Athletes

Matt Kenseth

by Jennifer Ozkan | May 27, 2014

Driver of the No. 20 Dollar General/Home Depot HuskyToyota Camry

Date of Birth: March 10, 1972

Hometown: Cambridge, WI

Residence: Mooresville, NC

Marital Status: Married, Katie

Children: Ross, Kaylin & Grace

Sprint Cup Career Stats (entering 2014 season):

Starts: 508
Wins: 31
Top 5s: 138
Top 10s: 248
Poles: 11

Matt Kenseth’s victory in the 2012 Daytona 500 placed the driver into an elite group of only nine drivers in the history of NASCAR who have won the famed race more than once.  Not only did Kenseth earn his first Daytona 500 in 2009, but when he earned that title, the Cambridge, Wisconsin native became one of only five drivers in the sport’s history to win a Cup Championship, the Raybestos Rookie Award and the Daytona 500; placing him in the elite company of Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, David Pearson and Richard Petty.

In addition, during his 16-year Sprint Cup career, Kenseth boasts an International Race of Champions (IROC) title in 2004 and he has qualified for the Chase for the Cup in nine of its 10 seasons. Kenseth has visited victory lane in the Cup Series on 31 occasions, scored 138 top-five finishes, 248 top-10 finishes, 11 poles, and took home the 2003 Sprint Cup Championship.

Kenseth has also collected 28 wins in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, along with 16 poles in his 264 races in the series.

Born and raised in Cambridge, Kenseth began his racing career at the age of 16, winning his first feature event in only his third race. By the age of 19, Kenseth was racing against the likes of Dick Trickle, Ted Musgrave and Rich Bickle in the Wisconsin late model ranks. With a win in LaCrosse, Wisc., Kenseth set a new record for being the youngest winner in ARTGO Challenge Series history, a distinction previously held by his future teammate Mark Martin.

Kenseth took the Wisconsin racing ranks by storm in the early ‘90s, winning races and track titles at venues all across Wisconsin, becoming the youngest driver to ever win the prestigious Miller Genuine Draft National championships in 1994.

Following another Wisconsin track title in 1995, successful runs in NASCAR All Pro Series (1995), the Hooters Series (1996) and the ASA Series (1997), Kenseth got a fateful call in 1997 from a fellow Wisconsin racer, Robbie Reiser, who asked Kenseth to drive for his team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.


The Kenseth-Reiser tandem debuted on April 19, 1997 at Nashville Speedway, finishing 11th. Kenseth went on to capture two top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 21 starts and finished second in the Rookie of the Year battle.

In 1998, Kenseth’s first full Nationwide Series season, he finished second in the championship points with three wins. He also made his Cup debut, substituting for Bill Elliott in the McDonald’s Ford at Dover in September. The young Kenseth drove to an impressive sixth-place finish in his first run with NASCAR’s elite.

Kenseth finished third in the Nationwide Series points in 1999. He also made five Cup starts in the No. 17 DEWALT Ford.

In 2000, Kenseth and the No. 17 team went full-time Cup racing. He won his first career Cup race at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and earned four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. For his efforts, he was named the 2000 Raybestos Rookie of the Year.

The team finished strong in 2001, with three top-five finishes in the last six races. In addition, the No. 17 pit crew set a world record in winning the Unocal 76/ Rockingham World Pit Crew Competition, besting 24 other teams for the honor.

In 2002, Kenseth registered a series-best five victories, and finished eighth in the final point standings. The No. 17 crew won its second straight Unocal 76/Rockingham World Pit Crew Competition with another world record, conducting a full pit stop in 16.81 seconds.

Kenseth, Reiser and Roush Fenway Racing made it all click in 2003 as the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Ford team won the final Winston-era Cup Championship with a record-setting performance. Kenseth’s consistency kept the rest of the field at bay with a series-best 23 top-10 finishes and 11 top-five finishes. Kenseth led the championship point standings for a record-breaking 34 straight weeks en route to Roush Fenway Racing’s first-ever Cup title.

Kenseth and the team picked up where they left off, winning two of the first three races in 2004. Kenseth qualified for the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup and finished eighth in the final standings. In addition, he followed up his 2003 Cup title by capturing the prestigious International Race of Champions (IROC) title, winning two of the series’ four events.

The 2005 season is most remembered for the terrific surge that saw Kenseth charge from 24th in the points in mid-June – a staggering 320 points out of 10th – to clinching his second birth in the Chase for the Cup just 12 weeks later. During that stretch, the No. 17 DEWALT Ford led 626 laps, scored six top-five finishes and a victory to clinch a spot in the 10-car ‘playoff.’ The team would finish the season seventh.


Kenseth won four times in the Cup car in 2006, including back-to-back victories in August at Michigan and Bristol. He become the first driver since Dale Earnhardt to win back-to-back Bristol night races and he became one of only three drivers to make the Chase for the Cup in each of its first three seasons. Kenseth entered the 2006 10-race Chase ‘playoff’ atop the point standings and went on to finish second in the final standings; 56 points outside of first. Along the way he set career highs for top-five finishes (15), laps led (1,132) and average finish (9.8).

Kenseth would once again qualify for the Chase in 2007; making him only one of two drivers to accomplish the feat in the first four seasons of the format’s existence. He ran virtually the entire ‘regular’ season inside the top five, before hitting a string of tough luck early in the Chase. Still, the team responded with a string of five straight top-five finishes to end the season, culminating with a victory in the season finale at Homestead, which was long-time crew chief Robbie Reiser’s last atop the pit box. Kenseth finished the season fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings and his 624 laps led in the Chase were the most of any driver.

In 2008 Kenseth once again secured his place in the NASCAR Chase for the Cup, running to 20 top-10 finishes and an 11th-place finish in the point standings. He also made his 300th Cup start at Phoenix in April.

In 2009 Kenseth began the season with back-to-back victories, winning NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl - the Daytona 500 - and followed that up with a win the next week at California Speedway. However, the team would struggle down the stretch, narrowly missing the “Chase for the Cup” for the first time in its six-year existence. In fact, Kenseth became the first driver in Chase history to hold a qualifying position for the Chase each of the first 25 weeks of the season without qualifying for the Chase. In addition to the two wins, Kenseth earned his fourth career Cup pole, qualifying first at Darlington in May. He won his 25th Nationwide race at Darlington that same weekend and earned Nationwide poles at Richmond and Texas. Kenseth finished the season 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings.

The 2010 season began with a new primary sponsorship from Crown Royal for Kenseth on the No. 17 Ford.  Kenseth and his team were eager to turn their results around although the team started the season off with some strong results especially a second-place finish at Atlanta in March, by mid-season, the team was searching for better performance.  Kenseth and veteran crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, were reunited in late June and the pair was able to steer the team back into the fold.  Kenseth earned a berth in the Chase and found himself challenging for the win at Texas in November.  Kenseth and his Crown Royal Ford finished inside the top 10 in five of his final eight starts of 2010.  Kenseth finished the 2010 Sprint Cup season fifth in the driver point standings.

2011 once again found Kenseth paired up with Fennig on the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford as the pair was eager to pick up where they left off at the end of 2010.  Kenseth earned the pole at Last Vegas at the start of the season, and then went on to snap a 76-race winless streak at Texas earning the Crown Royal brand a Texas-sized win in April.  A month later, Kenseth and Fennig used pit strategy to their advantage to earn their second win of the season at Dover.  During the summer stretch, Kenseth and the No. 17 team earned several top-five finishes including two runner-up results at Michigan and Daytona.  After qualifying for the 2011 Chase, Kenseth earned his second pole of the season at Chicago and rounded out the season with a third pole at Phoenix in November, making it the most poles Kenseth has earned in any Sprint Cup Series season.  Kenseth’s third victory of the season came at Charlotte in October after a dominant performance by the No. 17 Ford.  Kenseth earned a total of three wins, 12 top five, and 20 top-ten finishes in 2011 and finished the season fourth in the driver point standings.

The 2012 Sprint Cup season found the pairing of Kenseth and Fennig as a team to be reckoned with. Kenseth dominated Daytona Speedweeks by winning his respective Gatorade Duel qualifying race before earning his second Daytona 500 Championship.  Despite some disappointing finishes in the first half of the season, Kenseth rebounded to lead the point standings for six weeks during mid-summer.  Kenseth earned the pole award at Daytona in July and finished up the season earning two trips to Victory Lane during the 2012 Chase at Talladega and Kansas.  2012 also saw Kenseth earn his career-best average start of 13.3 and his best average finish since 2006 of 11.1. Kenseth ended the year seventh in the point standings as he closed the chapter on his racing career with Roush Fenway Racing.

Kenseth turned what many viewed as a transition year with a new race team and new style of race car into a career-best season in 2013.   Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team showcased their strength on the race track with a series-best seven victories and challenged for the title until the very last race of the season.   Of his seven wins in 2013, four of them came at tracks where Kenseth had never won at in the Sprint Cup Series (Darlington, Kentucky, Chicago, and New Hampshire).  His 1,783 laps led and 8.1 average starting position were career bests.  Kenseth led the point standings for a total of seven weeks during the season and began his ninth appearance in the Chase as the top seed.  Kenseth finished second in the standings, just 19 points out of the lead, but remains hungry to chase the championship again in 2014.

​Career Highlights

2013

Finished second in series points, just 19 points out of first in his debut season with JGR

Earned a series-high seven victories, including the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Four of Kenseth’s seven wins came at tracks he had never won at previously in the Cup series: (Darlington, Kentucky, Chicago, and New Hampshire)

Won the pole three times (Kansas 1, Richmond 1 and Homestead)

Qualified for the Chase for the ninth time in the format’s 10 years of existence

Had the series’ best Driver Rating for 2013

Led the points for seven weeks, six of those during the Chase after starting as the Chase’s top seed

Earned a career-best laps led total of 1,783; more than his 2009-2012 seasons combined

Earned 12 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes

Recorded two Nationwide Series wins (Daytona 2 and Kansas 2)

2012

Finished seventh in series points

Opened season winning his Gatorade Duel race and second Daytona 500 in four years

Won pole at Daytona in July

Career-best average start of 13.3

Three wins for second consecutive season (Daytona, Talladega and Kansas)

Earned 13 top five and 19 top-ten finishes

Average finish of 11.1, which is his best since 2006

13 top-five finishes best since 2007

Completed 99.3 percent of laps attempted and led for a total of 480 laps

2011

Snapped a 76-race winless streak with a victory at Texas in April

Three victories for the season (Texas, Dover and Charlotte)

Earned a total of three poles (career high total for a season)

12 top-five finishes

20 top-10 finishes

Qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup finishing fourth in the points

Earned a Nationwide Series win at Charlotte in his only start of the season

2010

Six top-five finishes

15 top-10 finishes

Qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup finishing fifth in the points

Made 400th career Sprint Cup series start at Homestead in November

Finished runner-up twice for the season at both Atlanta (March) and Texas (November)

2009

Two wins (Daytona 500 and Fontana)

Posted seven top five and 12 top-10 finishes

Captured fourth career Cup pole in May at Darlington

Won his 25th career Nationwide Race in May at Darlington

2008

Nine top-five finishes

20 top-10 finishes

Qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup; one of only two drivers to do so each year of the  format’s existence

Made 300th career Sprint Cup series start at Phoenix in April

Scored 24th career Nationwide victory at Atlanta in March

2007

Two wins (Fontana, Homestead)

13 top-five finishes

22 top-10 finishes

Finished fourth in Cup championship point standings

Led 912 laps, the third most in his career

Became one of two drivers to qualify for the season-ending Chase in each of its first four seasons

Two Nationwide Series wins (Fontana, Texas)

Finished 10th in the Nationwide Series championship point standings, despite missing 11 events; his highest finish in the Nationwide Series since 1999

2006​​​​

Four wins (Fontana, Dover, Michigan, Bristol)

Career best, 15 top-five finishes

21 top-10 finishes

Career best, 9.8 average finish

Career best, 14.6 average start

Finished second in Sprint Cup championship point standings

Led career high 1132 laps

Won once (Daytona oval) and finished second in the IROC Series Championship

Three Nationwide Series wins (Bristol, Phoenix, Homestead)

Scored 18 top-10 finishes in 21 starts in the Nationwide Series

2005

One win (Bristol)

Won two poles (Bristol, Kansas)

12 top-five finishes

17 top-10 finishes

Finished seventh in Sprint Cup championship point standings

One Nationwide Series win (Darlington)

Scored 12 top-10 finishes in 15 starts in the Nationwide Series

2004

​Two wins (Rockingham, Las Vegas)

Eight top-five finishes

16 top-10 finishes

Finished eighth in Sprint Cup championship point standings

Won two of four IROC events and picked up IROC Series Championship

Three Nationwide Series wins (Texas, Loudon, Atlanta)

Scored 11 top-10 finishes in 16 starts in the Nationwide Series

2003

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, the final champion of the “Winston era”

One win (Las Vegas)

11 top-five finishes

Career best, 25 top-10 finishes

Two Nationwide Series wins (Fontana, Charlotte)

Scored nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts in the Nationwide Series

2002

Five wins (Rockingham, Texas, Michigan, Richmond, Phoenix)

Won one pole (Dover)

11 top-five finishes

19 top-10 finishes

No.17 DEWALT crew won World Pit Crew Competition (2nd consecutive year)

Finished eighth in Cup championship point standings

2001

Four top-five finishes

Nine top-10 finishes

No.17 DEWALT crew won World Pit Crew Competition

Finished 13th in Cup championship point standings

One Nationwide Series win (Bristol)

Scored 14 top-10 finishes in 23 starts in the Nationwide Series

2000

Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year

One win (Charlotte), 18th career start

Four top-five finishes

11 top-10 finishes

Finished 14th in Cup championship point standings

Four Nationwide Series wins (Daytona, Fontana, Dover, Charlotte)

Scored 17 top-10 finishes in 20 starts in the Nationwide Series

1999

Started five Cup races with Roush Racing and DEWALT

Four Nationwide Series wins (Darlington, Nazareth, Fontana, Bristol)

Two poles in Nationwide Series.

Finished third in Nationwide Series championship point standings

Partnered with DEWALT Industrial Tools in the Nationwide Series.

1998

Three Nationwide Series wins (Rockingham, Pikes Peak, Dover)

Scored 17 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes

Made Cup Series debut at Dover and finished sixth

Finished second in Nationwide Series championship point standings

1997

Joined Reiser Enterprises in April

Two third-place finishes in the Nationwide Series (Dover, Fontana)

Finished second in Nationwide Series (then Busch Series), Rookie of the Year race with only 21 starts

Finished second in ASA Series points prior to moving to Reiser Enterprises

1996

Made Nationwide Series debut at Charlotte in May

Finished third in the Hooters Pro Cup Series with one win