Matt Kenseth isn’t the most demonstrative guy, but his eyes light up when he starts talking about California Speedway.
For good reason.
The two-mile oval in Fontana, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has been really good to Kenseth.
He has won the last two February NASCAR Nextel Cup events at the track and has led eight of the 11 Cup races he has run there and has four top-fives and seven top-10s. Kenseth also won the Busch race last spring, making it a weekend sweep for Ford at a time when Chevrolets were dominating at most tracks.
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So far this season, the February event is Kenseth’s only Cup win. That makes the generally laid-back Kenseth upbeat heading into Sunday’s Sharp Aquos 500.
“I’m looking forward to going back to California,” he said. “We’ve usually been pretty strong on that type of track and we’ve had some success there before, so coming off of a disappointing weekend at Bristol, it’s definitely good to be going to a track you feel you can run well at.”
Kenseth crashed at Bristol last Saturday night, finishing 39th. But just by starting the race, the 2003 Cup champion clinched his fourth straight berth in NASCAR’s Chase for the championship.
A year ago, he had to make a late-season charge to qualify for the 10-race Chase. This year, he has been much more consistent with eight top-fives and 15 top-10s in 24 starts putting him fourth in the season standings.
But Kenseth is looking for more, especially another win or two with just two events left before the start of the Chase. This year, each win is worth a 10-point bonus for seeding purposes at the start of the stock car postseason.
“We’re locked into the Chase now, and that feels good and all, but we’ve got to start running better and build some momentum,” Kenseth said. “Of course, last year, we had all the momentum in the world heading into the Chase and couldn’t get it done once in the Chase, so momentum isn’t everything.
“But, we still want to score some good finishes in these next two races and get our cars running the best we can for those final 10 races.”