It’s all to play for between Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied atop the Sprint Cup championship standings heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
But despite the tense battle between them, Kenseth indicated that he’ll race Johnson hard but clean in the final three races – which include Sunday’s event at TMS, the Nov. 10 Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, and the season-ending Ford Ecoboost 400 on Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I think you always race as hard as you can, but at the same time you try to be as fair and clean as you can,” Kenseth said before qualifying sixth this afternoon for Sunday’s race. “I think you always throughout your career, you make mistakes and learn from them, all those kind of things. But, I think if you try to race people the way you want to be raced, it usually works out both ways.
“The goal is to always get your car running good where you can go pass and you can go out run other guys and not worry about that.”
Kenseth crashed during a test session at TMS last week, but has seen tremendous success on 1.5-mile ovals this season and would appear to have momentum after placing second last weekend at Martinsville Speedway – three spots ahead of Johnson, an eight-time winner at Martinsville in his Cup career.
The two rivals have each performed well over the years at TMS, and they’re expected to have another tight duel Sunday. As time runs out on the season, one could assume that a psychological battle may take shape in parallel with what occurs on the track.
But Kenseth said Friday that he won’t take part in any “head games” versus Johnson.
“My brain is over-capacity already with trying to figure out how to make my race car fast enough to be the best,” he said. “They always say, ‘If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man’ and [Johnson’s] always definitely been the man.
“[I’m] really just trying to concentrate on that and trying to figure out how to make our car fast enough to go out and be able to compete with not only him, but the rest of the field each and every week. It’s a competitive group.”