Dover speedway is Kenseth’s ‘favorite track’

 

Matt Kenseth threw out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies-Nationals game on Wednesday. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Matt Kenseth threw out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies-Nationals game on Wednesday. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — Matt Kenseth found himself gripping a baseball last Wednesday for the first time in two years.

The NASCAR driver visited Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies-Nationals game and was scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

Kenseth was feeling confident in his throwing ability after some warmups in the parking lot and batting cages. But he had to hear some good-natured ribbing from some players before he took the mound.

“I was a little nervous when people kept telling me don’t bounce it,” joked Kenseth.

Everything turned out fine though. Kenseth got his pitch over, Phillies’ first baseman Tommy Joseph was catching and caught it on the inside corner.

There was one slight change for Kenseth. His Phillie jersey was No. 16 instead of 20 for his car number. Kenseth wasn’t allowed to wear 20 since it is retired for Phillies’ great Mike Schmidt.

Kenseth’s trip to Philadelphia comes about a month before NASCAR returns to Dover International Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 2 for the Citizen Soldier 400.

The last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit was in Dover, Kenseth ended up in Victory Lane. Kenseth survived a huge crash on a late restart then held off hard-charging runs from Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in one of the closest finishes at the track in years.

“That race had a little bit of everything in it,” Kenseth said. “The end, our car was real loose and Kyle and Chase were both faster, but they got caught racing each other and we were able to hang on for the win. It was definitely an intense finish.”

Dover was actually the track where Kenseth made his debut in NASCAR’s top level series. In 1998, he filled in for Bill Elliott and drove Elliott’s car to a sixth-place finish.

Ever since then, Kenseth has had a soft spot in his heart for the Monster Mile.

“It’s always been my favorite track,” Kenseth said. “I’ve always liked it because it’s so unique. There’s nothing else really like it on the circuit. That makes it fun. It’s so fast, it’s one of the few tracks that you can really attack all the time and it’s not forgiving at all.”

That Dover-win back in May gave Kenseth a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins after two more races.

The 44-year-old has a pair of victories in 2016 and has recorded 10 top-10s. While he is usually a contender in the Chase, Kenseth hasn’t won a championship since his 2003 season, the year before the advent of the playoff system.

One of the older drivers in NASCAR, Kenseth said retirement hasn’t crossed his mind yet as drivers from his generation like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are beginning to walk away from the sport.

“I really haven’t put a ton of thought into it,” Kenseth said. “I realize that there’s more years behind me in racing than there is in front of me. But I feel great, I feel like we’re running good and I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t have any plans to quit anytime soon.”

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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