Matt Kenseth Maintaining Balance Between Realism and Optimism Heading into Cutoff Race

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If you look at the points situation this weekend heading into Kansas Speedway, you might think that Matt Kenseth is feeling the pressure. Sitting eight points outside of the top eight, Kenseth is in jeopardy of being one of the four playoff drivers eliminated following the completion of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Kenseth, however, is keepin’ it real.

“Obviously we had, you know, whatever, eight months to collect stage points and bonus points and get wins, do all that,” Kenseth said during a media availability Friday morning. “Even though we finished last weekend, we’re still out of the next round so far because of all the bonus points and stuff that we did not collect. We’ve got to go there and have a solid run, obviously, to get to the next round. Like I say, if we don’t run good Sunday, then we don’t deserve to be in the next round anyway. It’s a great racetrack, one I really like. Hopefully we can hit it right this weekend and as a group we can all execute, perform at a high level like we’re capable of doing and move on to next week.”

The 45-year-old driver is in what could potentially be his final year as a full-time Cup Series driver. Erik Jones will replace Kenseth at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 and he has not yet announced any plans for next season.

“Nothing beyond right now,” said Kenseth. “I feel like we got a lot to do yet in 2017. Really kind of in the same spot. Not really worried that much about next year, have anything I want to talk about.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that Kenseth won’t be in the series next year but a victory would go a long ways towards finding a ride for 2018 and/or finishing out the season strong. As of yet, the No. 20 team is winless despite the fact that teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both have multiple wins this season.

“I feel like I come to the racetrack every week with a chance to win,” Kenseth continued. “But with that being said, it’s been a year and a half since we won. I don’t know if it’s my longest winless streak or not, but it feels like it is, or close to it. I’m almost sure I’ve never went two years without winning a race. So it’s been a long time. So when you look at it like that, you’re, like, Show me. We haven’t been able to do it yet. I hope to at least get a win before the year’s over. We got five chances left, got some great racetracks coming up. We just got to get our cars running a little bit better. As a group, every single one of us has to execute better, and that starts with me. I know we’re more than capable, but we got to do it.”

Kenseth acknowledges the team hasn’t been performing at the level that was needed to secure themselves a spot in the Round of 8, so it’s entirely possible that Kansas won’t provide the performance needed either.

“Last time we were here we ran bad from the second we unloaded until we were done with the weekend,” said Kenseth. “I’m optimistic we’ll unload a decent speed today, it will drive decent, we’ll get it driving good tomorrow, I hope. Charlotte was a struggle. Never got to drive good the whole weekend. Didn’t run very well. Talladega is Talladega. Hopefully we can go this weekend and perform well.” 

Kenseth finished 14th last weekend at Talladega and 12th in the spring race at Kansas earlier this season. His average finish at Kansas is 13th.

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