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Matt Kenseth, Roush still a winning tandem

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2012

Matt Kenseth’s first Cup win came at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Roush Racing.

That win – in the Coca-Cola 600 – came more than 12 years ago.

This weekend, Kenseth, who will leave Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing next season, can bookend his tenure with the organization with a victory at Charlotte in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500.

Kenseth is in 12th place, 62 points behind Sprint Cup leader Brad Keselowski, in pursuit of his second series title, but he says he feels good about his chances at Charlotte. He won this race a year ago and is coming off a victory Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, his second win of the season.

“We’ve been working really hard, especially on our stuff for Charlotte and our intermediate track stuff,” said Kenseth, who has 23 Cup wins, all with team owner Jack Roush.

“Everyone at Roush Fenway was disappointed with our performance at Atlanta, Chicago and really Dover (Del.). They’ve been really on it working hard to make our stuff better.”

Kenseth, who announced this summer he would be joining Gibbs’ organization, said there has been no animosity over his impending departure.

“I think if we were running terrible or weren’t getting along, it would a difficult time right now, but everyone has been as good as gold to me – they’ve always been and they still are,” Kenseth said.

“They are giving us everything we need to try to win races and Sunday was proof of that. We’re working as hard as we can until the end of 2012 and it really says a lot about Roush Fenway’s integrity because they haven’t done anything any different since I’m leaving.”

Kenseth, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500, and teammate Greg Biffle qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup but have struggled since it started four weeks ago.

Sunday’s win was Kenseth’s first finish better than 14th since the Chase began.

“It’s really important for me to finish this thing off on a high note,” he said. “It would just break my heart if the thing was broken when I left, so I certainly didn’t want that. We had a really rough few weeks in the Chase with parts breaking and falling off and not getting good finishes and running good.

“Everybody was getting close to being at each other’s throats and things like that, so it’s important for me to really try to keep that whole unit as a cohesive, front-running, championship-contending unit.”

The next step will come Saturday at Charlotte, where Kenseth has two victories in 26 starts, plus a win in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

“Charlotte has been a pretty good track for us lately,” Kenseth said. “I’m looking forward to getting in there this weekend and seeing how our stuff performs compared to the competition.”

Roush, for one, hopes there are still more victories ahead.

“I hope (Talladega is) not the last race we win together, but it wasn’t my choice that we would end our relationship this year,” he said.

“But it is what it is and I’ll take what I can get between now and then and I’ll remember it with great pride and satisfaction.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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