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Matt Kenseth Driver Bio

 

Birthdate: March 10, 1972
Hometown: Cambridge, Wis.
First Career Cup race: September 20, 1998 (Dover)
Career Cup Poles: 20
Career Cup Wins: 39
Best Cup Championship Finish: 1st – 2003

Matt Kenseth began racing at the age of 16. By the age of 19, he had moved up to the ultra-competitive Wisconsin Late Model ranks, taking on the likes of Dick Trickle, Ted Musgrave and Rich Bickle. He became the youngest winner in RE/MAX Challenge Series history when he captured an event in LaCrosse, Wis. Kenseth won a track championship at the Madison International Speedway (Wisconsin) in 1994 and won track championships at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna in 1994-1995, when he won four consecutive features.

Kenseth was driving in the American Speed Association’s ACDelco Challenge Series, when he got a call from Robbie Reiser to drive his Busch (now Xfinity) Series car. Kenseth accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kenseth exploded on the Winston Cup Series (now Monster Energy Cup Series)  scene in 2000, capturing the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. He won the Coca-Cola 600 and posted 11 top-10 finishes.

He struggled through a sophomore slump in 2001 – fourth-place finishes at Michigan, Talladega and Phoenix were his only top-five efforts.

Kenseth did finish 2001 13th in the points, an improvement over the previous year. The driver of the No. 17 Roush Racing Ford scored four top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

In 2002, Kenseth rebounded nicely, leading the series in victories with five, while spearheading a revival for Roush Racing. However, 11 finishes of 30th or worse relegated him to an eighth-place finish in the standings, 368 points behind champion, Tony Stewart.

In 2003, Kenseth became only the sixth different Ford driver to claim the Cup title and the first since Dale Jarrett in 1999. Kenseth finished his championship season with one win and 25 top-10 finishes. He was also the last Winston champion, as Nextel replaced R.J. Reynolds which had its Winston brand as the title sponsor of the sanctioning body’s premier series since the 1971 season.

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In 2007, Kenseth earned a fourth-place finish in the Cup Series. He earned two wins (California 2/25/07 and Homestead in the season finale on 11/18/07), 13 top-fives, and 22 top-10s. Kenseth also raced the No. 17 car for Jack Roush in 24 of the 35 Xfinity Series races, finishing 10th – his best season finish since the late 1990s.

Kenseth went through a rare dry spell in 2008 and missed visiting victory lane for the first time since the 2001 NASCAR Cup Series season. But the Roush Fenway Racing driver was close several times and after another season of consistent finishes made the Chase and finished ninth in the final point standings. He remained one of only two drivers to have qualified for every Chase to that point. Kenseth’s nine top-five and 20 top-10 finishes were another example of just how consistent the 2003 series champion was in 2008.

Kenseth came out strong in 2009, winning his first Daytona 500. He backed it up with a victory in the second race of the season at Auto Club Speedway. But, those were the only wins of the season for the veteran, who turned in seven top fives and 12 top 10s.

He finished inside the top 15 in 21 of the 36 races and ran inside the field’s top 20 in 26 of 36 events. The team ended the season 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings.

The season-ending Ford 400 was the final for DEWALT on the No. 17 Ford, after 10 years of serving as the primary sponsor on the car. Kenseth rode the wave of the Roush Fenway Racing/Ford resurgence in 2010 to finish fifth in the final NASCAR Cup Series point standings.

Although he wasn’t able to break the winless drought that plagued him since the second race of the 2009 campaign, Kenseth put together a typical consistent effort that was good enough for him to finish in the top five in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kenseth scored six top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in the season with a pair of runner-up finishes his best two efforts. The turn of Kenseth’s season coincided with the arrival of veteran Jimmy Fennig as crew chief, who came in to replace Todd Parrott.

In 2011, Kenseth snapped his 76-race winless streak with a victory in April at Texas Motor Speedway. He won twice more, at Dover and Charlotte, en route to earning the No. 4 seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kenseth had a solid post-season with five top-10 finishes in the 10-race series, including the victory in Charlotte. He finished fourth in points, 73 behind champion Tony Stewart.

Kenseth opened the 2012 season with a victory in the Daytona 500 and closed it with an 18th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his final year at Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth placed seventh in the Chase standings before moving on to Joe Gibbs Racing – where he replaced Joey Logano in the No. 20 Toyota.

Kenseth added victories at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway to his season-opening win in “The Great American Race,” ending the 2012 campaign with 19 top 10s in 36 starts and one pole – for the July race in Daytona.

Kenseth’s debut season at JGR was exceptional as he chased a second Sprint Cup Series championship before falling 19 points short at year’s end. After entering the post-season as the No. 1 seed and winning the first two races of the Chase, Kenseth yielded to Jimmie Johnson in the closing weeks as the Hendrick Motorsports driver won his sixth crown in eight years.

Kenseth won a series-best seven races, with five of the victories coming on mile-and-a-half ovals. He also won three poles to guarantee entry into the 2014 season-opening Sprint Unlimited special event at Daytona International Speedway.

Kenseth also drove in 16 Xfinity Series events for JGR and won twice – at Daytona in July and Kansas Speedway in October.

He went winless in 2014 but rebounded with five victories the following season, qualifying for the Chase and finishing 15th in the final standings. In 2016, Kenseth earned the No. 7 post-season seed but was eliminated from title contention in the semifinal round following a 21st-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. He totaled two race wins and also won a pole for the fall race at Kansas Speedway.

The 2017 season saw Kenseth end a 51-race winless streak at Phoenix Raceway in what turned out to be his second-to-last start in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. With Erik Jones moving to JGR to take over the driving duties in the No. 20 that left Kenseth without a ride for the start of the 2018 season.

On April 25, 2018, Kenseth announced he would return to Roush Fenway Racing and will split seat time with Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Ford.