Matt Kenseth never lost it.
The 2003 Winston Cup Series champion hadn’t been in a race car since November in the NASCAR finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway but looked as sharp as ever in outdueling Ty Majeski to win the Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway in Wisconsin for a record-extending eighth time.
And it wasn’t just the what of Kenseth’s victory, as it was also the how.
A fourth-lap incident for Chandler Smith in the wall also coincided with Kenseth breaking a throttle linkage – sending the 47-year-old behind the wall. But caution laps do not count in the Slinger Nationals and Kenseth’s team was able to repair the issue and the No. 8 resumed the race at the tail-end of the field.
He methodically worked his way through the field and was running inside the top-three inside of 70 laps. He would remain there, immediately working his way to second on the restart after the halftime break and would ride behind a dominant Ty Majeski until a caution with 23 laps to go.
It was a shootout from there, Kenseth biding his time behind Majeski until the final lap. Kenseth forced Majeski into a mistake on the exit of Turn 2, the three-race ARCA winner slapping the backstretch wall, and Kenseth getting under and around the reigning race winner to cross the line uncontested.
It was a vintage performance from a vintage performer — and the only lap led by Kenseth all evening.
“We got really fortunate tonight, our strong suit was short runs, and Ty was incredible on a long run,” Kenseth said in Victory Lane as heard on the Speed51.com PPV. “He was half to three-quarter of a lap ahead of me, but he couldn’t get going as quick as we could. Just opened the door on that restart, I was just able to kind of hang in there, I just couldn’t finish a corner in three and four like I needed to.
“That was my biggest struggle. I kind of hung in there on the white flag and got to his door, I got off two and we were side-by-side, so I had to drive it in there and see what was going to happen in the last corner for the win.”
Majeski seemed poised to go back-to-back in the biggest short track race in the state of Wisconsin but simply got beat my one of the best.
“We had the dominant car on the long run (and) we were just way too tight,” Majeski told Speed51.com. “Matt was able to turn the center, and obviously when he’s hogging my bumper I’m doing everything I can to try to keep him back and I just didn’t have that front turn. I knew if he was within half a car length of me coming to the last lap that he was going to move me.
“He got position on me a couple laps before that and finished me off. That’s exactly what I would’ve done. Congrats to him. They had a great race car tonight and we’ll try to do better next time.”
And for those expecting to see Kenseth race again anytime soon, you likely missed your chance if you didn’t buy a ticket or watch the pay-per-view.
“I might just call it a season one-for-one,” Kenseth said. “But, yeah it’s been a while since I raced obviously. The competition part is probably what I miss the most and working with some of the teammates I got to work with over the years, the crew chiefs. So, it was fun to get here and work with these guys, get on the track and race against these great drivers. Of course, it’s fun to come home with a win.”
Kenseth and Majeski were not the only national stars racing in the event, but they were the only ones around for the finish. The top-five was a Wisconsin short trac racing all-star list.
National stars like Johnny Sauter, Bubba Pollard, Chandler Smith and Daniel Hemric had all manner of nights — but just not successful ones. Sauter and Hemric struggled throughout the afternoon and needed promoters provisionals to even make the main event.
Smuth crashed on the fourth lap of the race and Pollard went behind the wall on Lap 46 — a testament to both the experience and fortune needed to win the Slinger Nationals.
And in the end, it was the experience of a Cup Series champion and a Slinger legend that got the job done.
The results of the 2019 Slinger Nationals can be found below.
- Matt Kenseth
- Ty Majeski
- John DeAngelis
- Steve Apel
- Alex Prunty
- Rich Bickle
- Grant Griesbach
- Luke Fenhaus
- Daniel Hemric
- Ryan DeStefano
- JJ Mueller
- Chris Weinkauf
- Derek Kraus
- Nick Wagner
- Michael Bilderback
- Josh Brock
- Austin Nason
- Ryan Farrell
- Gary LaMonte
- Bubba Pollard
- Dennis Prunty
- RJ Braun
- Johnny Sauter
- Stephen Nasse
- Brad Keith
- Chandler Smith