Looking Back: Early Triumphs of Matt Kenseth

Tamhas Woods

As the oldest team-affiliated NASCAR driver in the 2017 roster, Matt Kenseth now finds himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason. Given the sudden nature of Carl Edwards’ retirement, many fans now anticipate that several other drivers will follow suit within the next two years.

At 37, Edwards is six years Kenseth’s junior, yet he retired earlier this month, without any major honours to his name.

In 2009, Matt Kenseth battled his own son (then just 16 years old) over a position during a minor stock car race in Oregon.

Kenseth will have no such regrets upon his own retirement, having clinched the top trophy in only his fourth full season as a NASCAR driver. That noted, his 2003 championship win remains contentious for those who value victory over consistency, and the format has changed much in the interim.

In order to truly establish himself as one of the ‘greats’, Kenseth must win his second title under the playoff format which exists today.

Jeff Gordon’s run to the 2015 finale is a real testament to the value of experience, but 2017 probably represents Kenseth’s last genuine chance to get that second title.

Let us revisit three of Kenseth’s greatest moments on the track.

Matt Kenseth wins for the first time

28 May 2000 – Coca Cola 600

Any NASCAR event in North Carolina is one that, at least psychologically, separates the men from the boys. Faced with a fervent and hostile crowd, any rookie hailing from Wisconsin would be expected to wilt.

In 2000, Matt Kenseth was a rookie in name only. At the revered Coca Cola 600, he swept to what would be the first of many elite-level wins.

Rocking Rockingham

24 February 2002 – Subway 400

NASCAR activity ceased at Rockingham in 2004. However, the world-famous speedway was a respected circuit on the Sprint Cup calendar until then.

After going winless throughout 2001, Kenseth broke his duck in style. He led the most laps en-route to what was ultimately an easy win. Furthermore, it was also one which proved that his fighting spirit was still very much alive after a desolate period.

A New Champion

9 November 2003 – Pop Secret 400

As the penultimate race of 2003, Rockingham would be the locale of history in the making. Eighteen months on from his much-needed victory at the same circuit, Kenseth became a champion with a fourth place finish.

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