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Kenseth's Daytona 500 victory stacks his schedule

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth sampled the champagne in Victory Lane, posed for a few photos, then got on a plane and went home.

It wasn't that he couldn't be bothered to celebrate; Kenseth needed a winning wardrobe.

The winner of NASCAR's biggest race is obligated to a whirlwind of promotional activities leading up to the next Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in California.

'I wasn't prepared, kind of on purpose,' a weary but smiling Kenseth said Monday. 'One year, I was kind of thinking, 'Well, you win at this place and they don't let you go home afterward. You're gone all week. I'll bring some clothes down here.' That was, I think, the worst 500 I've ever had.

'So I told (wife) Katie, 'If that happens, I'll worry about it then.' So I had to worry about it last night.'

When he arrived back in Charlotte, N.C., he did some quick packing, grabbed a little - very little - shuteye in his own bed and was back on his plane at 5 a.m. to return to Daytona for the traditional early morning induction of the winner's car into the Daytona 500 Experience, just outside the track.

Team owner Jack Roush, whose Roush Fenway Racing team fields five Cup cars, said he was particularly happy for Kenseth, who gave the owner his first 500 victory.

'Hopefully, Matt will get all the credit he deserves for driving the car,' Roush said. 'He's an incredible driver, as good in this business as I've ever seen, as I believe there's ever been.

When fans debate the top drivers in Cup, Kenseth is often left out. He was, at best, picked as a dark horse to win this year's 500. But, when the rains came Sunday, ending the race with 48 of the 200 laps remaining, it was Kenseth who joined the ranks of winners in The Great American Race.

And he showed plenty of emotion, stepping from his No. 17 Ford with tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice.

'Winning cures a lot of things,' said Kenseth, whose last Cup victory came in the 2007 season finale at Homestead. 'It makes you feel a lot better about things and kind of gets the spring back in your step.'

Sometime soon, Kenseth will find time to celebrate the 17th Cup victory of his career.

But, first, those obligations, including an appearance Monday night on the 'Late Show with David Letterman.'

'My dad used to watch Letterman a lot and I used to watch it a lot,' said Kenseth, who's done the Top 10 list twice but never met the host.

'You just do the top 10 list, he walks by and shakes your hand and leaves,' he said. 'So, this time, I think I get to sit down and talk to him. I'm not sure, but that would be neat.'

The new Daytona 500 winner deserves his moment in the spotlight - if he can stay awake long enough to enjoy it.