Kenseth Leads Ford Charge

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Don’t tell Matt Kenseth that 2007 is the year of Chevrolet.

Although the bowtie brigade has captured victories in seven of eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races so far this season, Kenseth and his DeWalt team have kept pace as the series pays its first visit to Talladega Superspeedway. Case in point, the outfit from the Roush Fenway Racing stable comes into this weekend’s Aaron’s 499 third in the championship standings, 160 points adrift of leader Jeff Gordon.

The Wisconsin native has one race victory to his credit at California Speedway and an almost victory at Texas Motor Speedway, where the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion was passed by Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Cingular Chevrolet in the final lap of the event.

"I don’t think we really have a secret," said Kenseth. "It’s pretty much the same group we’ve had together for a long time and keeping those guys together is a real important thing. We’ve done great on pit road and the cars get prepared well, so we’ve been able to finish better than we ran this year, too, which has been big plus. There have been races where we’ve run well, but there’s also been races where haven’t run that good and still pulled out a decent finish.

"We realize we still have some work to do. I think we’re behind some of the teams. We not way off, but we’re off enough where we’ve got to get it better if we’re going to be a contender down the stretch."

This weekend, however, he faces perhaps his biggest challenge of the year.

In 14 career starts at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, Kenseth has zero victories, a mere three top-fives and six top-10s for an average finish of 15.5. Combine his 15 starts at Daytona International Speedway, the other restrictor plate track on the NEXTEL Cup Series schedule, and Kenseth can add only one additional top five finish and three top-10s.

"The past few times at Talladega, we’ve been in position to win in last 10 laps or so, but I just haven’t had much luck when it comes to picking partners at the end of the race," said Kenseth, who finished sixth in this event in 2006. "Last fall, everyone stayed tucked in line too long and we were too far back to make a move; in the spring I jumped out of line but had trouble getting help, and in the fall of 2005 I was leading at the white flag and got teamed up on the last lap. So go figure."

That said, with three consecutive top 10s at Talladega and his season-long strong performances, look for great things from Kenseth this weekend.

"Our car has been as good as anyone for the most part over the past four races there and I think we’ll be as competitive this weekend. I can’t say enough about how good this team has performed this year. We might be a little off when it comes to the setup, especially with the Car of Tomorrow, but I find it hard to believe anyone’s been better on pit road this year than our guys."

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