prime candidate to take it.
Yet here he is, buried in eighth place.
“Sure you do think about it, but as competitive as Winston Cup is today, there’s nothing frustrating about having four wins with 10 races to go,” Kenseth said.
Winning is what’s it’s all about, Kenseth said. And for a guy who had only one victory – and that came in his rookie year of 2000 – winning four times in a single season is “awesome.”
“That’s hard to do anymore,” Kenseth said. “If you look over the last couple of years I think since Jeff used to win 10 races a year and when Mark was winning six or seven, since then, it’s been harder to have more multiple winners just because the competition is so great. So that does feel good.”
Still, even Kenseth admits he wonders “What if?”
“But, yeah, I look at it sometimes,” Kenseth said. “Like last week, I wrecked the car myself at Darlington. I look at that and think, ‘Besides missing the setup, I go wreck the car,’ and, yeah, that makes you feel bad and that frustrates you a little bit.
“But overall, it’s been a great year.”
And it’s been “up and down,” Kenseth said.
“But mostly up,” Kenseth said. “Our performance has been really awesome. Our whole DeWalt team has done a great job. We’ve been championship caliber as far as performance goes. We’ve been as good as anybody almost every single week, we’ve just been inconsistent.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, like last weekend and Watkins Glen and that cost us a lot of points. We’ve had some things break that has cost us points and have probably done some things wrong that has cost us points. I wish we were farther up in the points, but I would still trade all of that for having four wins.
“Our performance has been so great, and it feels so good to run that good, especially after the year I had last year.”
In 2001, Kenseth went without a victory as Roush Racing struggled to its performance of previous seasons. Kenseth, the Winston Cup rookie of the year, was supposed to keep on rolling and become of the elite drivers.
But although he finished higher in the points standings, he rarely threatened for victories.
This season, he been a threat more often than not. Besides victories at Rockingham, Texas, Michigan and Richmond, he came close at Charlotte, New Hampshire, Martinsville and Indianapolis.
He’ll get a second shot at New Hampshire this weekend in the New Hampshire 300. Kenseth had the dominant car there in July but lost the race when he had a flat tire in the closing laps.
“At New Hampshire we did everything right last time,” Kenseth said. “We’ll have the same car. We didn’t do anything but paint it, and we had a car almost as dominant as what we had (at Richmond), so I feel real good about going back to New Hampshire.”
And he’s looking forward to going to Dover International Speedway, the track after NHIS.
“Loudon and some of the short tracks used to be our weak point, and this year they’ve been our strong point with some of the new cars that we built,” Kenseth said. “I’m real confident going into Loudon next week. Dover has always been my favorite race track since I ran my first Winston Cup race there in ‘98 for Bill (Elliott). I just love going to that place, so we’ve got a lot of good tracks left.
“We’ve got ourselves a long ways out of the points, mostly because of mistakes I’ve made along the way and maybe some things we haven’t done right, and broken some parts and stuff like that, so I haven’t really been thinking about the points because we are back as far as we are. I’ve just been trying to think about running good and winning races.”