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Kenseth speedy showings have driver in good position to take home huge cash bonus

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, May. 16, 2013

Matt Kenseth has already won three races in the Sprint Cup Series this season, the best start of his NASCAR career.

His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, returns this week from a one-week suspension as the series moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Kenseth’s first career victory.

He has led 781 laps, more than any other driver this season. He has also won two poles and won the second-most money.

Is there anyone better positioned to win an extra $1 million this week in the Sprint All-Star Race?

With the speed Kenseth has had this season it likely isn’t a bad bet to pick him to win the extra $1 million put up by track owner Bruton Smith for leading all five segments in Saturday night’s race.

Qualifying for the All-Star Race, which features three laps and a four-tire pit stop, is 6 p.m. Friday.

Kenseth, however, has spent little time dwelling on this weekend’s potential big payoff.

“I’ve got to be real honest, I haven’t spent one ounce of time thinking about it yet with everything we’ve had going on,” Kenseth said after his win last weekend at Darlington. “I’ve put a little thought into Charlotte, but more the 600 I guess than the All-Star Race.

“It’s always fun to go there. It’s fun to get the team involved and do pit stops and do all that stuff and just go out there and have fun on Saturday night.”

The track has been good to Kenseth. He has two career wins at the track – the most recent in the fall of 2011 – and he is a previous winner of the all-star race. In 27 career starts, he has seven top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.

Kenseth’s victory last weekend combined with his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s successful appeal of an engine penalty has him third in the series standings, although no points are awarded this week.

Asked if he had any concern he was peaking too soon, Kenseth dismissed the idea.

“I think the goal of a race team and an organization is to never peak, I think it’s to continue to keep getting better,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve seen (at JGR) pretty much from day one.

“They’re not standing still. They’re always trying to build a better car. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is trying to build a better engine.

“We’re always working on the future.”

That future may well include a $2 million payday this weekend.

Utter: 704-358-5069

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