Unwelcome Matt

You'll forgive Matt Kenseth if he doesn't shed a tear after leaving Daytona. "The World Center of Racing" hasn't been kind to the 2003 NEXTEL Cup champion over the years and this year's edition of "Speedweeks" didn't end exactly the way Kenseth had hoped.

An early race engine malfunction sidelined the DeWalt Tools Ford after only a handful of laps and Kenseth was destined for a 42nd place finish.

"We broke something in the engine," was Kenseth's not very scientific explanation. "We broke a connecting rod or something like that. It’s kind of uncommon at a plate race. Unfortunately, it’s the second one we’ve lost this week, so I don’t know. Our motor program is awesome, but we just seem to have some bad luck right now."

That would be an understatement.

Kenseth made last year's inaugural "Chase for the Championship" but was never a factor in his bid to become a back-to-back series champion. After finishing second at New Hampshire to start the "Chase," he was never able to post a finish better than 14th, suffering a series of mechanical problems and just plain bad luck.

"We blew a couple at the end of last year and blew a couple to start off this season, so I’m definitely disappointed," Kenseth mused at Daytona. "It’s the best car I’ve ever had for the Daytona 500 and I really thought we could have been a contender. I’m kind of disappointed, but you realize that this type of thing can happen. We’ve had a lot of good times, too, but there are gonna be days when things go bad and this is just one of those days."

Unfortunately for Kenseth, the bad days have out numbered the good as of late.

After starting 2004 off on a solid note, winning the second and third races of the season at Rockingham and Las Vegas, Kenseth's performance leveled out quickly. He recorded a few Top 5's, won the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Charlotte and followed that with a third place run in the Coca-Cola 600. But after that, the 17 car's spot in the final standings tended to be closer to the bottom than the top.

Kenseth hoped to start 2005 on a positive note but the gremlins were still there. He failed to qualify for the season-opening Busch Series race after notching a Top 5 in the Hershey's Take 5 300 a year ago.

"Speedweeks" ended with his 42nd in the 500.

It's certainly not time to completely write off Kenseth, but even the likeable Wisconsin native has to be wondering what's going on. As teammate and defending champion Kurt Busch as well as the retiring Mark Martin receive most of the early season attention, Kenseth's woes have flown under the radar.

But in the constantly increasing pressure packed world of NASCAR, that won't go on for long.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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