Matt Kenseth didn’t do anything to lower the championship expectations upon him last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, where he opened the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup with his sixth victory of the season.
But in a NASCAR teleconference earlier this afternoon, Kenseth, the top seed in the Chase, declared that now is no time for choosing a clear-cut winner.
“I think it’s too early to really pick favorites,” said Kenseth. “I think there’s a ton of competition. When you look at the finishing positions last Sunday, 10 of the top 12 were all drivers in the Chase.
“You’re going to have to run really good every week to be able to beat that, because they’re in the Chase for a reason – because they’ve been the best-running cars all year. You’re going to try to figure out how to beat all of them and they’re all going to be really tough.”
Kenseth is looking to claim his second Sprint Cup after attaining his first title with Roush Fenway Racing (then known as, simply, Roush Racing) in 2003, which was the final year before the Chase format began.
This year, the Chase turns 10 years old, and during that span, some have credited – or blamed – Kenseth for its creation after he took the ’03 championship with lots of consistency (11 Top-5s, 25 Top-10s) but not a lot of winning (a single victory at Las Vegas).
When asked about wanting to put the grumbling to rest by winning in the “new” format, Kenseth said that earning a title is the top priority regardless of the system.
“If you come up short of that, I think it’s always somewhat disappointing, a little disappointing,” he said. “That’s always your goal no matter what the format is.
“The format, we all know what it is before the year starts. It’s the same for everybody. The rules don’t change as you go along. Sure, we’d love to win it in the new format.”
And if you’re expecting him to issue a mea culpa about his role in changing how NASCAR crowns its Sprint Cup champ, forget it.
“There’s certainly no apologies for the way we won that championship,” he said. “We had an unbelievable season [in 2003]…If we could have won more races that year, been quicker, had circumstances go our way, we would have loved that to happen.
“It wasn’t like we weren’t trying to win more races. We had an incredible year that year, like I said. Didn’t have the wins, but had a lot of good finishes.”