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 EDT

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. Behind the scenes: Lewis Hamilton on TODAY (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Practice Getty Images

    Behind the scenes of Lewis Hamilton’s day at the TODAY Show.

  2. John Force to debut much-anticipated 16X Funny Car this weekend in Las Vegas

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    john force 16x car for las vegas 2014

    When it comes to this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, John Force is taking his effort to win his record-extending 17th Funny Car championship to a high power. As in 16X.

  3. NASCAR America video: Jeff Gordon hanging on edge

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    (AP photo/Steve Helber) AP

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kelli Stavast talked with Jeff Gordon about the difficulties of advancing to the final round of the Chase.

  4. NHRA Top Fuel veteran Bob Vandergriff Jr. to step aside at season’s end

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/The Topeka Capital Journal, Chris Neal) AP

    It was just a matter of time for NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Bob Vandergriff Jr., and now that time has come.

  5. Kyle Busch may not walk on water, but he sure can glide on it (video)

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    kyle busch superboat

    With some of the things he says or does on the racetrack, Kyle Busch might seem like he’s all wet at times.

  6. IndyCar: Jack Hawksworth ready to go full-throttle for Foyt

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Jack Hawksworth AP

    Hawksworth: “We’re here to win, to give 120 percent.”

  7. Vettel and Ricciardo bring F1 to the streets of Austin (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Downtown Austin gets treated to the first big event of the F1 weekend.

  8. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA covers critical Homestead test at 5 p.m. ET

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT

    nascar america

    Coming up today: More on this week’s critical test at Homestead-Miami Speedway; an in-depth look at the Drive for Diversity program; Parker Kligerman shows you what it takes to be tops at Texas in the NBC Sports iRacing Simulator.

  9. Report: Plea deal delayed again for ex-NASCAR driver Tyler Walker in 150-mph, 3-state police chase

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Utah Highway Patrol) (Photo courtesy Utah Highway Patrol)

    After 10 delays to resolve the most serious charges against him stemming from a three-state police chase that reached speeds as high as 150-mph, will the 11th time finally be the charm for former NASCAR and World of Outlaws racer Tyler Walker?

  10. IndyCar: Foyt expands to 2 cars, adds Hawksworth alongside Sato

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    HawkSato Getty Images

    A.J. Foyt’s Honda-powered team expands to two cars, with Jack Hawksworth joining Takuma Sato in the lineup.

  11. Scott Lagasse Jr. to drive for RCR in NNS season finale at Homestead

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    (Images courtesy Richard Childress Racing) (Images courtesy Richard Childress Racing)

    Even though it will only be his third appearance this season in the Nationwide Series, it’s kind of fitting that Florida native Scott Lagasse Jr. will compete in the third NNS race and season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  12. IMSA: CORE autosport celebrates its fourth straight PC team title (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Photo: CORE autosport Photo: CORE autosport

    CORE autosport looks back on its fourth straight PC team title.

  13. Krista Voda to become host for NASCAR on NBC coverage next year

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    nbcsports1 (1)

    Voda will serve primarily as host for pre/post-race coverage of Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events on NBC Sports.

  14. Insight: How the GP of Baltimore posed a case study in promotional challenges

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Grand Prix of Baltimore - Day 3 Getty Images

    The perils of street racing and dealing with city governments: Baltimore was a case study in what could go wrong.

  15. IMSA: Jonathan Bomarito picks up Mazda opportunity

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona Getty Images

    Jonathan Bomarito back in a Mazda, now in a prototype. I

  16. Brian Vickers takes 2015 Toyota Camry to track during Fontana tire test (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 Getty Images

    The Michael Waltrip Racing driver gets acquainted with Toyota’s newest challenger.

  17. IndyCar: Indy 500 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay receives special hometown honor (PHOTO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native is inducted into the Broward County (Fla.) Hall of Fame as part of a class that includes two Olympic gold medalists and a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

  18. Could Sam Bird be exploring an IndyCar opportunity?

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

    BirdFE Getty Images

    A simple “in Indianapolis” tweet could well mean Sam Bird is looking at an IndyCar opportunity.

  19. VIDEO: Lewis Hamilton on TODAY Show, talks about F1 in the U.S.

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    © NBC Sports © NBC Sports

    British driver speaks with TODAY’s Josh Elliott ahead of this weekend’s United States GP in Austin, Texas.

Video from NASCAR America

What to expect in Eliminator Round?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. M. Crafton (1196)
  2. D. Hamlin (1125)
  3. K. Harvick (1077)
  4. J. Logano (976)
  5. T. Stewart (951)