Kenseth Soaks Up HOF Election, Excited For SRX

The Superstar Racing Experience will have a new face adorning an orange, white and black firefighter suit this weekend at Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway.

Matt Kenseth, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January, will race the final three races of the SRX calendar aboard the #5 Camping World machine.

Kenseth, who is best known in the NASCAR Cup Series for driving the No. 17 Dewalt Ford or the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, agreed the number might need some tweaking.

Kenseth sported No. 17 for 13 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series. (Photo by Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR)

“I don’t think I’ve driven a number five before, so this will be a first for me,” Kenseth said.

While this weekend’s race in Nashville takes place at a track where Kenseth has done plenty of laps in the latest models, the final two SRX events will take place on dirt at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in the Missouri and Sharon Speedway in Ohio.

“I have never run on land. The only dirty thing I ever did was the Dream Prelude that Tony (Stewart) used to do in Eldora,” Kenseth said. “So I did it several times. We definitely tried running, but obviously it’s probably more of an exhibition than running.

As for the all-star nature of SRX competition, Kenseth was a frequent competitor in the International Race of Champions, which ceased operations in 2006.

Although he is excited to race against former NASCAR Cup Series competitors, the 2004 IROC champion is eager to compete against drivers from other motorsport disciplines.

“I mean, obviously there’s a lot of similarities to the old IROC series, which I always really enjoyed racing in, because you could race against a lot of guys that you weren’t on the track with.” , said Kenseth. “It’s fun to go back and race with Greg (Biffle), Ryan (Newman) and Tony (Stewart) and the guys you know. But it’s also great fun to race against people you don’t know. pas, who have had great success in different forms of motorsport, so that’s the part that’s always the most interesting thing for me.

“I remember I thought that was the coolest thing I ever got to race with Steve Kinser when he came back and raced in the IROC series. Watching him win all these sprint car races, and how famous he was and how good he was at all that stuff. It’s fun to race against all of them, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely more intriguing, I think, to race against some people you’ve never shared a racetrack with.

Kenseth enters the home stretch of summer competition in SRX with a lot of unknowns. Most notably, the unknown of what the Ray Evernham-designed race car looks like on the track.

Greg Biffle (left) and Matt Kenseth were teammates at Roush Fenway Racing. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Despite conversations with other drivers about the series itself, the handling of the race car will be new to Kenseth when he takes to the track for the first time on Friday.

“I’ve spoken with some drivers about their experiences, things like that, but we haven’t really gone into the specifics of driving the cars,” Kenseth said. “I spoke to Greg (Biffle) for quite a while before Slinger (Speedway) last year, and a bit after. But I didn’t really go into the details about it.

As he irons out the details through practice and the weekend’s two qualifying races, Kenseth will be looking to strike a good balance heading into the main event.

Since being elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 4, Kenseth has had quite a bit of time to process the feat.

However, the 39-time Cup Series winner still doesn’t know if he’s really down.

“I don’t know, they announced it in May or whatever, it was definitely very good and a great honor,” Kenseth said. “Especially when I look at the list of all the people who have been nominated. There are, in my opinion, people on this list who are probably more deserving than me. It’s a great honor to be here. I mean, obviously, if the sport you’re involved in has a Hall of Fame, that’s where you want to end up one day. It’s great, I’m looking forward to all the festivities in January, and being part of this nice elite group is great.

As Kenseth went through his most treasured racing memories, he couldn’t help but think back to some of the most heartbreaking moments.

One such moment came in 2016 when Kenseth led 40 laps in the Daytona 500, including the white flag, before he was in shambles.

“Unfortunately some of the most painful things are the things that stick with you the most, so I still wake up having nightmares about losing the Daytona 500, I guess it was in 2016,” Kenseth said. “Going into turn 3 on the last lap trying to block Denny (Hamlin) and messing it up, and going from leading the whole race to, I don’t know where the hell we finished, 16th (14th) or something like that, trying to make sure I stayed in front of him. Just a terrible block. It’s funny, you think about 10 seconds in time, okay, and you have more misery about that than a lot of great things that have happened in twenty years.

Kenseth said one of his fondest NASCAR memories was winning his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race for independent team owner Robbie Reiser at Rockingham (NC) Speedway in 1998.

Team owner Jack Roush (left), crew chief Robbie Reiser (middle) and Matt Kenseth celebrate winning the 2004 All-Star Race. (Photo by Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR)

“It was a super exciting finish, we were on the last corner, on the last lap we passed Tony (Stewart) for the win,” Kenseth recalled. “We didn’t really have a sponsor on our car, it was with Robbie’s (Reiser) family team. Everyone who worked at the store had to step over the wall. It was just a really cool band. We didn’t expect us to win. We didn’t even expect to win. Robbie says yes, but he’s lying. You could never, ever replace that day.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner thinks winning anything in the sport for the first time is a special accomplishment.

“When you win your first Cup race, your first Daytona 500, your first championship, things like that,” Kenseth said. “I think when you do something for the first time, at this level, it’s always what sticks in your memory the most.”

When Kenseth was asked if he was missing any full-time racing and if he had a set schedule, he said he had no intention of competing full-time at a high level of motorsport.

“The honest answer is no. I really am not,” Kenseth said. “I’m pretty happy, we’ve just finished our big six week family vacation which is great. We just got home a few days ago. I’m really looking forward to racing those three SRX races as well. that the Slinger Nationals here next week as well. I can’t wait to be there. I’m not looking for a set schedule or to be a pro race driver again. This ship has sailed.

Kenseth, an eight-time Slinger Nationals winner (most of all time), reiterated his level of excitement as he embarks on a new experience.

“But it’s really intriguing,” Kenseth continued. “I think it will be a lot of fun. I think it will be very competitive. I think you’re going to have to bring your A-game to be able to compete with all these guys. You can see when you watch on TV they are all running extremely hard. There’s certainly nothing staged about it. They run really, really hard. So I know it’s going to be very competitive. It will be fun for me to get in there and challenge myself and see how I can do.

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