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Following in his father’s footsteps: With title under his belt, Jensen aiming for feature win

If you’re not making dust, you’re eating it.

Skagit Speedway driver Matt Jensen has done plenty of the former but it’s all been done with that simple saying, one his father imparted on him at a young age, close to heart.

Jensen and his father, Keith, a longtime sprint car racer, had formed a successful kart racing team after Keith had retired from the sprints. Then Keith passed away and Jensen knew he had to continue the racing tradition.

“It had always been one of my dreams to race a sprint car,” Jensen said in a phone interview. “I never had the opportunity to get back into it until 2012. Ever since then, everything’s fallen into place.”

Falling into place might be understating what Jensen’s been able to do on the dirt track of Skagit Speedway, where he’ll be back at it again on Saturday, April 18, for the season opener in Alger.

In his first three seasons, he finished in the top 10 of an A-main 26 times over both the 360 and 410 classes. Last year, his eight top 10s in the 410 class paid off with a 410 title.

“It was fantastic, just outstanding,” Jensen said. “I wasn’t expecting last year. It was only my third season racing at Skagit and my first full year in the 410 as well.”

While his success as Skagit Speedway has continued to grow, one thing has been absent from Jensen’s resume — an A-main win, something that’s high on his list of goals for this season.

“I think we’re going to have a great car this year. We tried some new things out at Skagit that really worked well last season,” Jensen said. “We had a lot of practice in the offseason at different tracks, but I’m excited to get back at Skagit.”

After all, it’s the track that has family history. His father raced on Alger dirt throughout his career and Jensen hopes to continue to build his brand at Skagit.

He’ll do that with a new motor that was built toward the end of last season. Jensen only got to race it once last season, so he’s excited to see what results it brings in 2015, he said.

Jensen will once again race in both the 410 and 360 classes this year, something he said takes “a whole lot of work.”

“Both cars have a little different personality,” Jensen said. “But there’s a lot of consistency being taken back and forth. You just have to be cognizant of what differences there are.”

Right now, the focus is 50/50 between the two cars, but Jensen said he’ll see how the early season goes to determine if he’ll spend more time working on one or the other.

In the 360, he’ll have to compete with last year’s winner Colton Heath, along with Justin Youngquist, Derek Roberts, Eric Fisher and Brock Lemley, who rounded out last year’s top five. Jensen took 11th in the 360 last year.

As far the 410 goes, top challengers to Jensen’s title include Jesse Whitney, Steve Vague, Kevin Smith and Austen Wheatley.

Whether he’s in his 410 or his 360, one thing is certain — his dad will be with him.

Keith passed along basic fundamentals, good common sense and race ethics to Jensen’s knowledge on the track.

“Without question. When I drive into the track, leave the track, go to and from the track, those are things where I have a piece of him with me at all times,” Jensen said.

He’ll start his first-ever title defense Saturday and there’s no doubting his excitement. He had one thing to say.

“Let’s go racing.”

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