From Controversy To Victory

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CONCORD, N.C. - Matt Kenseth arrived refreshed at the California Speedway last Friday, after spending several days riding snowmobiles in a secluded area in his home state of Wisconsin. He also arrived knowing full well what was in store for him once he reached the racetrack.

"I knew Daytona was going to be brought up," said Kenseth reflecting on the mood of that day. "To be honest, when I arrived at Fontana last Friday, I was still ticked off about what happened at Daytona. I didn't really want to talk about it, but I also knew that's what everyone would want to ask me. Any doubts that I might have had about that we're put to rest on Thursday night when we had an autograph session, and I'd bet almost every body that came had something to say about it."

After leading 28 laps early and often in the Daytona 500, it appeared as if Kenseth's No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion was the car to beat. That, however, came to an abrupt end on lap 107 when Tony Stewart made a hard left, forcing Kenseth into the grass along the super-stretch and the resulting spin ultimately ended Kenseth's chances at a win.

"I was still disappointed with Daytona," Kenseth explained. "I usually go away from the plate stuff because I don't feel like I'm very good at it and usually we aren't in position to win. But, we had a real fast car, I felt like we did all the right things last week (Daytona) and I thought we were going to be in position to win."

A week later, at California Speedway, Kenseth started deep in the field (31st), but with a fast racecar and perhaps a faster pit crew, worked his way to the front. Still, it appeared as if the No. 17 car, at best, was second or third fastest. Greg Biffle had the field covered for much of the day with Stewart not far behind. But, with just under 40 laps remaining, good fortune shined upon the 17 team. Both Stewart and Biffle had engine troubles within the next 10 laps leaving Kenseth out front with suddenly the fastest car in the field and on his way to his first NEXTEL Cup win of 2006.

"Sometimes it feels like there is justice in the world," Kenseth said. "It feels good because I felt last week we had a car that could have won. We've had those days, where we were the dominant car but it didn't work out, so it feels good to pop out and win this one when we maybe didn't have the most dominant car. You'll have more days where you don't have the outcome that you want than you do the ones that pop up and surprise you and you have it. So when you have a chance to win at the end it definitely feels good no matter how it comes."

So how does the 2003 Cup Champion recharge on his off week? "I've really been pretty serious about flying lately," smiled NEXTEL Cup's most recent winner. "Tuesday through Thursday I'll be working on getting my multiengine rating, which is the next step for me. I got my pilot's license last year and my instrument rating in January. I've had this on the schedule for awhile so I've been looking forward to it. So far, it's been going pretty good."

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