As the days wound down on his NASCAR career last fall and Matt Kenseth cared less and less whether he climbed back into a premier-level stock car, he kept his mind open to doing “some things that would be fun to do.”
“Run some late-model stuff. Go up to Slinger,” he told the Journal Sentinel in October. “Go do some things like that.”
And, sure enough, that thought evolved into a full-fledged plan for the 2003 NASCAR champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner from Cambridge, Wisconsin. He’s not done racing.
Kenseth, 47, will return to Slinger Speedway in his home state to compete in the Slinger Nationals – the short-track special he has won seven times – on July 9, the track announced via Facebook.
“I can’t think of a better place for me to get back in a race car than Slinger,” Kenseth said in the announcement. “We’ve had a lot of success there, a lot of memorable moments, and I’m looking forward to going back.
“The Nationals have always been one of the major events in all of short-track racing. Certainly it was the one you wanted to win growing up in Wisconsin. Throughout the years, a lot of big names in NASCAR have raced in the Nationals. That’s a testament to how big of a race this has been for some time.”
The list of winners over the event’s 37 years includes NASCAR stars Alan Kulwicki (1981), Mark Martin (1984) and Kyle Busch (2011), national-level short-track standouts Dick Trickle (four times), Joe Shear (four times), Rich Bickle (four times), Bubba Pollard (2017) and Ty Majeski (2018).
Kenseth is the all-time leader with seven Slinger Nationals titles in the event’s 37-year history.
The most recent of those victories in 2016, though, came with some regret after he roughed up then-teammate Erik Jones, ending a full-contact battle between the two with a move that “was definitely uncalled for,” Kenseth said moments after the checkered flag.
Kenseth raced part-time in NASCAR least season after he was replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing by Jones.
The 2000 rookie of the year in what was then known as Winston Cup, Kenseth won 39 times in NASCAR’s premier division as well as 29 in what is now the Xfinity Series.