Matt Kenseth likes being himself. He doesn’t pursue the idea of being a “star." He’d rather hang with the guys (or the kids) and let others worry about the attachments that come with athletic superstardom.
He still looks and acts like the kid from Wisconsin who rolled into NASCAR racing a dozen years ago and eventually reached championship status.
“I don’t know if you’re supposed to be anything, but I just think everybody is different,” he said. “There are all different kinds of personalities in this sport, and I think that’s what makes it exciting. I don’t think you want everybody to be the same.
“Everybody has a different personality, and I think that shows through on the track and off the track, at the track and away from the track. I think everybody is different.”
Kenseth’s fans seem to appreciate the fact that he’s typically quiet and in the background, although he has a wickedly funny sense of humor that often doesn’t come out in public forums.
He also doesn’t like to go public with financial matters, particularly contract discussions he might be having with Roush Fenway Racing, his NASCAR home since 2000.
Asked about his contract status Thursday, Kenseth was adamant about not letting any renewal discussions become public. Carl Edwards, his teammate, found his contract talks very much a public thing last season before he renewed with Roush Fenway.
“I’d rather not talk about contract stuff,” he said. “I know some drivers like to get all that stuff out there, but I’ve done a pretty good job throughout my career of not having that ever be out there. I don’t think it’s ever been brought up or ever been a focal point and, honestly, I’d just rather keep it that way.
“You can ask Roush, and if they want to talk about it, they can, but I don’t really have a situation or anything. I have never really spent any time thinking about it, to be honest with you.”
Kenseth, who finished fourth in points last season, said he ran well over the closing weeks and figures he’ll have a shot at a second championship this year.
“I’m trying to word this the right way, but I think we performed better than Carl [who finished second in points] down the stretch; we really did,” he said. “I think most races we ran better than him. At Homestead, he was a tick better than us. We weren’t as good as Tony (champion Tony Stewart), so we still need to get better, but I thought our performance was pretty good down the stretch.
“If we can build on that and make it a little bit better, and I can do a better job behind the wheel, I think we’re capable.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.