Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Roush Fenway Ford Fusion, already knew Martinsville was not one of his stronger tracks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: having only two top-fives, and six top-10 finishes in 20 official starts.
Kenseth, who entered the weekend sitting only one point behind series leader Kevin Harvick, wasn’t about to let Martinsville extract the momentum he had built coming into the 2010 season.
Even though Kenseth started out 2009 by winning the first two races of the season, he finds himself in a lot better position with a more positive outlook. This can be attributed to a much needed crew chief change after the 2010 season opening Daytona 500.
After Kenseth failed to make the chase for the first time in his nine year career, crew chief Drew Blickensderfer was replaced by a more experienced Todd Parrott.
"We were just missing something on the team," Kenseth said. "I didn't feel the way we operated at Daytona that we could win races and win championships."
That something that was missing was the fire that Kenseth brought with him into the cup series back in 2001, when he and Dale Earnhardt Jr fought tooth and nail for the Rookie of the Year honors, with Kenseth proving that he had what it took to compete at this upper level of racing.
Earnhardt who had just come off of back-to-back to Busch Series championships, was easily the crowd favorite to become NASCAR’s next biggest superstar during a time when Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart had waged their own battle as to who would carry the torch into the 21st century.
Kenseth didn’t quit with the Rookie of the Year, but went on to win his first championship two years later in 2003, which prompted NASCAR to bring in the chase system because the governing body felt that a driver should not be rewarded a championship by only winning one race.
NASCAR went on to say the reason for the chase format was to raise the level of fan participation, which in turn would help the television ratings. It was obvious that was not the case when there were nine other drivers who had more wins, along with Ryan Newman who had eight wins of his own.
Kenseth continued to show the fans that his championship was well deserved, and that he had no intentions of allowing NASCAR to downplay it by bringing in the chase format the following season.
The No. 17 team would pick-up another nine victories leading into 2008, and it was at the end of the 2007 season when Kenseth would lose his long-time crew chief Robbie Reiser, who took over the position of general manager.
In 2008 Kenseth would go winless with Chip Bolin at the helm of the team, and he would finish a disappointing 11th in points.
The 2009 season was even worse when Kenseth failed to make the chase with Nationwide crew chief Drew Blickensderfer calling the shots, and now with Parrott this could be the year that Kenseth regains the fire that was lost when Reiser left.
Kenseth may not have had the finish he expected at Martinsville, but it was a good indicator to see him battle for a win while at the same time realizing when his mistakes could cost him a good finish.
"It was a dumb move on my part," Kenseth said. "I should have just finished third and collected some points and got one of our best finishes at Martinsville -- but I figured I'd go for the win, which, I guess in hindsight, was probably a mistake."
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