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Give Matt Kenseth a wide berth. He's not in a very good mood at the moment.....

  Matt Kenseth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   JOLIET, Ill.
   And over in the Ford camp it looks like things are boiling over.
   One of the season's big mysteries keeps getting deeper.
   Consider Matt Kenseth, who was not in a very good mood here Friday, to put it mildly:
   "If you ask me today, I don't feel like we are making gains. I feel like we are going backwards."
   Teammate Kasey Kahne has been leader-of-the-pack.
   "But," frets Kenseth, "the rest of us haven't improved very much, to be honest.
    "Everybody else probably says we are improving, but I don't see it."
    "I don't know what is going on, to be honest. I wish I had a better answer, I really do.
     "We have had a lot of things change over the last couple of years, but I just don't really know what the answer is right now.
    "I don't think any of us have the answer. We all have our different ideas and theories. The people running the place don't like mine, so we will just keep going the way we are going and hope it gets better.
    "They are doing things to try to move in the right direction and give us what we need to run better.
    "Today some of our cars (Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard) were really fast.
     "But I don't buy into practice, or even qualifying, that much. I have to see it on Saturday night. That will prove if we are headed in the right direction or not."
   For the 2004 Cup champion to be so down is unusual. And after all he's a solid seventh in the standings to make the playoffs. However he's just gotten another new crew chief, veteran Jimmy Fennig, replacing Todd Parrott, who earlier this year replaced Drew Blickensderfer.
   And last weekend's Daytona 400 was quite a disappointment for Kenseth.
   "To me there is a concern," he says about perhaps not making the playoff cut. "Last week we finished 15th -- but we wrecked...and everybody else had a bigger wreck. We could have easily finished 40th."
   And Kenseth didn't like the way things are shaping up for Saturday's 400 here: "It is frustrating to go out – at what I feel is one of my best tracks -- and run 38th in the first practice and 40th in the second.
    "That is very frustrating.
    "I don't feel we are a last-place team or I am a last-place driver.
     "The last two or three races we have been able to improve our cars (over the course of the weekend). There is hope we can make it better.
    "I would just like to see some better results so I can feel better about it."
    For years Kenseth and crew chief Robbie Reiser were bedrock solid as teammates. Then Reiser decided he wanted to spend less time on the road, so he took over as shop foreman. Since then Kenseth has at times seemed a bit lost.
     Two weeks ago Kenseth hinted that Reiser could have had the job back atop his pit box again but decided against it.
    Just how the two are getting along these days isn't clear.
    Reiser is considered one of the best mechanics in the business. Maybe he knows what changes need to be made to get Ford back on the winning track.
    Kenseth's take on Reiser: "I don't know...and to be honest with you, I don't think Robbie knows.
    "He runs the place day-to-day and figures out production schedules and everything. He is busy doing all of that stuff. It isn't that he isn't involved in the competition part....I just think it would be hard for him to say what is wrong since he isn't at the track as much."
    Curious answer...
    Certainly Kenseth can't be faulted for not running hard. In fact he's been somewhat aggravating to some of his rivals. He points to the Loudon race two weeks ago, and says "I was in the way and aggravating everybody by trying to stay on the lead lap. When you are in our spot and sliding back in points, that is what you have to do.
    "It was aggravating to them and to me. But we had to do that to keep where we were in the points to try to stay in the chase."

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I sure hope he gets it turned

I sure hope he gets it turned around in time for the race. There's lots of his hometown fans in the stands this week.
Speaking of hometown fans, did he mention the Slinger Nationals? Dick Trickle is the Grand Marshal this year. If you're coming up, Mike, let me know. I'd be honored to buy you a cool carbonated beverage of your choice.

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