Matt Kenseth is still learning.
After 32 wins and one Sprint Cup championship, the 43-year-old driver is learning from his son, 22-year-old Ross Kenseth, who will make his Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
“I’ve been racing a really long time, but it’s true, you’re never to old to learn,” the elder Kenseth said in a teleconference Wednesday. “There are some things I’ve learned, some things that surprised me.”
Matt Kenseth was surprised by Ross when his son was about 15 years old and the two tested together for one of the first times.
“One of my best friends I grew up with was taking care of his car at the time … and we were standing there watching him,” Matt Kenseth recalled. “I was like ‘That thing is driving like it’s doing this and doing that, he should do this, he should do that.’ So then he came back in, and I went and drove it. Then I came back and said ‘Nevermind, everything he’s telling you is exactly right, just forget it.’ So I put my street clothes back on and didn’t drive it anymore.”
Matt Kenseth is beginning to learn that Ross needs less and less advice from his father. This was apparent as he watched his son win his first career ARCA race last weekend at Michigan International Speedway, driving for Ken Schrader.
“There was a lot of things I was thinking of to go help him with,” Kenseth said. “I was listening to him, what the car was doing, how it was. Only having a few laps on a track that big and that fast, I was pretty impressed by that. I realized he wasn’t going to need a lot of guidance from me last weekend.”
For Ross Kenseth, who started racing at the age of 5 in go-karts and snowmobiles, he’s learned from his father’s interactions with team members, especially after his move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I think even when they struggled a little bit, how involved he was, how close they get with the guys, I feel like over the years he’s had a lot of support from his teams, a lot of people believe in him,” Ross Kenseth said, noting he’s also learned to have patience while in the cockpit. “Especially with these longer races, if you get behind early, you have plenty of time. Make sure you keep your nose clean. It’s hard to get a good finish when you get something thrown up.”
Matt Kenseth is also learning what it’s like to watch a race from the pit box. That’s where he’ll be during Saturday’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 as Ross pilots his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.
“It will be weird to see somebody in there because I feel it’s my car,” Matt Kenseth said. “I haven’t been in the pit box very many times. Denny (Hamlin) has been out there a few times when he’s been hurt. Ross was up there last weekend during Michigan for a while.
“I kind of want to go up there and see kind of how (crew chief Michael Wheeler) and those guys go about it.”
Saturday’s race is Ross Kenseth’s only scheduled Xfinity Race so far, but he hopes he can just “be in the ballpark” with his competitors and it will lead to more rides in the future.
“Just be up to speed and be real competitive I think is what I was looking for going in,” Ross Kenseth said. “Hopefully if I can do my part and give good feedback to the guys, get the car better, we can be competitive, hopefully we can come out of there with a solid finish, whatever that may be.”