Ross Kenseth knows how much is riding on this weekend.
Competing in his first career Xfinity Series race, Kenseth hopes to do well enough that he’ll eventually have a second career Xfinity race.
For now, this weekend is a one-off start and race for the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran and 2003 champ Matt Kenseth.
The younger Kenseth was fairly respectable in the first of two Xfinity practices on Friday, recording the 13th fastest speed and amassing the fourth-most number of laps on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway.
But he did have a significant “oh boy, hold on!” moment.
With about 29 minutes left in the first practice session, Kenseth lost control of his Toyota Camry coming out of Turn 4 and appeared headed for disaster.
But his race car driving genes must have kicked in, as even though he lost the car, Kenseth didn’t hit anything – not the outside or inside retaining walls, nor the cars of his fellow competitors.
When his car stopped spinning, the only damage it suffered was a pair of flat tires.
“Got in the gas pretty hard off of (turn) four and started stepping out,” he said. “(It) got to the point I thought I had it and it got really loose and then from there it was hanging on, not trying to hit the wall or get into the grass and knock the front off it.”
While he understands the significance of this opportunity, at least the younger Kenseth — who was 14th-fastest in Friday evening’s second practice session — didn’t lose his sense of humor.
When he brought the car back to the garage, he trudged up to his dad – two days before Father’s Day, mind you – and was ready for a talking to.
“He asked if it was all out of my system or not,” Ross said with a laugh. “Hopefully, it is. I think you have to know where the edge is at and I got there, a little bit too far on the wrong side of that line.
“We were fighting free the whole session there and between that and getting used to these cars for the first time, getting used to this track for the first time – where the bumps are at and the line to be ran to get as much speed as possible – I think all that and I got a bad (turn) four there and went the wrong way and got free.
“We made quite a few changes for the next session to try to get rid of that feeling and a little bit more comfortable.”
Coming into Friday’s action, dear old dad Matt had a talk with his son about what to expect, as well as offered some fatherly advice.
“We talked quite a bit about different lines here and kind of what you’re going to feel through a tire run here and through practice versus the race in the cars,” Ross Kenseth said. “Kind of where and where not to be. It’s been really helpful and defining where the edge is at and to not go too far – what to do and not to do.”
While not wanting to put any undue pressure on himself, the younger Kenseth would love to have a strong finish as somewhat of a Father’s Day present to his dad.
“(Having him there has been) real helpful,” Ross Kenseth said. “He’s been real fast at a lot of these tracks and I think he’s one of the better ones at these mile-and-a-half tracks and that kind of racing.
“Having him there for questions and advice, that’s obviously a huge help and I feel like it’s going to get us up to speed in this session. Hopefully it goes as smooth as last weekend did (when he won his first career ARCA race at Michigan International Speedway.”