Skip to content

After 2013, what will Matt Kenseth do for an encore? Be even better in 2014, that’s what

Feb 13, 2014, 8:55 PM EST

Matt Kenseth most definitely has the Sprint Cup trophy in his sites for 2014 after coming so close last season. Getty Images

If Matt Kenseth was a concert pianist who just gave the performance of his life, he invariably would be be asked afterward what he’ll do for an encore.

Being the mild-mannered soul that he is, Kenseth would likely answer very simply, “Be even better the next time.”

Kenseth unquestionably had the best season of his career in 2013 after moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, winning a Sprint Cup Series-high seven races and just barely losing out in the championship battle to Jimmie Johnson.

Now that he’s had time to reflect during the offseason over all the good that happened to him and his team in 2013, not to mention the bad – like the Chase race at Phoenix that essentially cost him the championship – Kenseth is ready to begin his encore performance with the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.

“Just keep working on it,” Kenseth said during Thursday’s Media Day at Daytona International Speedway when asked what he can do better in 2014 than he did in 2013. “There’s a lot of people that would love to have our season — it was a great season last year and we’re just going to try to improve and try to be better if that’s possible this year.”

The Wisconsin native is going for his third 500 crown and potentially may try to mirror Johnson in a sense: Johnson began the run to his sixth Sprint Cup championship by winning last year’s 500 and then bookending the season by winning the championship in the season-ending race at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Maybe yet another 500 win will be the final piece to the puzzle for Kenseth to win his second career Cup championship in 2014.

“You always go back after every race, every practice, every qualifying session, certainly every season and you look back and try to see what you can do to improve,” Kenseth said. “I’m super far from perfect so certainly there are mistakes I could have eliminated.

“There’s certainly things I can do a lot better, so I think you always do that and you look back and try to make it better. Last year was a spectacular year for us obviously. We had really, really fast cars, led a lot of laps, qualified good, won a lot of races and really had a pretty decent last 10 races.”

But then Kenseth had to admit a twinge of regret:

“Would have been good enough to win (the championship) some years, it just wasn’t last year.”

Admittedly, NASCAR’s so-called hangover effect is somewhat of a concern for Kenseth. That’s essentially what happens when a driver has an outstanding season one year – some even go so far as to win the championship – only to have a big fall the following year.

It happened to Brad Keselowski in 2013. He failed to defend his Cup championship from the year before. In fact, Keselowski didn’t even make last season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

It also happened to Carl Edwards in 2012, after just barely missing winning the championship in 2011, losing in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart. Instead of picking up where he left off the season before, Edwards suffered through a winless and Chase-less year in 2012.

Stewart certainly knows that feeling well, too. He won his second of three Cup championships in 2005, only to miss qualifying for the Chase the following season.

Kenseth is optimistic that won’t happen to him in 2014.

“If anybody was going to have a hangover the next year you would think it would be Jimmie (Johnson) winning the championship because they had a lot of fun,” Kenseth said. “I’m not a big believer in that stuff. Every situation is a little bit different. I don’t know why that would be. Certainly as we got into the Chase and as we were leading and tied and behind and ahead again — we were tied with two races to go or three races to go and not to win it when we were that close and going to tracks that we thought were going to be really good was a little disappointing for sure.  We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t.

“On the other hand, it was our first year together. When we sat here last year at this time we were really excited, we didn’t really know exactly what to expect or how we were going to do. We all had high hopes.  Our goals were high that we were going to go out and win races and compete and make the Chase.

“To expect that and hope for that is different than doing it so I don’t think anybody expected us to have the year that we had. It was way better than we expected. I feel as good today as I did sitting here last year. I don’t know why we shouldn’t be better this year.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Petter Solberg leads after Day 1 of World RX finale in Argentina

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:16 PM EST

    FIAWRXChamp

    Red Bull GRC champs Olsbergs MSE has their drivers second and fourth in the standings so far.

  2. WATCH: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:45 PM EST

    nascar america

    Put down your shopping bags, heat up some Thanksgiving leftovers, and tune in for a Black Friday edition of NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN.

  3. WEC: Porsche continues to lead the way in Sao Paulo Practice 2

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:31 PM EST

    AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE Getty Images

    Mark Webber fastest in second practice for WEC at Interlagos.

  4. WEC: Brendon Hartley leads Porsche 1-2 in Sao Paulo opening practice

    Nov 28, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    The Goodwood Festival of Speed - Day 2 Getty Images

    Porsche 919 Hybrids run 1-2 in the first session at Interlagos.

  5. WEC draws the curtain on 2014 with Brazilian round this weekend

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    BahrainWECstart Getty Images

    The end of the WEC season occurs this weekend in Brazil.

  6. F1 2014 Review: Stories of the Season

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

    Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    We take a look back at some of the biggest stories in Formula 1 this year.

  7. USAC: Christopher Bell wins Turkey Night Grand Prix; Kyle Larson finishes 3rd

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    logo-usac

    Rico Abreu locks up USAC Honda Midget Series title with fifth-place finish in Thanksgiving classic.

  8. F1 2014 Driver Review: Fernando Alonso

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Alonso proved once again in 2014 that he has ability exceeding that of the Ferrari car, but even he couldn’t make up for the shortcomings of the F14 T.

  9. Toro Rosso confirms Carlos Sainz Jr. for 2015 F1 season

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

    F1 Testing In Abu Dhabi - Day One Getty Images

    Spanish driver to race alongside Max Verstappen in 2015, stepping up to make his F1 debut.

  10. F1 2014 Driver Review: Sebastian Vettel

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Practice Getty Images

    Red Bull may have been underdogs after winter testing, but few could have predicted Sebastian Vettel’s bid for a fifth world title being as weak as it was.

  11. F1 2014 Driver Review: Valtteri Bottas

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany Getty Images

    After a difficult rookie season, Bottas’ sophomore year in F1 brought far more success, marking the Finn as a possible champion in the future.

  12. Ricciardo expecting good battle with Kvyat next year

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ENG-SILVERSTONE Getty Images

    Kvyat will replace Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next year.

  13. Hulkenberg’s Porsche drive a great showcase for modern versatility

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:15 AM EST

    HulkPorsche2 Getty Images

    Nico Hulkenberg and Porsche: a win for both the WEC and F1 in a rare moment of motorsport unity for the common good.

  14. F1 2014 Driver Review: Daniel Ricciardo

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    What a year it was for Daniel Ricciardo in his first season at Red Bull.

  15. Hamilton: Second F1 title takes career another step forward

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-BRITAIN-HAMILTON Getty Images

    Talks about a new contract with Mercedes should be brought forwards after title win.

  16. F1 2014 Driver Review: Nico Rosberg

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Austria F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    A worthy title contender, Nico Rosberg enjoyed his most successful season to date in 2014.

  17. F1 2014 Driver Review: Lewis Hamilton

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    2014 saw the Briton become a two-time F1 world champion, winning 11 races.

  18. Raikkonen confident 2015 will hold better things for Ferrari

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    A new regime will come into force at Maranello next season following a disappointing campaign in 2014.

  19. Susie Wolff promoted to test driver at Williams for 2015

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Practice Getty Images

    British racer will remain with Williams for 2015 after becoming the first woman to take part in a grand prix weekend session in 22 years over the summer.

  20. Famed NHRA team owner Don Schumacher undergoes cancer surgery

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:46 PM EST

    Don Schumacher and daughter Megan. (Photo courtesy ShoeRacing.com) Don Schumacher and daughter Megan. (Photo courtesy ShoeRacing.com)

    NHRA team owner Don Schumacher underwent surgery Wednesday for early-stage skin cancer.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1513)
  2. T. Stewart (1466)
  3. J. McMurray (1461)
  4. A. Dillon (1213)
  5. B. Scott (1091)