Before Sunday, Matt Kenseth hadn’t been behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series car since the 2018 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell though, as the 48 year old Wisconsin native piloted the CreditOne Bank No. 42 Chevrolet to a 10th place finish in The Real Heroes 400, his first start for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Kenseth was brought in to replace Kyle Larson, who was fired on April 14th after using a racial slur during an iRacing event.
“Everyone on the team has worked extremely hard the last couple weeks to prepare for today, and I’m proud of what we accomplished today.” Kenseth said after the race per NBC.
“I learned a lot throughout the race about the way the car handles and reacts to different situations, and it was nice to really get acclimated to the Camaro and the team in a real racing environment. It’s always a good feeling to get a top- at a place like Darlington, but to have done it under these circumstances feels that much better. I still have some room to improve, but today shows all of us we have a lot to look forward to as the season continues.”
CGR teammate Kurt Busch, who finished third, also sang the praises of the 2003 Cup Series champion.
“When I got out of the car in the infield, they have an old school pylon of where the top-10 finishers are with their car number. There’s old Matt Kenseth, No. 42, finishing 10th. That’s what he will do every day, all racetracks. I mean, that’s Matt. That’s what he does.” Busch said in a post-race Zoom press conference.
“For him to balance out with Chad Johnston, Ganassi, everybody, first day out to get a top 10, that’s huge. That sets a big tone.”
Kenseth, who won the 2013 Bojangles’ Southern 500, will look to improve on his impressive finish as he will start 11th for the Toyota 500 on Wednesday night.