TMS Media Relations | Sep 10, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas (Sept. 10, 2014) – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Matt Kenseth is accustomed to loud, appreciative fans every time he visits Texas Motor Speedway, just not in September.
Kenseth helped transform a tranquil and idle Wednesday at the world-class motorsports facility into a thunderous Chase send-off with more than 3,000 local elementary students on hand for the official 2014-15 kickoff of Texas Motor Speedway’s Speeding To Read program. The frontstretch grandstands were alive in a sea of colors and littered with numerous hand-made signs by the students wishing Kenseth good luck in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that kicks off this weekend.
Kenseth was visiting as part of the 16-driver, 16-city NASCAR “Chase Across North America,” promotional tour and served as the special guest for the seven schools competing this year in the educational program created by Texas Motor Speedway to encourage elementary school (K-5) children to read more frequently. The schools competing in Speeding To Read this year represent four school districts and consist of defending champion Roanoke, J.C. Thompson (Haslet), Nance (Fort Worth) of the Northwest ISD, Riverside Applied Learning Center (Fort Worth) and Carroll Peak (Fort Worth) of Fort Worth ISD, E.P. Rayzor (Argyle/Lantana) of the Denton ISD and Eagle Mountain Elementary (Fort Worth) of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD.
The throng of students was treated to a simulated 10-lap, stock-car race by the Team Texas Driving Experience that featured school administrators riding shotgun followed by the visit by the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ. Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, deftly fielded a dozen wide-ranging questions from students on stage and thanked each by providing them with an autographed TMS hat and group photo as mementos.
The event was a natural fit for Kenseth, who just two weeks ago debuted Matt Kenseth’s Race Against Bullying children’s book aimed at educating and empowering children to make good choices if faced with bullying situations. The four-book series, created by Kenseth and his wife Katie, is being produced in partnership with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
Kenseth and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation received a huge roar of approval from students and faculty when he announced that the foundation was donating $1,000 and a case of 80 children’s books, including 10 copies of Kenseth’s new book, to each of the seven schools competing in “Speeding To Read.” Since the program began with a one-school pilot program in 2011-12, Speeding To Read has reached more than 8,600 students that have combined to read more than 1.3 million books heading into this year.
“The Speeding to Read program is pretty cool, I’ve been learning about it. Reading is important to me and Dollar General and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. It was cool to be part of the event and that was generous of them (DGLF),” said Kenseth, an avid reader who also has three young children. “Education is obviously important. It has always been important, but I think it’s really important in the society that we live in with things so technologically driven. It’s easy today with all the advances in technology to not take time and actually grab a book and read when you can play a video game or do something else. It’s cool to see all the kids come out here, all the kids being excited about reading and trying to win for their respective schools. It’s fun to see all that excitement.”
The excitement for Kenseth begins this week as the reformatted, elimination-style Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opens with Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway (ESPN, Noon CT).
“It’s a really unique format,” Kenseth said. “I’m really curious to see how it all works out. It should be interesting. I hope that we can win Chicago so the pressure is not on us and we can go race the next couple weeks and get ready for the next one. It’s going to be exciting. Obviously, it is your goal to go to Homestead to be in one of those four cars with a shot. I hope we can do that, but you’ve got to get through it one round at a time.”
Kenseth returns to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 2, for the AAA Texas 500, the eighth race in the 10-event Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The AAA Texas 500 is now part of the three-race Eliminator segment, which opens in Martinsville (Va.), shifts to Texas and then on to Phoenix. The field will be trimmed from eight to four contenders after this three-race segment and that foursome will go head-to-head at the Nov. 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to determine the Sprint Cup Series champion.
Should Kenseth, seeded 14th in the 16-driver Chase field but annually a contender, advance to the Eliminator round, Texas Motor Speedway could be pivotal to his hopes of pursuing another series title. He has two victories (2002, spring of ‘11), ranks first with a career finishing average of 8.3, and ranks first in career top-five finishes (13 in 23 starts) and tied for the top spot with Jimmie Johnson for career top-10 finishes (16).
“It’s funny how things change,” said Kenseth, who joined Joe Gibbs Racing last year after previously spending his entire career at Roush Fenway Racing. “Before I came to Joe Gibbs Racing, there were a few tracks where I felt were terrible tracks for me and some tracks that were way better. This was one that was one of my best.
“When I went over there some of the tracks I thought were my worst and I was really bad at ended up being some of my best tracks, New Hampshire and Martinsville. This one hasn’t been that great for us for some reason, I don’t know why. I haven’t really put my finger on it. We keep working harder at it. I feel like we are gaining on it a little bit, but it has been a little bit of a struggle. I always have confidence coming here. It’s always been a great track and enjoyed racing here.”
Tickets for the AAA Texas 500, beginning as low as $30 for adults and $10 for children, are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500.
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