Ross Kenseth Working Toward NASCAR


He is signed on to compete in his first dirt race Sept. 27-28 at Chilton Speedway in Chilton, Wis., about an hour south of Green Bay. Chilton is a quarter-mile dirt track and it is hosting the Fall Invitational, which is an event that expects to have about 300 cars spread across eight divisions.

Kenseth will compete in a late model normally run by Brad “JJ” Mueller, a close friend.

“I look forward to every race,” Kenseth said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and something new for me.”

Mueller is a three-time super late model track champion at Slinger Superspeedway and is a champion in the late model division at the Plymouth Dirt Track, about an hour north of Milwaukee. Mueller is leading the points this year as the track heads into its final points night this weekend. It’d be Mueller’s second championship in three years. He lost the 2012 title by one point.

“I figure before Ross gets away from all of us and he’s down south for good, I thought I’d be that guy to give him an opportunity to drive a dirt car,” Mueller said Sunday after Slinger’s regular weekend program. “I think he’s very talented and I think he’ll do really well in the car.”

Earlier this summer, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competed at Eldora Speedway, a dirt track in Ohio, with the Mudsummer Classic. Austin Dillon won the race, an event that got a lot of praise.

“I’ve really wanted to try a dirt track for the past four or five years and when Brad approached me with this opportunity didn’t have to think twice,” Kenseth said. “I have wide open expectations for how the race will go, but I’m excited to give it a shot and have some fun.”

Mueller said it’ll be a challenge, but one Kenseth can handle.

“In a dirt late model, you’ve got a 2,300-pound car that makes 800 horsepower,” Mueller said. “They’re amazing. His eye balls are going to open up.

“The first time I jumped in one, my heart pounded like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a completely different feel from what he drives now.”

Kenseth’s victory at Winchester was what opened Mueller’s eyes.

“You just don’t go to Winchester and win,” Mueller said. “That place is absolutely amazing and fast. I raced an ARCA there back in the late ’90s and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve never driven on anything like this in my entire life.’

“For him to go there on his first time and win is awesome.”

Mueller believes Kenseth has a future in auto racing because of his demeanor.

“He holds himself real well; he’s comical,” Mueller said. “He doesn’t have any young kid arrogance about him.”

Mueller also admires how Matt Kenseth is bringing his son up through the ranks.

“Matt’s making him work for it, which is more appreciative than anything,” Mueller said. “Yes. He’s got great opportunities. But most dads would rush their kids into a (NASCAR Nationwide) car.”

With a full school schedule, including classes and homework, learning how to race on dirt will have to be done on the fly.

“Besides getting seat time and going to race track, there’s nothing I can really do,” Kenseth said.

Mueller will make one promise to Kenseth: “I think he’ll have an absolute ball.”

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Nicholas Dettmann
Nicholas Dettmann is a journalist based in West Bend, Wis. He's won more than 30 writing awards and has covered auto racing at all levels — and surfaces — for nearly a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @dettmann_wbdn.