On Father’s Day weekend in the Kenseth family – everyone wins.
Son Ross Kenseth intends to give his father something only an aspiring racing prodigy can deliver, and father Matt Kenseth prepares to hand over the wheels of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in an epic father-son moment. The duo hopes to celebrate in a big way as Ross makes his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Coming fresh off his first career ARCA win last Friday in Michigan – in only his third ARCA start – the 22-year-old is eager to hit the track in Saturday night’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 (9:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) with his dad standing by on the pit box.
“Having my dad there that weekend will be a big help for me,” Ross said. “I’ve been looking forward to getting to this weekend now ever since we announced it at Bristol. The closer it gets, the more real it feels and the more excited I get to go there this weekend.”
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series off for the second weekend of the season, Ross will drive the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota – the same paint scheme his father uses in Sprint Cup.
“It’s going to be neat to see him in that car,” Matt said in a teleconference Wednesday. “I know Ross can do a good job and I can’t wait to be part of that.”
Despite the extensive and award-filled racing history of the NASCAR superstar, Matt admitted to a mutual teach-and-be-taught relationship with his son, starting when Ross was just 15 and the two tested together for the first time.
“He really does know what he’s talking about,” Matt said. “I remember because I was thinking I was going to get in there and go a lot faster, and he was telling them the wrong thing. But he was spot-on.”
Matt is learning his son needs less fatherly advice as he continues to progress in his racing career, particularly after watching him capture his first career ARCA win last Saturday.
“Last weekend, I listening to his feedback in the ARCA car, and there was a lot of things I was thinking of to go help him with, try to tell him,” said Matt. “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.”
Matt said there are certain things you can only learn by doing them, and Ross started learning early at the age of 5, racing in go-karts and snowmobiles, before advancing to legends cars and late models – all the while watching his dad race in the XFINITY Series and now Sprint Cup. He said he’s taken away valuable lessons from his father’s interactions with team members, especially after his move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing two-plus years ago.
“There’s a lot of things from the way he interacts with his team, from moving to different teams,” Ross said. “I think even when they struggled a little bit, how involved he was, how close he gets 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. … I feel like he’s one of the more than underrated drivers. You can go to the races and they won’t say a whole lot about him, but at the end of the day he’ll end up in the top five after running in the middle of the pack some days.”
Matt echoed this support, speaking very highly of the backing Dollar General has provided for him and Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I can’t say enough about them guys picking up this race for Ross to be able to get his first-ever NASCAR start, his first XFINITY start, and to be driving the Dollar General car,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
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