The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Kenseth Alone In World Dominated By Chevrolet by Matt Taliaferro -- Wednesday May 9, 2007

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Fanning the Flames: Kenseth Alone In World Dominated By Chevrolet

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday May 9, 2007

 

For reasons as varied as the ingredients in a Martinsville hot dog, the names Gordon, Johnson, Waltrip, Stewart and (of course) Earnhardt, Jr. have been at the forefront of the sport's weekly commentary. Gordon and Johnson are winning big; Waltrip is losing big; Stewart is too big for his britches; and Earnhardt, Jr.… Well, he's just Junior.

But there is one man flying under the radar while the tempest that is NASCAR's media, bloggers, and message boarders continues its rants on the topics du jour. Matt Kenseth, sitting quietly at third in the point standings, just keeps cruising along undeterred.

Now, I'm not going to go into a litany of Kenseth stats, as we all know the consistency of this team. I will say, however, that if not for Kyle Busch pushing a little too hard in the short chute at Daytona, Kenseth would have a Top 15 finish in every race this year. More impressive, he's doing it in a Ford Fusion!

Yes, the DeWalt team continues to prosper despite the shortcomings of its Ford brethren. Jack Roush has allowed Kenseth and crew chief Robbie Reiser to remain a duo since their hiring in 2000 after the two enjoyed a successful Busch stint together. When one realizes how quick Roush is to pull the trigger on crew chief / driver changes, it makes that fact all the more impressive. In his defense, his patience here has led to success time and time again, with one championship already in Kenseth’s trophy case back home.

So, give Hendrick the weekly trophies and let Junior and Stewart get the face time. Kenseth, with his 10-point trump card for the Chase — via his California win — sits patiently waiting, making he and Reiser the deadliest of predators. Stalking covertly, they allow their prey to get comfortable —cocky, even —and then strike when the time is right.

OK, enough Kenseth-love for the day; he's great and all, but I don't usually write more than five paragraphs on any given driver at a time. So, let's get to some questions. As always, I can be reached at matt.taliaferro@frontstretch.com with your questions, comments, or Kenseth-love.

Q: Hey Matt! Amid all the Tony Stewart, beer-throwing and Hendrick CoT domination stories, I haven't heard much on Junior's contract lately. I'm sure nothing huge has happened, otherwise we would have heard. I thought I'd ask anyway: Any new news? — Amy P.

A: Your question couldn't have come at a more pertinent time, Amy. I heard different reports from different sources last night (Wednesday the 9th), so as I'm writing this my head is still spinning as I attempt to make heads or tails of it.

While the popular scenario, first reported by Dave Moody on Sirius Speedway, has Junior and Martin Truex, Jr. moving into the JR Motorsports garage, another source informed me that was not the case at all; that Truex was likely staying at D.E.I. but Junior was indeed bolting, but has no intention of starting his own Cup team at JR Motorsports.

Wanna know the truth? Tune into SPEED at 11:00 EST today and find out. That's when Junior has a press conference scheduled to tell us his intent to leave D.E.I. Whether or not he tells us where he’s heading is another story.

Q: I was shocked to see that Matt Borland was let go at Michael Waltrip Racing. Whether he and Jarrett made a good pairing or not, he's a top-notch crew chief, and you just can't let those types walk. I think he is the one thing MWR had going for it. — Johnny H.

A: At a press conference in early December, Michael Waltrip introduced Matt Borland as Dale Jarrett's crew chief, saying, “Dale expressed his ideal crew chief was someone like Matt Borland (and) we were actually able to deliver Matt Borland.”

Seems the honeymoon was short-lived. Or non-existent.

I don't know, Johnny. This one surprised me as well because, like you, I thought the one thing this organization had going for it was Matt Borland. Unfortunately, when a sponsor is as unhappy as UPS must be, something big has to be done, and that does not include firing a driver who is reportedly making 10 million a season.

At this point, there does not appear to be any open spots among the big teams for a crew chief, but give it a month or so and Borland will resurface. Note to Ray Evernham: Get a deal ironed out with this man before he’s taken off the market by someone else.

Q: No “mystery debris cautions” Sunday. Satisfied? Guess you all won't have anything to bitch about this week. — Mark M.

A: Not until FOX is not only willing, but able to show every piece of debris responsible will I be satisfied. Besides, NASCAR doesn't have to engineer exciting finishes on a short track when the boys are driving cars so tight you could drop a lump of coal in the gas tank and pull a diamond out of the tail pipe.

With that, I’m out, folks. I hope you enjoy Darlington as much as I do.

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Recent articles from Matt Taliaferro:

Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
2009 Season Review: Tony Stewart
2009 Season Review: Ryan Newman
Fanning the Flames: Closing the Inbox on the 2009 Season
Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities