ALLEN PARK, Mich. - It was horsepower and brute strength, face to face here yesterday as two of the sports world's monster acronyms faced off.
It was NASCAR meets the NFL.
Nextel Cup driver Matt Kenseth visited the Detroit Lions training camp and brought along his ride. Kenseth was impressed with the Lions after watching them work out, and the Detroit players took the position anyone from the Motor City should take - they were impressed with the car.
"I'm just a big football fan, so it's cool to come out and see the Lions," said Kenseth, a Wisconsin native and a Green Bay follower. "Obviously, I'm a big Packers native and a Green Bay follower. "Obvifan, but it's cool to watch them work. I've seen the Lions play quite a few times, both in the playoffs and especially since they're also in the NFC North. I was born a Green Bay Packer fan, but I've watched the Lions play a lot and I definitely liked watching them today."
Detroit tight end Casey FitzSimmons, likely the biggest stock car racing fan on the Lions roster, was glad Kenseth brought the car, which is a version of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion Kenseth will race Sunday in the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
"Last year they didn't bring a car out, so this is pretty neat to see them up front," FitzSimmons said. "Last year I went out to the race and got to see all the cars and stuff. I got to sit in the pit on a pit stop - so it was pretty sweet."
Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky wanted to know if the Kenseth machine had a trunk, while fellow quarterback Josh McCown was curious if it was street legal or not. Lions general manager Matt Millen, whose team plays at Ford Field, was just pleased with the brand, and the fact his players got such a thrill out of the opportunity.
"Well it's a Ford, that's the best part of it," Millen said. "But look at the players, that's all that matters. They're so interested in it - Damien Woody [6-3, 325] thinks he can drive the thing. And he can't even fit in there!"
Kenseth said the physical play of the NFL reminds him of some of the rougher runs on the Nextel Cup circuit.
"One of their games is like us running at Martinsville and Bristol every weekend," Kenseth said. "It is definitely a lot more physical sport than what ours is, though, so that's why it's fun to watch how they prepare. When you get to find out more about a team it definitely makes you more of a fan and it makes you pay attention to them."
Kenseth, currently second in the Nextel Cup points standings, has just four races remaining before the lucrative Chase for the Nextel Cup - NASCAR's version of the NFL playoffs - where the top 10 drivers in points race for millions in prize money over the final 10 races of the year.
"We're in a pretty good spot so we won't make many changes," Kenseth said. "We maybe want to gain a little, but we're going to approach it one race at a time. It's one thing to make the Chase, but we need to have a little momentum and be in there on a high note."
Kenseth, the 2003 Nextel Cup Series champion, wants to avoid the momentum swings that have hampered him the last couple of years.
"You don't want to be like we were in 2004 when we were solidly in it the whole time and started off the year when we won a few races, and then our performance steadily declined so that when we went into the Chase we were nowhere near ready to win a championship," Kenseth said. "It's more important for me to perform at a level where we can win the Chase once we get in."
But like in any sport, you have to make the playoffs before you can win it all, so Kenseth is cautious about thinking too far ahead despite his position near the top of the points chart.
"It's important to make it, and after this weekend we'll have a better idea of whether we're in or not yet," Kenseth said. "You want to get in on a high note."
Contact Matt Markey at:
or 419-724-6510.42.26392 -83.22005 It was horsepower and brute strength, face to face here yesterday as two of the sports world's monster acronyms faced off.