Kenseth to shift gears

At first glance, it’s easy to perceive Matt Kenseth’s start to the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as “slow.”

The No. 20 Toyota driver only has one top-10 finish in the first six races, one year after amassing five victories and 19 top-10 showings.

“The results have been disappointing, but we’ve ran pretty well,” said Kenseth, who ranks 14th in the series points standings. “We’ve been in contention in a couple races. Neither of them worked out. We had fast enough cars, if all of the stars were aligned, maybe we’d win a couple more. I think it all depends on how you want to look at it. I feel if you run well enough, over time the law of averages is going to work out, you’re going to win some races, you’re going to get some finishes. It’s just tough to go through when you’re not getting good finishes, but I’d much rather run the way we’re running, perform the way we’re performing, and not get the finishes then be a 15th-place car and luck into a ninth-place finish.”

He’ll try to get his momentum-building strong finish in Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX), a place where he has excelled throughout his career, despite two disappointing showings of 25th and 23rd there last season.

In 26 career starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Kenseth boasts two wins, a track-record-tying 13 top fives, 17 top 10s and an average finish of 9.5.

“Ironically, Texas is one of those places that when I was at Roush (Fenway Racing) was probably my best track,” Kenseth said. “I felt like even years we didn’t run well other places, we always finished well there, always ran well there. We were able to win twice, were in position to win a couple more times and got beat real late. Since I’ve been over (at Joe Gibbs Racing), it’s been a struggle for some reason. We haven’t ran very well the last three years there, so I’m looking forward to going back and seeing if we can make it better.”

NASCAR’s loop data a set of advanced statistics more indicative of performance than finishing position shows Kenseth’s results this season are bound to improve. The Wisconsin native ranks fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 144 laps led and sixth on the circuit with a 97.9 driver rating and 10.4 average running position.

Kenseth reiterated his lack of early-season success is no reason to panic.

“We’ve been having good times,” he said. “Our (JGR) cars have been fast. Kyle [Busch] has a win (at Martinsville). Denny [Hamlin] won the Daytona 500.
Ironically, we were in position to win both those races, but we didn’t win either one of them. At least a teammate won if we couldn’t.

“Things really aren’t that bad. I still feel pretty good about it. It’s only April. Kyle raced only half the season last year and won the championship, so I feel pretty good about where we’re at to be honest with you. We have the speed where we can go out and contend for wins and race up in the top five and six consistently if everything goes right and we all do our jobs. That’s fun and that’s encouraging. If we keep running like that, (good) finishes will eventually come.”