NASCAR at Phoenix 3 p.m. Sunday (Fox)

Kenseth’s strong Daytona start soothes disappointing ending

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 1, 2013 

— Matt Kenseth failed to finish the Daytona 500 and will head this weekend to Phoenix International Raceway, where he hasn’t finished better than 12th since 2010.

So why is he so happy?

Before Kenseth drove his No. 20 Toyota into the garage at Daytona with engine issues, he had led 86 of 149 laps and was well-positioned to earn his third win in the opener.

His recent performances at Phoenix not withstanding, Kenseth’s new home at Joe Gibbs Racing has him oozing with optimism.

“As disappointed as I am, it would be easy to be disappointed and throw my Gatorade at you or whatever,” Kenseth said after his day was cut short at Daytona.

“Man, there’s a lot to look forward to. I just can’t help sitting here thinking how thankful I am that they put this together for me and just can’t wait to get to Phoenix.”

That’s putting a pretty good face on a season that started with a 37th-place finish.

“Obviously, we have to work and make it to the end of these races – you can’t drop out and win championships,” Kenseth said of the engine problems. “I feel like we have a great package at Joe Gibbs Racing and these guys did an awesome job all winter.”

JGR is the second organization Kenseth has driven for during his Cup career, having spent his previous 14 seasons with Jack Roush. Together, they won 24 Cup races and the 2003 series championship.

There were lots of preseason predictions Kenseth would benefit greatly from his move, but the proof is in the results.

“I know we were sitting in the garage so everyone is going to thing we were bummed out and I am,” he said. “… I don’t think Speedweeks could have gone any better.”

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