Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth
Kenseth competing for Roush Racing
Born March 10, 1972 (1972-03-10) (age 46)
Cambridge, Wisconsin
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
Car No./Team No. 6 - Roush Fenway Racing
Best pts finish 1st (2003)
First race 1998 MBNA Gold 400
First win 2000 Coca-Cola 600
Career highlights and awards

Matthew Roy "Matt" Kenseth (born March 10, 1972) is an American stock car racing driver. He currently drives the #6 Wyndham Rewards Ford for Roush Fenway Racing on a part-time basis in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

He is a two-time Daytona 500 champion, having won a rain-shortened race in 2009, the first Daytona 500 win for the Roush Fenway Racing team and in 2012, where he won his second Daytona 500 by beating Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to the line.

Kenseth started racing on several short tracks in Wisconsin and he won track championships at Madison International Speedway, Slinger Super Speedway and Wisconsin International Raceway. He moved to the ARTGO, ASA, and Hooters Late Model touring series before getting a full-time ride in the NASCAR Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) for his former Wisconsin short track rival Robbie Reiser. After finishing second and third in the Busch Series, he moved up in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Monster Energy Cup Series). He won the series' Rookie of the Year title in 2000 and the season championship in 2003. The International Race of Champions invited Kenseth to race in their 2004 season as the reigning champion and he won the season championship.

Early life and career Edit

Kenseth was born in Cambridge, Wisconsin. He made an agreement with his father, Roy, that Roy should buy a car and race, and Matt would work on the car until he was old enough to race.[1] Matt began stock car racing in 1988 at the age of 16 at Madison International Speedway.[2] "My dad bought a car when I was 13 and raced it at Madison," Kenseth said. "Neither of us knew much and it was a learning experience. He continued to race in 1988 and 1989. My first car - what might be considered a sportsman - was a 1981 Camaro that Todd Kropf had driven to championships at Madison and Columbus 151 Speedway. On the third night out I won a feature. I ran 15 features in 1983 and won two of them."[2] "The first night out in the Kropf car Matt won a heat race," said Kenseth's father Roy. "The third night he won the feature by holding off two of the best drivers at the track, Pete Moore and Dave Phillips, for 20 laps. Matt was smooth. I knew then he was going to be a racer."[2] He ran for the points title on Saturday nights at Wisconsin Dells) in 1989. He finished second in points and won eight features.[2] On Friday nights, he ran about half of the races at Golden Sands Speedway and half at Columbus 151 Speedway.[2] In 1990, he bought a late model from Rich Bickle.[2] In the season-opening race at Slinger Super Speedway, Kenseth inherited the lead and won his only race of the season when track champion Tony Strupp had a flat tire.[2] He finished sixth in season points and won the track's rookie of the year award.[2] Kenseth entered fifteen ARTGO events that season and raced in 40 features that year.[2] After graduating from Cambridge High School that summer, Kenseth worked for four years selling and shipping parts for Left-hander Chassis, a late model racecar chassis manufacturer just south of Wisconsin in Illinois.[1] In 1991 he won the ARTGO race at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway to become the youngest winner in the series' history.[2] He passed Joe Shear and Steve Holzhausen, and held off Steve and Tom Carlson for the win.[2] 1992 was a difficult year for Kenseth. He won three races and blew up more engines than he could count.[2] He was ready to quit racing after the season.[2] "I felt we were at a standstill", he said. "I wasn't gaining. My dad and I had some major discussions at the end of the year. We had to find the dollars for a good program or I told him I would rather not race."[2] Kipley Performance loaned a motor to Kenseth for the season-final race at La Crosse and the team ran better.[2] Kenseth built a new car for 1993 using a Kipley engine.[2] He used the car at Madison to win eight features and finished second in the points.[2] Mike Butz offered Kenseth the chance to race his late model, and it took some time for the combination to stop struggling before they started winning features.[2] At the end of the season, they won the final short track series race at Madison, La Crosse, and I-70 Speedway.[2]

The 1994 and 1995 seasons established Kenseth as a short track star.[2] Kenseth made a name for himself while driving at several Wisconsin tracks, beating nationally known drivers such as Dick Trickle and Robbie Reiser. He raced 60 times in three different cars in 1994, winning track championships at both Wisconsin International Raceway (WIR) on Thursday nights and Madison on Friday nights.[2] Kenseth competed against Reiser at Madison, and won 12 of 17 features at the track.[2] He won the 1994 Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway.[1] In 1995, he repeated with back-to-back championships at Madison and WIR, plus he won the Red, White, and Blue state championship series at WIR on three Saturday nights.[2] Butz's wife Patty Butz said "We knew by 1995 that Matt had too much talent to be with us for very long."[2]

Kenseth decided to move across the country in 1996 to the Southern United States to race for engine builder Carl Wegner in the Hooters Series Late Model championship.[2] The plan was to run the Hooters Series, five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races, and five Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) before moving full-time into the Busch Series in 1997.[2] He finished third in the Hooters Series, nearly winning the series championship as a rookie.[2] In 1996, Kenseth made his Busch Series debut at the spring race at Lowe's Motor Speedway for Wegner, finishing 22nd after starting 30th in a car rented from Bobby Dotter.[2] Kenseth was disappointed because they were unable to attract major sponsorship.[2] "It was just like 1992", Kenseth said. "Plans just didn't work. I thought things would be different. Personally, I had moved and was adjusting to being a thousand miles from home."[2] At the end of the season, the Wegner/Kenseth team closed, and Kenseth found a ride for Gerry Gunderman's ASA team, who was also Alan Kulwicki's last shop in Wisconsin before moving to NASCAR.[1] The team raced together for two races in 1997 before Kenseth received a telephone call from a former competitor.[2]

Nationwide SeriesEdit

In 1997, racer Tim Bender was injured, and Bender's crew chief/car owner Robbie Reiser hired his former competitor and rival Kenseth to race for him despite having only one Busch start.[2] Reiser said "Matt and I used to have some fierce races against each other. I needed someone who understood race cars the way I understood them. I knew he could drive and he could talk to me in a manner I could understand."[2] Kenseth qualified third for the new team's first race. He was racing in third place in the final laps when he spun and finished eleventh.[2] Kenseth qualified in 20th place for the next race at Talladega in his second time at a track big enough to have a significant draft.[2] He passed thirteen cars to finish seventh.[2] Kenseth had two Top 5 finishes during the partial season.[2] The following year he raced full-time all season. He won his first Busch Series race on February 22, 1998, when he nudged leader Tony Stewart's car entering the final turn of the final lap[2], culmulating in a second- and third-place finishes in the Busch points. Matt drove the No. 17 Chevrolet sponsored first by Kraft, then Lycos, and most recently by DeWalt.

Kenseth won the last two races of the Busch season in 2006 driving the #17 Pennzoil Ford Fusion, at Phoenix and Homestead.

In 2007, Kenseth planned to run 23 Busch races to be sponsored by Arby's restaurants (13 races), Dish Network (five races), iLevel by Weyerhaeuser (four races), and Aflac (one race). Kenseth won the Stater Brothers 300 at California Speedway in February and the O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

Kenseth broke an 18 race winless streak as he won the 2008 Nicorette 300 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth's 23rd career series victory came after the series was renamed the Nationwide Series. On lap 104 at the 2009 Aaron 312 on April 25, Kenseth took a wild ride flipping over 3.5 times, sliding on his roof, then completed a fourth flip. The car burst into flames, and Matt walked away.

Winston Cup/Nextel Cup/Sprint Cup Edit

Kenseth made his Winston Cup series debut in 1998 at Dover, Del., filling in for Bill Elliott who had to attend his father's funeral on the day of the race. He finished sixth, the third best debut of any driver. The last driver before Matt to debut with a top-10 finish was Rusty Wallace in 1980 with a second place finish in Atlanta.

2000 Edit

In 2000 Kenseth's entire team joined the Roush Racing organization, where they beat out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. He won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, and is still the only rookie to win the famed 600 mile event. He went on to finish 14th in points with four top 5s and 11 top 10s.

2001 Edit

In 2001 Kenseth finished 13th in points with four top 5s and nine top 10 finishes. Robbie Reiser and the DeWalt pit crew won the Unocal 76 World Pit Crew Competition.

2002 Edit

In 2002 Kenseth won the most races (five) and one pole, but inconsistency caused him to finish eighth in the final points. The DeWalt team won a second Unocal 76 World Pit Crew Competition.

2003 Edit

In 2003 he dominated in the points standings for almost the entire season and became the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, the last driver to ever hold that title. In so doing, he also became only the second Wisconsinite to win the championship (the late Alan Kulwicki was the first, in 1992). Kenseth also had a series best 25 top 10 finishes.

  • Began with a 20th-place finish in the Daytona 500, but quickly sped to the front. Fresh off his only win of the season at Las Vegas,Kenseth took the point standings lead after a fourth-place finish at Atlanta in the season’s fourth week. He never relinquished the top spot, remaining No. 1 for 33 consecutive weeks, and setting a new modern-era record for most weeks at No. 1. The previous mark was 30 weeks, set by the late Dale Earnhardt during his first title season of 1980.
  • Clinched the 2003 series crown with a fourth-place finish at Rockingham on Nov. 9, in the season’s penultimate event. Finished with a 90-point margin over runner-up Jimmie Johnson.
  • Displayed amazing consistency during his title run,spending 35 of 36 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10.Only week outside that elite group came after a 20th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. Finished with one win, 11 top fives and a series-high 25 top-10 finishes.
  • Became the fifth different champion in five years, and the third consecutive former Raybestos Rookie of the Year to win the series title.

2004 Edit

In 2004 Kenseth won the International Race of Champions (IROC) championship. He qualified for the inaugural Nextel Cup, finished eighth in the final NASCAR point standings.Finished with two wins, those coming back-to-back early in the year at Rockingham and Las Vegas. … His win at Rockingham was a photo finish with eventual Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne. … Began the 10-race Chase in fifth place and finished eighth. … One of only four drivers to be ranked in the top 10 all season.

2005 Edit

Kenseth started the 2005 season with relatively poor finishes but had a strong mid-season run. He rose from the 24th place in championship points after fourteen races to eighth after twenty six races, and he qualified for the Chase for the Cup. He finished seventh in the final points standings. Kenseth made his 200th career start. His totals after his first 200 starts were: 1 championship, 10 wins, 40 Top 5s, 85 Top 10s, 1 pole position, and more than $28.5 million earnings.Led a career high 1,001 laps.

2006 Edit

Matt had a fast start to the 2006 season. He led early in the Daytona 500, but then spun out after contact with Tony Stewart. He fell down two laps, but rallied back to a 15th place finish. Matt won the following race at California Speedway. He was the points leader after the eighth race at Phoenix. He won the Dover spring race by racing from sixth to the front in the final 60 laps. He made the winning pass over teammate Jamie McMurray with three laps left. With the season winding down into the last dozen races, Kenseth won the Sharpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway - securing his spot in the chase for the Nextel Cup. He finished the year with winnings of $9,524,966, his take for second place.Only spent one week outside the top 10 (finished 15th in seasonopening Daytona 500). … Was either first or second in points for 27 of 36 weeks. … Led 1,132 laps, second among all drivers.

2007 Edit

n the second race of the 2007 season Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. After Jeff Gordon wrecked out of the Coca-Cola 600, Matt was left as the only driver to complete every lap this season until he was wrecked out of the Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan where Ryan Newman was trying to get one of his 3 laps back. The wreck also ended Matt's streak of 13 consecutive top-15's this season. Kenseth won the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2007. The race was the final event under series title sponsor NEXTEL, and the final race using the templates originally based on the 1964 Holman Moody Ford Fairlane template.Finished fourth in series points. … Finished in the top 10 in the standings for six consecutive seasons, tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most. … Won two races – Auto Club (February) and Homestead. Won at least one race in six consecutive seasons. … Led a lap in 20 different races, leading the most in four of them.

2008 Edit

Kenseth started toward the back for the Daytona 500 and worked his way to the lead and led 2 laps, but soon after his own teammate, David Ragan, would squeeze him into the wall, knocking both out of contention and resulting in a finish of 36th.

In the Goody's Cool Orange 500 Kenseth started 28th, but finished 31st. Kenseth was held a lap for pitting outside of his box early, but later was spun out by David Gilliland and was held for 2 laps for intentionally wrecking him back. Despite that, Gilliland finished 24th.

Kenseth failed to win a race in the 2008 season for first time since 2001.

2009 Edit

Matt Kenseth won the rain shortened 2009 Daytona 500, passing Elliott Sadler mere moments before the caution came out on lap 146 as the result of an accident on the backstretch between Aric Almirola and Sam Hornish, Jr.. The red flag was later waved and subsequent end of the race, 152 laps in, followed, giving Kenseth his first Daytona 500 victory, and the first Daytona 500 Victory for his owner Jack Roush after 20 years as a car owner[3]. He led only 1 green flag lap (of 7 laps led), after starting the race in 43rd. It was Kenseth's tenth attempt at "The Great American Race".[4]

Kenseth won the second race of the season, the (Auto Club 500), to become the fourth driver in NASCAR history to follow up a win at the Daytona 500 with another win the following race.[5] Kenseth's bids for a third straight victory, went south after engine failure.

Kenseth flipped his car during the April Nationwide Series Race at Talladega. Kenseth won in the Nationwide series for his 24th win at Darlington. He also won the pole at Darlington in the Sprint Cup Series, setting a new track record in the process.

It was announced before the Indianapolis race that DeWalt was going to drop it's sponsorship with Kenseth. Crown Royal will take over its sponsorship in 2010 for 35 races. Valvoline has announced sponsorship for another 3 races. (Includes non-points races)

After finishing 25th at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond, Kenseth was bumped out of the Chase by Brian Vickers. This will leave Jimmie Johnson as the only driver to have made the Chase every time since its inception in 2004.

2010 Edit

2/17/10 Drew Blickenderfer was released of his duties as crew chief of the #17 team. Todd Parrott was anounced as his replacement.

2011 Edit

In 2011,Matt won 3 races (Samsung 500,Fedex 400,and Bank of America 500) and made the chase,finishing 4th in the Chase for the Cup

2012 Edit

In 2012,Matt started the year winning the Monday night DAYTONA 500.In September it was announced he would be going to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.Matt finshed off the year,and his career at Roush Fenway Racing by winning two more races (Good Sam 500 and Hollywood Casino 400) and finishing 6th in the final standings

2013 Edit

In 2013 Matt joined Joe Gibbs Racing,driving the #20 car.So far he has won 5 races (Kobalt Tools 400,STP 400,Bojangles SOUTHERN 500,Quaker State 400,and Irwin Tools Night Race),and has already clinched a spot in the Chase for the Cup (with 5 wins,most of any,he will at least get a Wildcard if needed).

Criticism Edit

Matt Kenseth, was drawn to criticism for his calm personality, and winning the championship with a single win before the final race. The last few weeks that the ratings dropped, which was due to NFL in firm competition. The 2003 Season, was the final straw and NASCAR planned the 10 race play off, in the last 10 weeks called "Chase For The Cup". Several sources, felt that it was under the moniker "The Matt Kenseth Rule" by few detractors.

Personal lifeEdit

In 2000, Kenseth married Katie Martin, also from Cambridge. Matt had a son named Ross from previous relationship. Matt and Katie's daughter Kaylin Nicola was born July 6, 2009.[6] Ross raced a legends car for one year in Wisconsin before starting in limited late model racing as a 14 year old.[7] As a 16-year-old, Ross won the 2009 championship in the Big 8 Series, a late model touring series in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.[8] He qualified the second fastest for the Snowball Derby in December 2009.[9]

Matt and Katie have four cats, one named Lars after Lars Ulrich of Metallica (Kenseth's favorite band), one named Charlotte after the site of Kenseth's first Winston Cup win, and the most recent additions, two kittens, one named Miley and one named Sulley. The Kenseth cats have been featured in NASCAR pets calendars to raise money and awareness for Humane Societies and animal charities. Matt has also been featured on a READ poster for the American Library Association. In addition, he is a licensed private pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings. The Kenseths currently reside in North Carolina.

Kenseth operates a racing museum in his hometown of Cambridge, Wis., which features cars, trophies, firesuits, helmets, and other memorabilia from his amateur and professional career. His sister, Kelley Maruszewski, manages the museum and its retail store while also running his official Fan Club.


External linksEdit