OREGON, Wis. – Ross Kenseth didn’t get the result he was hoping for, but Sunday’s debut in the ARCA Racing Series was a major step toward the ultimate goal: the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
And, in another month, he’ll look to make another one, on a dirt track.
Kenseth, the 20-year-old son of 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, finished sixth in his debut with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards at Madison Int’l Speedway. He was the fastest in qualifying and led the first 51 laps of the race.
However, a miscalculated adjustment may have cost him the race and that left him visibly frustrated sitting on the pit wall afterward.
On the race’s first caution on lap 51, Kenseth, the race leader at the time, changed two tires, which was required for the event. Then, just before the restart, Kenseth came back into the pits and made a track bar adjustment. He made his car become a handful the rest of the day.
“It was 100 percent my fault for working on the car,” Kenseth said. “We had the best car and ran the best times. We probably could’ve come out of here with a win, and anything short of that would have been disappointing.”
Fifteen-year-old Kyle Benjamin won the race for his first career victory.
Kenseth drove for Ken Schrader, who earlier this year became the series’ oldest winner at age 57. Kenseth was sponsored by his long-time supporter, Blain’s Farm and Fleet, a local company which is headquartered about 30 miles from the track.
Right now, he doesn’t know if he’ll get another opportunity to race with the ARCA Racing Series.
Frank Kimmel, the nine-time series champion, believes Kenseth won’t have to wait long for his next chance.
“I wasn’t really around him a whole lot today,” Kimmel said. “But I’ve seen him in his late model and he’s a smart racer, just like his dad. He’s a good racer. He’ll be fine.
“He’s got the right last name. I can see (NASCAR) happening someday.”
Kenseth made his late model debut in 2007 at 151 Speedway in Columbus, Wis., which is about 20 miles northeast of Madison. In 2008, Kenseth won his first late model race at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells and added five more victories that season.
In 2009, he won the Big 8 Late Model Series championship, winning a series-best five features. In 2010, he claimed the ASA Midwest Tour (now ARCA Midwest Tour) Rookie of the Year. He won eight races that season in a late model.
In 2012, he won the All-American 400 in Nashville, the Winchester 400 in Indiana and the Red Bud 300 in Anderson, Ind. He and short-track legend Butch Miller are the only drivers to win the Winchester 400 and the All-American 400 in consecutive weekends.
“He’s a great race car driver,” Kimmel said. “I think these cars have so much more horsepower than what he’s used to. He did a hell of a job. He was one of the guys to beat and that was what we expected. It was a pretty cool day for him, I’m sure. Next time I’m sure he’ll do better.”
The big event up next on the young Kenseth’s schedule is school.
Kenseth is going into his third year at Clemson University in South Carolina, where he is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
In the middle of classes and homework, the budding star plans to get dirty.