FORT WORTH, Texas (Feb. 29, 2012) - Freshly crowned Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth, less than 18 hours removed from taking the checkered flag in NASCAR's season-opening race and running on just two hours of sleep, made his first public appearance with a visit to Dallas as part of NASCAR's cross-country tour with the champ. Kenseth stopped by the American Airlines Center on Tuesday evening to pay a visit to another champion, the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, as he sat courtside with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage for the Mavs contest with the New Jersey Nets.
Kenseth was greeted by Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle as the two visited prior to tipoff. Carlisle presented Kenseth with a special gift, an autographed Dallas Mavericks basketball and he returned the favor by giving Carlisle a signed Daytona 500 cap.
"I do enjoy sports," Kenseth said. "I'm more of a casual sports fan outside of following the Green Bay Packers. I have two little girls at home. One of them just turned one and the other one is two-and-a-half so it's pretty hard to watch sports around the house. It's more of Elmo and Dora and all that kind of fun stuff. So it's hard to find time for a lot of it but I am going to follow the Mavs much more closely after this."
The new Daytona 500 champ also found time to visit with winners of Texas Motor Speedway's "Night of Champions" promotion. Eighteen fans, along with a guest, were treated to a VIP experience with seats in a luxury suite for the game and a meet-and-greet with Kenseth.
Kenseth earned his second Daytona 500 victory - his first coming in 2009 - in one of the most unusual races in the 54-year history of the event. The race was delayed nearly 30 hours from its original start time, as persistent rain forced NASCAR officials to postpone the race from its original start time of 12:29 p.m. CT Sunday to 6 p.m. CT Monday. It marked the first time that rain forced postponement of the event and marked the first ever primetime NASCAR race held during the week.
"The Daytona 500 is such a unique race," Kenseth said. "If you look through all of history and not just the last 10 years, anything can happen in that race. It's produced a lot of different winners and a lot of crazy races. It's pretty special to win one, but it's really special to win two of them."
Just about anything did happen in the Daytona 500 when racing finally got underway. A caution just two laps into the race dashed the chances of five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and highly-touted rookie Danica Patrick, as the three drivers were collected in a six-car accident.
As the race began to wind down, a bizarre accident on Lap 160 resulted in a 2-hour, five-minute red flag when Juan Pablo Montoya slid into a jet dryer under caution sending both vehicles bursting into flames. NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway officials worked tirelessly to clean up the fuel and debris left by the wreck.
"When you watch all the movies and stuff blows up and people run into cars, I always thought that was just Hollywood but I guess it's not," Kenseth said. "I guess stuff does blow up when you run into something hot with 200 gallons of fuel in it.
"That break in the middle of the race is tough, especially two hours. The first half hour was kind of fun, you got to get out and stretch your legs and take a break. After about an hour I was like, 'Okay, that's enough.' I'm getting hungry, I'm getting tired.' The last hour was starting to get kind of aggravating. It kind of made it tougher to keep your focus. When you get belted back in and the engines get going you pretty much get focused."
Kenseth is prepared for his next visit to Dallas/Fort Worth when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns for the Samsung Mobile 500 on Saturday, April 14. He returns as the defending champion of the event. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' two annual stops - Samsung Mobile 500 and AAA Texas 500 - are always circled on his calendar.
"It's always ones I look forward to," Kenseth said. "Texas is really one of our best race tracks statistically of any of the race tracks we compete on."
Click here for ticket information for the Samsung Mobile 500 or call the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500.