NASCAR in Joliet: Kenseth enters Chase as leader of the pack
By Tina Akouris email@example.com September 11, 2013 9:10PM
Matt Kenseth at the Willis Tower Skydeck by the glass ledge. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media
Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Laraway Road and Route 53, Joliet
When: Friday through Sunday
Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223.
Parking: Free. Lots open at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday; early bird parking at 6 a.m. Sunday.
EnjoyIllinois.com 225 (Camping World Truck Series) practice, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
EnjoyIllinois.com 225 final practice, 11 to
GEICO 400 (Sprint Cup Series) practice, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Dollar General 300 (Nationwide Series) practice, 1:40 to 2:55 p.m.
EnjoyIllinois.com 225 qualifying, 3:05 p.m.
GEICO 400 qualifying, 4:10 p.m.(ESPN2)
Dollar General 300 final practice, 5:35 to 6:50 p.m.
EnjoyIllinois.com 225, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports1)
GEICO 400 practice,
10 to 10:55 a.m.
Dollar General 300
qualifying, 11:05 a.m. (Fox Sports2)
GEICO 400 final practice, 1 to 1:50 p.m. (Fox Sports2)
Dollar General 300,
2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Brantley Gilbert pre-race concert, 11:10 a.m.
GEICO 400 driver introductions, 12:20 p.m.
GEICO 400, 1 p.m. (ESPN; WERV-FM 95.9; WCCQ-FM 98.3)
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:45AM
Matt Kenseth is one of NASCAR’s 12 Chase-eligible drivers who is going to have to get used to answering questions about the heavy penalties and fines levied against Michael Waltrip Racing this week.
NASCAR fined MWR $300,000 and docked its three drivers — Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers — 50 points each for manipulating the outcome of Saturday’s race at Richmond (Va.).
The points deduction for Truex knocked him out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup and moved Ryan Newman into the Chase.
“The whole situation is so unique,” Kenseth said. “I heard that ESPN had a lot of in-car audio, and then I found out about (Brian Vickers) pitting (too slow) and I had a feeling that something would have to happen.
“I didn’t know anything about it at all until (after the race) in the media center and we started hearing that Clint had spun out. We had our hands full with our car.”
Kenseth, the Sprint Cup points leader, probably is happy to get some attention deflected off him and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Kenseth was in Chicago on Wednesday to promote Sunday’s GEICO 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, the first race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Kenseth has 2,015 points and a Sprint Cup series-leading five wins. Only three points separate Kenseth from five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, who both have 2,012. Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, is nine points ahead of Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
“This is a good place for us to start,” Kenseth said. “When we got our fifth win a few weeks ago (at Bristol) we knew we were aiming for that spot. It took us all year to get here.”
Not only does Kenseth enjoy sitting atop the points standings heading into the Chase, he has found a comfort level with his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing. Early in the 2012 season, Kenseth announced he was leaving Roush-Fenway Racing. By the time the Chase came around, Kenseth had a deal with JGR.
Despite feeling like a rookie during the first few weeks, Kenseth said he has been able to settle in nicely with the Gibbs team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“This has been a really good fit for me, and Jason is a good match,” Kenseth said. “It’s been a good mix personally and professionally. And it was different (at first) because you don’t know who and where everything is. It was a bit nerve-racking at first.”
While downtown, Kenseth toured Navy Pier, went to see the Bean at Millennium Park and rode up to the Skydeck at Willis Tower.
He would rather have been in the garage area in Joliet.
“To me, this is fun, but it’s also the work part,” Kenseth said. “The fun part is driving the car.”