2013 Daytona 500: Matt Kenseth explains his Daytona 500 strategy

Todd Warshaw

Matt Kenseth has a rather straightforward plan to become just the fourth driver in history to win the Daytona 500 in consecutive years.

If there is a driver who knows a thing or two about what it takes to win the Daytona 500 it would be last year's champion, Matt Kenseth, who also won the race in 2009.

However, Kenseth's key to victory isn't exactly profound.

"The first thing is you want to have a fast car," Kenseth said this week at Daytona International Speedway.

Having a fast car certainly helps, but with the number of variables in play, it takes more than just sheer speed to win at Daytona.

Because of the volatility that is restrictor-plate racing, one of the biggest obstacles a driver must navigate around is the chaos that inevitably ensues. This challenge, Kenseth explained is easier said than done, as a driver is often at the mercy of what's going around them.

"There's a lot of things that happen that are totally out of your control -- get caught up in an accident, be all the way in the front and get caught up," he said. "Everyone has a different strategy, everybody has a different idea and that's why you see some people riding in the back and some people trying to wait."

One idea to try and avoid the "Big One" is to ride around in the back and work your way to the front after the field is pared down considerably. This is a strategy that Kenseth used to employ. But he grew "tired" of that game-plan and decided to treat restrictor-plate racing as he would any other form and as he says, "just decided to go race as hard as you can the whole race."

And judging by the success Kenseth has had in plate races within the last year, it's an approach that it hard to question. In the four races in 2012 at Daytona and Talladega, the newest driver for Joe Gibbs Racing racked up two victories to go along with a pair of third-place finishes.

That success accompanied with the speed he showed in Saturday's Sprint Unlimited, where he led 26 laps, and Thursday's Budweiser Duels has placed Kenseth as one of the drivers to beat in the Daytona 500.

And if Kenseth can win the 500 in back-to-back years, he will join a very select group that includes Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Sterling Marlin as the only drivers who have won the Daytona 500 in consecutive seasons.

That possibility, however, isn't something Kenseth has thought too much about. Instead, he just relishes the fact that he has won the 500 once, let alone twice -- while at the same time keeping everything in perspective.

"Winning the Daytona 500 is certainly -- for a kid that grows up dreaming about stock car racing -- is the greatest achievement as far as a single event win I think you can have as a stock car racer," Kenseth said. "I can't even say it was a goal to win one, because I never dreamed I would compete in one.

"It doesn't mean anything for today or Sunday or going forward really, but it was great to win those."

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