DOVER, Del. — Fourteen years have passed since Matt Kenseth made his first Cup start at Dover, but Sept. 20, 1998 made an indelible impression on the 2003 series champion.
Kenseth was a last-minute substitute for Bill Elliott, whose father, George Elliott, had passed away that week. In fact, Kenseth was so last-minute that he had no fire suit matching the McDonald’s car Elliott fielded and drove at the time.
In a suit borrowed from one of his crewmen, Kenseth drove Elliott’s No. 94 to a sixth-place finish, the best result for a driver making his first Cup start since Rusty Wallace finished second in his debut at Atlanta in 1980.
“I was wearing one of the crew uniforms for my driver’s suit, with somebody else’s name on it and knee pads for changing tires,” Kenseth said. “McDonald’s gave me that suit and took the guy’s name off it and put it in a box.
“I’ve got it up at my place in Wisconsin. I put it in a glass case — pretty cool.”