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NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth earns his wings
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth is familiar with maneuvering around a race track and through the air, but today the Cambridge, Wis. native experienced a new kind of sensation.

As part of his NASCAR Winner’s Circle appearance with Texas Motor Speedway Kenseth spent the day at the American Airlines Training Academy in Fort Worth learning the ropes of piloting a Boeing 737 aircraft. Kenseth, who is a pilot himself and owns a Learjet, was in awe with the simulated experience.

“I doubt that I’ve ever hit the concrete that lightly,” Kenseth said. “It’s a tough comparison between flying an airplane and driving a race car. You have to be much more precise in an airplane then you do in a race car, and some of my driving gets pretty sloppy on Sundays. You can’t get away with that in an airplane.”

After receiving some initial training, Kenseth was handed over the controls of the 737 simulator as he took off from Chicago O’Hare International Airport and ascended through the clouds. Once airborne, Kenseth was faced with the challenges of simulated weather conditions such as thunderstorms and cloudy skies as he took the helm of the aircraft simulator.

“They put me through what I would consider bad weather,” Kenseth joked. “It was cool though because we had to fly by instruments for a while and then break out and begin the initial descend. That was something I really wanted to do. It was really neat.”

After passing the in-flight training Kenseth was ready to tackle descending through the clouds above Orange County, Calif., and safely landing the 737 at John Wayne Airport. As his altitude decreased and the landing gear came out, Kenseth had the runaway at John Wayne Airport in site.

“I bounced it up pretty good the first time I landed,” Kenseth added. “The simulator sits up pretty high compared to what I’m use to flying so I had to make a few adjustments to where I was at and where the plane was. I drove it into the ground a little there and it wasn’t a really good landing, but my second attempt was much better.”

Kenseth and his NEXTEL Cup competitors return to Texas Motor Speedway April 12-15 for the Samsung 500 race weekend. Kenseth is the 2002 Cup winner at Texas Motor Speedway and has posted three top-five and four top-10 finishes in his nine Cup starts. Kenseth also ranks third among NEXTEL Cup drivers in laps led at Texas Motor Speedway with 315.

“Eddie Gossage and everyone at Texas Motor Speedway are awesome to work with,” Kenseth said. “Eddie is a great promoter and always makes us feel at home and has us doing a lot of really fun things. The race track is great as well. In the last few years we have had side-by-side racing and it has been really exciting. I always look forward to coming back out here to race.”

Kenseth heads into the Samsung 500 sitting fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings and has posted one victory, three top-five and four top-10 finishes in the first six races of the season.

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