The 2016 NASCAR season will be here soon, and Athlon Sports is helping you prep for the season with a scouting report and fantasy preview for each of the top 16 drivers. The Athlon Sports 2016 Racing Preview, available on newsstands now, includes previews and stats for every driver and every track.
Matt Kenseth checks in at No. 5 in our countdown. Here’s what his season could look like on the track and on your fantasy team:
“I think Kenseth is a big surprise — because he’s over that 40-year mark,” a former driver says. “He’s a man of age now in his mid-40s (he will turn 44 this March). I think he might be the biggest surprise in the Sprint Cup garage. Matt’s like fine wine; he gets better with time, he gets better as he gets older. Listen, he caught a lot of people off-guard last year with a lot of wins (totaling five). He’s still got a lot of speed, and I think that’s more than a little surprising.”
“I know his past. Let’s just say it was no surprise what he did to Joey (Logano when he deliberately wrecked Logano during last fall’s Chase race at Martinsville) and leave it at that,” a former crew chief says. “Matt won his championship a long time ago under the old points system. But for me, Matt had his very best year in 2015. There’s no doubt. He was fast and he won a lot of races. I think he’s getting better the older he gets.
“I think a lot of it has to do with these drivers taking their health a little more seriously. They’re working out more, taking better care of their bodies. I think they learn how to focus a little bit better — some of them are checking out sports therapy and things like that. Plus, Matt’s just an old-school racer who has the respect of the other drivers.”
Pole position: Nine of Kenseth’s 17 career poles have come in his three years with Joe Gibbs Racing. He won from there twice in 2015 (Bristol, Michigan), so don’t be afraid to pick him up once you see that he’s starting up front.
Brickyard buildup: Kenseth has three straight top-10 finishes at Indianapolis and is one of the highest-profile drivers left not to win there. His time is coming soon; don’t miss out.
Right-turn risk: Kenseth is a great bet on any type of oval as one of the sport’s most consistent drivers. But the right-turn reality of road courses proves difficult; he’s never placed inside the top 5 at Sonoma, and a fourth at Watkins Glen last August was his first top-5 finish there.
Martinsville mayhem: Don’t simply avoid Matt at Martinsville because of how his car turned into a battering ram last year (see: Joey Logano). He’s never won at the half-mile paperclip and posts a middling career average finish there of 15.1.