For decades, Matt Kenseth raced at 200 mph in a NASCAR Cup Series stock car. On Monday, he raced at a much slower pace on foot in the prestigious Boston Marathon.
Kenseth finished the 26.2-mile (42.195-km) course in three hours, one minute, forty seconds. Running at a pace of 6:56 per mile, he finished 142nd in the 50–54 men’s division.
From his maiden start in 1998 to 2017, Kenseth was one of the top drivers in the Cup Series, winning the championship in 2003 and two Daytona 500s. He scaled back to a part-time schedule in 2017 with now-RFK Racing before seemingly exiting the sport for good, but returned in 2020 as the full-time driver of Chip Ganassi Racing‘s #42 for the rest of the season following Kyle Larson‘s suspension.
Upon concluding the 2020 season, he stepped away from NASCAR for good and has not raced in any national series since, though his racing career has continued at the regional level in short track competition. For 2022, he intends to run three races in the Superstar Racing Experience at Nashville, I-55, and Sharon. Kenseth is currently a nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame‘s Class of 2023.
Although Kenseth has no plans of returning to NASCAR, many drivers have used events like marathons and triathlons as physical training to meet the grueling demands of their day jobs. Kenseth’s exercise routine began in his early career via gym workouts and cycling, during which he developed a rapport with seven-time Cup champion and triathlete Jimmie Johnson. By 2019, he and his wife Katie were running marathons beginning with the Berlin Marathon in Germany. In October 2021, he finished fifty-second in his age group at the Chicago Marathon.
“I love coming up to Boston, I always loved racing up in New Hampshire (Motor Speedway, where he has three Cup wins). It’s a great place,” Kenseth told Steve Burton of WBZ-TV. “The atmosphere was second to none. It was one of the better experiences in my life, honestly, sporting experiences. This was really cool. All the crowd enthusiasm and just a huge event. It’s fun to be a part of it.”
In his post-race interview with Burton, Kenseth explained the most challenging aspect of the Marathon was “pacing yourself in the beginning. With such big crowds, you couldn’t really pass people, which was good. It kind of held me back. I think the biggest challenge is not to kill your quads with all those downhills. It’s so much different than any other marathon I’ve ran. I was saving something for the end, so once I got over the top of Heartbreak Hill (between the twentieth and twenty-first miles), I actually felt really great and turned it on, and I finished strong so I was really happy about that.”
The fifty-year-old is not the only NASCAR driver to have run the Boston Marathon. In 2019, between race days, Johnson set a time of 3:09:07 to place 641st in the 40–44 men’s category. In 2000, twice-Daytona 500 winner-turned-Fox analyst Michael Waltrip set a time of 4:42:20.
Who says drivers aren’t athletes?