Matt Kenseth

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We caught up with NASCAR driver and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana to find out the music that moves him. Metallica dominated his playlists for a long time but he also shares emotional song picks that reflect his role as a father and his life (literally) in the fast lane.
For More:


1. Mr. Jones – Counting Crows

2. Tough Guys - REO Speedwagon


3. Blackened - Metallica

4. So Far Away - Staind

5. With Arms Wide Open - Creed


Raul Campos: Hey, I’m Raul Campos from KCRW and I'm here with NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth, who won the 2012 Daytona 500. Today, however, we're going to talk about music that has inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Matt, thanks so much for having us.
Matt Kenseth: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for coming out.
RC: Let's get into this first one. It's "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows. Why this song?
MK: That song I guess just reminds me a lot of my buddy, one of my best friends that I grew up with. His name is Matt. We're still real good friends and that songs just reminds me of him and I hanging out at a bar somewhere and having cold beers and talking about life in general, kind of ‘what you want to be when you grow up’, I guess. So it reminds me of him. He always wanted to play music. He loved playing guitar. He always dreamed of being a rock star and being in a rock band and I always dreamed about being a race car driver and got lucky and my dreams came true so that song just reminds me a lot of that.
RC: Very cool. Let's check it out. It's "Mr. Jones" by The Counting Crows and it's Matt Kenseth, our guest DJ right here at
Song: Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
RC: That was Counting Crows with "Mr. Jones" on KCRW. Our Guest DJ is Matt Kenseth. So you were talking a little bit about childhood and growing up. What kind of stuff were you listening to as a kid?
MK: Yeah man, I guess I liked rock more than anything else. I still remember our first two albums. I guess they were 33's that my sister and I were allowed to have. My first two albums actually were Def Leopard "Pyromania" and REO Speedwagon "High Infidelity", so those were the first two that we ever had and we played on our old record player.
RC: And what would they say when you would play that song, or that album.
MK: My mom was fairly strict, so it was pretty funny -- that REO album, “Tough Guys”, had one cuss word in it. You know the records always came with a cardboard jacket that the record would go in and it had the paper jacket inside that had the lyrics on the back of it? So the second day I had it, I went down there to grab it and play it and she’d cut off the back side of that paper jacket cause it had the lyrics on it and it had one cuss word on it. So that's the thing I'll never forget about that.
RC: Well, what's the bad word?
MK: It said they were full of "crap"
RC: That's not bad…
MK: It was another word for crap, but….
Song: Tough Guys - REO Speedwagon
RC: So that was REO Speedwagon with “Tough Guys”. Now we’re going to get into something a little harder, a little Metallica. What is this?
MK: Well, the next song is "Blackened". I always liked music. I remember I was driving -- I was with my buddy Matt, actually -- and we were driving my car. I think I was 16 or 17. We stopped at a gas station in this little town in Wisconsin, close to where I grew up, and I went in to pay for my gas and I saw the Metallica "…And Justice For All" tapes sitting there and I heard my friend Matt talk about Metallica, and other people, but I'd never listened to them before so I grabbed the tape, paid for my gas, paid for the tape. I went out and popped it in my tape player in my car and took off and that was the first song that came on and I was like ‘Wow, what is this’?
And honestly, I bet you that tape stayed in my tape deck in my car for a year before it got popped out and so I just listened to it over and over and over. I love the lyrics and I love the theory behind everything and it was just something I had never been exposed to until that day.
RC: Well, we're here at the Autoclub Speedway doing a Guest DJ Project with Mr. Matt Kenseth and we're going to check it out. It's Metallica "Blackened", right here on KCRW.
Song: “Blackened” -- Metallica
RC: Lars Ulrich is the drummer for Metallica and you have a cat named Lars, is that what I heard?
MK: Everybody kind of makes a big deal about that, that our cat is named Lars, and I feel like they turned me into a stalker because I named him Lars. It wasn't really necessarily after him, like ‘oh my gosh I idolize him, I've got to name my cat after him’. Me and my brother in-law were driving around, going to some local animal shelters looking for a cat. I was going to surprise my wife with as she wanted a cat, found this cat and we're on our way home and it just so happened that we were just listening to the local radio station and Metallica was on and I was like yeah, we should name our cat Lars. I was kind of joking around and I told her that when we got home and she was like "I love that name, let's name it that" and she just kind of kept that name. But I will say that that cat is a very unique cat. He's not very nice to anyone except for usually me and the name is very fitting.
RC: Our Guest DJ is Matt Kenseth, who is picking some tunes for the Guest DJ Project. So who's next?
MK: Well it's Staind and the song is "So Far Away". It was actually the year that we won our championship is when I heard that song. But it mainly just reminds me of -- makes me think about -- today and what's in front of you Is important and not so much yesterday and mistakes you've made in your life and career or whatever, you know, yesterday or the day before, last year or ten years ago. What really matters is living today and looking forward to tomorrow and being happy with who you are as a person and just moving forward.
RC: Yeah, words to live by. So yeah, let's check it out "So Far Away" and the artist is Staind. Let's check it out right here at KCRW.COM.
Song: “So Far Away” - Staind
RC: It's KCRW. Our Guest DJ is Matt Kenseth right here and we're in Fontana, California at the Autoclub Speedway and we're going to get into our fifth and final tune with Matt -- Creed.
MK: The lyrics to this song hit home. I think when you have kids, thinking about your kids and thinking about their future, and start thinking about maybe some of the things you did in the past or maybe the habits you have that you definitely don't want them to have. So, just thinking about that kind of stuff, so I think that was the kind of song whenever I hear it, I think about my kids.
RC: Now, your son is 18, but your little girls are one and two and, in the future, potential race car drivers?
MK: Ross, he's been racing for a long time. He started racing go-carts when he was younger. He's been performing well. It's something he enjoys, he's working real hard at it so we'll see where it goes in the future. As far as my girls, I sure hope not. I sure hope they pick up something else to do besides wanting to race. I enjoy racing with Ross because I feel like I can help him and I know something about it and all that kind of stuff. Hopefully, my girls will have some different interests.
RC: Let's check out this final tune, it's by Creed and it's called "With Arms Wide Open". Matt Kenseth is our guest DJ, right here at KCRW.
Song: “With Arms Wide Open” -- Creed
RC: You’ve won the Daytona 500 twice, NASCAR championship -- how do you look forward to the next race knowing these huge accolades you’ve already accomplished in your life?
MK: Yeah, this is a tough sport. It moves really fast. We race 38 weeks out of the year, 39 weeks out of the year, really. You have to look forward. I've had a problem in the past of not really enjoying our past successes as much as we should because we're looking forward. So, I think when you retire and you're not racing anymore and your life slows down a little bit….
RC: That's when you have time?
MK: I think that's when you're really going to enjoy your accomplishments, more.
RC: Does anyone try to tell you to enjoy it more, as it's happening?
MK: I probably learned that myself the last four wins, I've really appreciated and enjoyed more so than probably a lot of wins before that. I think that if I am lucky enough to win again I'm going to continue to enjoy them because, as you get older, you get more of an appreciation for how hard it is and really how blessed you are to be in this situation and be able to race against the best stock car drivers in the world every week and if you can be as successful at that I think you learn to appreciate and enjoy it more as you get older.
RC: Well the building is starting to rumble here so I think it's kind of our cue to say thank you. Thank you so much and congratulations on all the success you've had and continued success.
MK: Thank you, I appreciate you guys having me on. That was fun.
RC: And for a complete track listing and to find these songs on-line go to KCRW.COM/GUESTDJPROJECT and subscribe to the podcast through i-tunes.





Raul Campos