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Three in a row? Now that would be history. But Matt Kenseth is keeping his cool about it all


Daytona, California, Las Vegas: Can Matt Kenseth go 3-for-3? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   The man in the gray flannel driving suit?
   That would be Mr. All-Business, Matt Kenseth….who seems a bit nonplussed about his bid to make some NASCAR history here Sunday – a win in the Shelby 427 would be his third-straight on the Sprint Cup tour, and nobody's opened the season with three in a row.
    "I haven't really thought a whole bunch about it, to be honest with you," Kenseth insists. 
    Well, the opening weeks of the NASCAR season are always such a whirlwind anyway, he's probably right.
    After such a disappointing 2008, "I didn't think we would have won the first two races…so I haven't really thought about the third," Kenseth says. "We're just going to take it one race at a time."
    Kenseth is one of those remarkably efficient NASCAR 'machine' drivers who typically cranks out solid, stealthy runs, and if he's in contention at the end it's like 'Where did he come from?'
   But that's Kenseth's trademark….along with a low-keyed personality that may take a beating if he does win Sunday afternoon. After all NASCAR's marketing machines need some punch this season.
    With Kenseth starting so deep in the field, after a surprisingly slow qualifying run, it's hard to figure out just what might happen here.
   But then it's been that kind of season already: He started 39th at Daytona and won, and he started 24th at California and won.
   Still, overcoming weak qualifying runs, over the long term, is a dicey venture.
   Nevertheless, car owner Jack Roush has won more than half of the 11 Cup events here since this 1-1/2-mile track opened, and Kenseth has two wins here, and four top-fives….though last year's tangle with Jeff Gordon hurt those averages.  
    This is a Kenseth kind of track: "It's fun…it's high-banked…it's real fast.
    "And it's got some pretty big bumps, which makes it challenging."
    And there are typically some tires issues to ponder too.
    Two straight wins?
    "In a way it doesn't seem real that we won the first two races," Kenseth says.
    "We've been really busy, had a lot going on the last two weeks. So I haven't had a lot of time to sit and reflect.
    "I haven't even watched the races on tape yet. Just haven't had time to, to be honest."
   In a sense Kenseth is on such a roll because he's not making mistakes…and many of his top rivals are, including teammate Greg Biffle, still miffed over that last pit stop last Sunday.
    Kenseth's ace – his pit crew. It's been that way for years. Kenseth's crew, going back to Robbie Reiser's reign, has been renown for the fastest pit work in NASCAR. And the crew put Kenseth in position to win at California.
   "The pit crew has been operating at a super-high level," Kenseth says.
   "Obviously pit stops -- and getting track position -- was the huge key to victory."
   With this new winged car, clean air means more than ever, it seems. 
   "You really need to be in front," Kenseth agrees. "And beating Jeff Gordon out of the pits at the end was very important. 
    "If he had beaten us out, I'm not so sure we would have won.  He probably would have drove away.
   "It's just really important to be in the front with these cars -- They don't have much downforce, and they're always pretty tight. And when you get behind somebody it makes it a lot worse."
   A win Sunday?
   "It took us a whole year to win a race, so everything has got to line up just right," Kenseth said, not putting pressure on himself and his team.
   "We're not going to approach this any different than any other week…or really even think about that.
    "If it happened, that would be pretty wild. But we're just going to concentrate on business as usual."
    But starting so far back?
   "In practice we don't race the speed chart," Kenseth says. "We go more for the feel we're looking for, and consistent lap times.
   "I don't really pay a lot of attention to practice speeds. 
    "If we have the car driving how we want it to drive, and have the balance where we want it, if you're a little off on lap times but you've got it driving where it feels good….we look for that feel."



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