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Q&A with NASCAR's Matt Kenseth

The two-time Daytona 500 winner talks fitness, nutrition, and racing.
NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth

When you’re a race car driver, time is one of the most important elements of your live. And when you have a schedule like NASCAR driver Matthew Kenseth's, time is an even more precious commodity.

When Kenseth landed in Pocono, PA, for the Pocono portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he had hit his sixth city in six days. The trip started Sunday in Dover, DE, before he headed back home to Charlotte, NC. On Monday, he flew to Denver, CO, in the morning before continuing on to Nashville, TN. Then he hopped a flight back to Charlotte Tuesday, then New York City on Wednesday, and back to Charlotte Thursday before heading off to the Poconos for his race.

“Time is a big part of my life,” said the two-time Daytona 500 champ, who partnered with Citizen watches to design a limited edition timepiece set to debut in October.

Kenseth is currently second in points in the Sprint Cup Series standings, trailing only Jeff Gordon. Kenseth, who is still searching for his first win of the season despite being the most consistent driver in the series, is set to race again this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

He took some time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about what it takes to keep things together behind the wheel.

Men’s Fitness: We’ve heard so much about NASCAR drivers being athletes. What do you do to prepare for racing?

Matt Kenseth: All drivers do something different. Jimmie Johnson is doing triathlons. Some guys are just crazy into training. I don’t do a lot of training that way in the gym. I do some cardio and I try to eat right and stay rested. But the biggest thing is just seat time – being in the car. I think I’ve raced about 60 times this year. We’re in the car so much during the week and on the weekend that I don’t ever feel like it’s ever an issue.

Why is it important to stay in shape for race car driving?

People will tell you what, they want but it’s actually pretty hard to train for. It’s hard to duplicate what you do in a car. What’s helped me through the years is getting the seats to fit good and getting more experience behind the wheel so you’re just not white-knuckling it all the time. But mainly, it’s really hot so I think nutrition is important and staying hydrated, drinking a lot of Gatorade in the days before and leading up to the race. I think the biggest thing is staying cool in the car.

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You talked about nutrition, do you follow a plan?

I just eat whatever my wife cooks for me. The day before the race I always try to eat pasta. Race days I don’t necessarily eat the same thing all the time so I don’t necessarily have a nutrition ‘plan.’ My wife is a believer in whole foods and organic foods. She cooks pretty healthy.

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Talk about this season a bit, where you’ve been able to score consistent top 10 finishes but are still searching for your first win.

It’s been a good season so far. We haven’t been quite fast enough to win yet. We’ve been in position to win a couple races. But we’ve been running really well. We got caught up in a wreck at Talladega but other than that we’ve been really solid. We’ve had top 5 or top 10 cars each and every week (before last week’s 26th place finish at Pocono). I think we’ve just got to keep that up and if you keep putting yourself in position to win, sooner or later you’re going to win.

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