Nobody needs to tell Matt Kenseth he hasn’t won.
Nobody needs to tell him he needs to kick it into gear, to figure out what’s holding him back, to find a way to catch up with the leaders.
He’s not going to get all riled up about it. That’s not him.
He’s just going to put his head down and keep working. That’s him.
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“Just to have a sense of urgency about it, it doesn’t really do any good,” he said in a conference call this week with reporters, who were eager to get into the mind of the most laid-back driver, but one of the hardest-charging drivers, in NASCAR.
“We’re already working as hard as we can, and we’re calling the races the way we need to call them to get ourselves in the best position,” Kenseth said. “Pit stops have been great. I feel like we’re doing everything we can to do that; we’re just going to keep trying to get our cars faster, keep trying to get in position to win more.
“And if you can put yourself in that spot enough times, sooner or later you’ll get one.”
It’s getting to be later. It’s 16 races down, 10 to go until the Chase.
Kenseth is the defending winner at Kentucky, where the series stops this week. He needs a win to feel good about his spot in the Chase, although sitting at fourth in points, he doesn’t have to feel bad, either. Only 10 drivers have won so far, so there are still six “empty” spots in the Chase field that can be claimed on points.
It’s not time to get all riled up.
“I think the biggest sense of urgency, probably, is that we just know as an organization we need to be running better,” Kenseth said. “We’re not running as good as we did last year as a group. We’re not leading as many laps, sitting on as many poles, winning as many races. As a group, we’re not doing near as much of that or running up front as much as we were last year. So we need to get that better.
“As far as the urgency to get a win, yeah, you want to get one. In this new format, you really need at least a win and be up in the top 30 to really feel confident about being in the Chase. Anything can happen with different winners, so you’re never sure. But if we could win every week, we would.”
Kenseth has only three winless years in his 15 full-time seasons in Sprint Cup. He won the 2003 championship, but his victory total averaged only 1.8 a year until he moved to Joe Gibbs Racing last year, when it spiked to seven with Toyota power.
Kenseth believes he will find it again. He’s got time.
No need to get riled up.
“I think one of the keys to the sport, I’ve always felt like, is to try to control the peaks and valleys the best you can,” he said. “When things are going great, try not to be too high. And when things are going bad, try not to be too low. You’ve got to keep it somewhere in the center. Things in general are usually not as great as they seem when they are going great and they are not as bad as they seem when you are struggling a little bit.
“So I think you’ve just got to keep that focus, keep working on it, keep trying to figure out how you can get better, how you can do a better job at doing your part, how you can help your team more.
“I think everybody just has to keep working on it, and you know, it’ll turn around sooner than later.”