After having a successful season last year, Matt Kenseth says he’s looking forward to getting this year started off.
“I really look forward to Thursday, getting in the duels and kind of getting ready for the 500, and then once you finally get to Thursday, you get to race, and race Saturday and race Sunday,” he said. “I look forward to that a lot, getting the season started, and then I also really look forward to getting‑‑ once Speedweeks is over, I almost feel like the season starts.
“This is kind of like its own season it seems like between testing and all the practice you get and the whole week down here and all of that. So I look forward to that, racing the three events down here, especially those three, all four, but especially those three and then getting down to Phoenix and getting the regular season started and seeing how you stack up with everybody. I always like the beginning of the year a lot.”
Last year, Matt Kenseth had a great season with seven wins and 20 top 10s in the 36 races on his way to finishing second in points to Jimmie Johnson in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Looking back on the year, Kenseth said he was surprised as to how well communication was across the board between himself, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
“I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by our success and by winning right away and doing all that stuff. But obviously it was all really good,” he added. “I felt like I really learned a lot last year from December all the way until the season got over, and I'm honestly just as excited for this year as I was last year, so I feel like we've got a lot of good things going on over there, and I was really happy that Denny won at Homestead, as well, and I'm looking forward to‑‑ I'm glad he's healthy again and winning again. Although since we finished second, I would have rather had him finish second so I could have won.”
Kenseth has looked back at last season and found spots to improve on in hopes of being champion this year.
“I think it's a moving target, but I always feel like you never really just grab one or two areas,” he said in the search of getting better. “I think you look at everything and always try to improve an equal amount in all areas. Certainly there's things if you look at that are more trouble spots than others, you're probably going to put a little more emphasis on that.”
On top of trying to improve, NASCAR made some rule changes in which are supposed to make the racing better.
“I feel like just at a quick glance and the little bit we ran it, I feel like it's a fair amount tighter than what we had last year, at least on paper,” Kenseth commented. “I'm not sure how that's going to affect the racing yet. I don't think anybody really knows until we all get to the track in race conditions, work on a lot. So you'll probably have a pretty good idea once you leave Vegas if it was a plus or not. “
Kenseth added that his team, like others, planned on doing testing throughout January at both intermediate and short tracks to try and prepare.
Other changes in the works include the possible idea of starting the Sprint Unlimited three-wide style, and Kenseth said that he thought it was a great idea.
“I thought it would be kind of exciting, something we've never done before,” he added. “I wouldn't want to do it at a points race in a weekly race or a 500‑mile race or something like that. But for an unlimited at a track like this or Talladega it would be fine because we usually end up three wide anyway. It would be something different, although some of us might have a hard time figuring out where to line up.”
There have also been discussions surrounding changes to the Chase, in which Kenseth says he’s against as he feels consistency is good to have.
“I think the points system and a lot of the stuff they've been doing has been pretty consistent over the last couple years,” he commented. “I feel like that's good.”
While Kenseth looks to repeat his success at JGR, some drivers are making the jump to new teams and based on Kenseth’s success last year, optimism is high.
“I think if you're going to an organization you feel like is‑‑ I think, first of all, a driver, if it's their choice to make the change, they probably don't want to do that unless they think it's going to be better,” Kenseth commented. “So in that case I think probably more than half the time you see success you probably see it run just as good or better. But if you're making a change and you didn't want to make a change, that doesn't always mean that you're going to run better.
“So I think it just depends. I think every situation is a little bit different. Obviously I was really, really fortunate, the situation that I got in with that whole group over there and how good that stuff runs and how quickly we were able to have some success, so I hope we can build on that this year and keep that up.”