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Jack Roush's gang is kicking butt as the NASCAR season opens, and when cool Matt Kenseth gets hot, well, better watch out!


Two-for-two winner Matt Kenseth douses car owner Jack Roush in California's victory lane (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   FONTANA, Calif.
   Whew! Matt Kenseth is back with a bang, and car owner Jack Roush says Kenseth reminds him of legendary David Pearson, who never really let anyone know just how strong he might be until it was crunch-time in the race itself.
   "I was really worried about how strong those Hendrick cars looked in practice," Ford's Roush admitted, referring to Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and other Chevy rivals.
   But down the stretch most of those Chevys either faded or had trouble, as happened at Daytona too.
   And Kenseth won going away Sunday night here at California's Auto Club Speedway.
   So Kenseth has now added the California 500 to the Daytona 500 in the year's first two weeks, and the 2003 NASCAR tour champ looks primed to once again to challenge for a championship.
   "It is pretty unbelievable to win the first two races," Kenseth said, almost stunned by his start to the year.
   "Nothing will beat winning the Daytona 500…but in a way this win feels even better, because tracks like this make up the bulk of the tour, and these are places you have to run well out if you want to contend for the title."
   And Gordon, strong also at Daytona, and a driver who could just as easily be two-for-two this month himself, appears ready to battle for a title too.
   "I really thought Jeff was going to pass us," Kenseth conceded of their torrid stretch duel, far ahead of any rivals.  "Once earlier he just rolled right by me and pulled off.
   "I thought we were going to be too loose at the end and he was going to get by me. But I guess they made Jeff's car just a little too tight."
   "Drew has brought magic to the team," Roush says of new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. "We had all the ingredients…we just needed someone to provide that magic.
   "Now we've got the Drew Factor."
   Kenseth of course isn't the only bullet in Roush's gun, and Roush says he expects a lot from teammates Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan.
   "Winning Daytona caught me totally off-guard, by surprise," Roush said. "But certainly I've been thinking we're going to be a factor on the tour this season, up till Martinsville at least. And we might even have something for Martinsville."
   The win was Kenseth's 18th since joining the tour full-time, and it was his third win here.
   Edwards clearly wasn't happy with his night: "They made a good job of making it better from Saturday, when it was terrible -- it was about 25th place.
   "So this is a good finish for us. It's not what we wanted but it's okay."
   And it certainly wasn't a finish that teammate Biffle wanted, with a bad final pit stop: "I just screwed it up. Trying to get greedy.
   "It was so hard to pass…and I was hoping to beat Jeff out, and I was trying to give my guys every advantage I could.
    "I stopped in the box; I wasn't out of the box, but the guy pulled the air hose around -- and we had this problem before: It's just me stopping too deep in the box and caught them off-guard and ran over the hose.
    "They didn't do anything wrong. It was my fault."
   Though he gave away this race, Biffle says he's confident he's got hot iron right now: "They're in trouble, if this is the kind of car I'm going to have all year.
    "This thing was fast. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
  "I don't know how I'm going to sleep — I'm just sick to my stomach.
    "It almost brings tears to my eyes to know I let the guys down like I did.
   "But they know we can win at Las Vegas.
    "I'm just mad because I made a mistake."


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