Sharing the spotlight
His victories often overshadowed, Kenseth takes it in stride
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
It seems that throughout his NASCAR career, Matt Kenseth’s accomplishments have a way of getting overshadowed by other events.
In 2000, his rookie year in the series now known as Sprint Cup, he won the Coca-Cola 600 and rookie of the year honors, but most of the attention that year went to the driver who finished second in the rookie standings, one Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kenseth’s 2003 Cup championship is remembered more than anything for the way he won it – by dominating the points race for much of the season – and for what it brought about – the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Then Kenseth’s second Daytona 500 triumph had to share the headlines with the rain, which led to the first-ever postponement of the Daytona 500 and the first-ever Monday night race broadcast in prime-time, a spectacular jet dryer fire and Danica Patrick’s Sprint Cup debut.
Kenseth, who worked in a teleconference with the media around an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and other stops on a whirlwind media blitz, said he wasn’t surprised that his big night was somewhat overshadowed by other events.
“It seems like it goes like that quite a bit for me,” he said. “I’m not really in it for the recognition or credit or any of that stuff anyway.”
It is surprising to Kenseth and others in the performance-based environment of NASCAR that despite his solid credentials, on top of a clean-cut image, he does not have full sponsorship for this season. He has impressive long-term numbers, 22 Cup wins and 26 more in the Nationwide Series, and just last year he won three races and finished fourth in the Cup standings.
Still, he’s without sponsorship for more than half of the scheduled races this season.
“I think they have about 15 races sponsored,” he said of the sales staff at his Roush Fenway Racing team. “They still have some inventory they’re trying to sell. They give me some updates, but other than that I let the sales department do their thing, [and] I try to do our thing from a performance standpoint.”
He also said that even if he was more flashy, it might not make any difference.
“We could all dissect my personality or my looks or what I say, what I do, don’t say, don’t do,” he said. “But you can look at the opposite end of the spectrum. You can look at 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, who won the  Daytona 500. Everybody was doing back flips because he won the Daytona 500. They can’t get a sponsorship for him in Nationwide or Cup either.”
Bayne does have backing from Ford for a limited Cup schedule in the Wood Brothers Ford.
The sponsorship shortcoming could be mostly a factor of the economy. Another of Kenseth’s teammates, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won the Nationwide championship last year but is struggling for backing this year. And Roush has parked its one-time flagship No. 6 Ford because it isn’t sponsored.
Kenseth pointed out that for most of his career, sponsorship hasn’t been an issue, and he said that for now he doesn’t see any need to try to remold his image.
“Maybe there’s something I’m not doing right or saying right or whatever,” he said. “But I’ve been in the sport for quite a while. I’ve always just tried to be myself and never really change for anybody.
“I don’t think that’s really been a bad thing. I’m pretty much a face-value guy.”