CONCORD, N.C. – On Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth was honest when asked if he was nervous before taking his first laps in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I’ve been kind of nervous coming into this morning and walking to a different truck and a different team and all of that stuff,” Kenseth said. “Anyway, my last run I proceeded to go from second gear to first gear and over-revved the engine so they’re back there changing it. So, I think the guys are (not) in love with me right now.
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had every right to be nervous. It was the first time in his Sprint Cup career he has driven a race car owned by anyone besides Jack Roush.
Many, including Kenseth, thought the Wisconsin native would spend his entire career behind the wheel of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. But things changed when Kenseth, believing it was time for a change, accepted a contract with JGR.
Kenseth got a jumpstart on the 2013 season during the first day of Sprint Cup testing Tuesday at Charlotte, quickly getting up to speed with new teammate Denny Hamlin, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the rest of the JGR operation.
“I’ve got to be honest, it was probably the first time I’ve been nervous in a race car — getting in there and going out for the first time — in as long as I can remember,” Kenseth said. “It’s always exciting and you’re a little anxious when you go do something different. It’s been fun so far.
“I spent a lot of time with Jason here the last month or so and getting to know all of the guys a lot better — spending some time over there getting to know the technical guys and all of that a lot more. Like I said, it’s only noon on the first day, but I’ve been really impressed how organized they are and how they approach things.”
With the 2013 Daytona 500 only a few months away, Kenseth doesn’t have much time to get comfortable with his new team and the new style Sprint Cup cars. If the past is any indication, that won’t matter much to Kenseth.