Nov 10, 2013, 8:43 PM EST
But on Sunday, misfortune finally caught up with the 2003 Cup champion as he endured a dismal Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Plagued by numerous issues, Kenseth finished one lap down in 23rd and lost a whopping 21 points to Johnson, who finished third. Johnson (now ahead of Kenseth by 28 points) only has to finish 23rd or better in next Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win this year’s Cup title.
“I can’t say I was overly confident about what we had,” Kenseth told the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer. “Obviously, it didn’t drive good or we would have been up there with the front group. I just did all I could with it, which wasn’t much.”
Kenseth was never a factor primarily due to handling problems on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that never completely went away during the 312-lap race. At one point, it got so bad that Kenseth dubbed the car “undriveable” over his team’s radio.
Clean air seemed to be the only cure for what ailed Kenseth, so his JGR team played the pit strategy game for track position. For a while, the gamble was working and Kenseth was able to make his way into the Top 10 after staying out on track under a caution at Lap 145.
But everything changed on Lap 163, when the yellow came out again for a spin involving J.J. Yeley just moments after Johnson had saved his car from crashing in Turn 1 following contact with Carl Edwards.
Johnson dropped all the way to 26th, and the door was open for Kenseth to make him pay. Instead, he had a horrendous stop under the caution. In addition to his crew changing the tire call during the stop, Kenseth ran over an air hose that forced him to back up.
By the time it was all over, the stop had lasted almost 26 seconds – tossing him all the way back to 29th. In the second half of the race, Kenseth once again made up some ground by staying out during pit stops but thanks to his seemingly possessed Toyota, he lost the track position back under green-flag conditions.
This time, he wasn’t able to be toward the front when it counted. Afterwards, Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, defended the No. 20 gang.
“Everybody’s going to say, ‘Oh, the pressure got to them,’ ” he said to the AP. “Just poor execution on a track that’s so hard to pass. You’re trying to make up for something that happened earlier and it just snowballs on you.
“The car wasn’t responding to changes. We’d make a change and wouldn’t help it, so we’d put that back and make a another change and I don’t know if that was better or worse, so I was like ‘Just quit working on the thing, it’s not responding.’ We were just trying to make something out of nothing.”
Now, Kenseth, Ratcliff and Co. will have to try and make a miracle next weekend.
Mar 5, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Filipino-Swiss driver moves from Formula Renault 3.5 for 2015.
Mar 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
British driver sends out an ominous statement of intent ahead of the first race of the year in Australia on March 15.
Mar 5, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Can Massa and Bottas pick up where they left off at the end of 2014?
Mar 5, 2015, 12:07 PM EST
Team now all set to race in Australia on March 15 after passing the FIA crash tests.
Mar 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
Add another American to the Formula E roster for 2015 as Speed replaces Marco Andretti for the first of two home races.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EST
Dutch driver reportedly seeking an urgent court order that would get him on the grid for the upcoming Australian Grand Prix.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
Big night of F1 programming upcoming tonight on NBCSN.
Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
With neither Hockenheim nor the Nurburgring prepared to host the race in 2015, the outlook is bleak for a German Grand Prix.
Mar 5, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
New sponsor, new number (again) for Hinchcliffe’s 2015 IndyCar campaign.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:14 PM EST
Honda hints at more about its aero kits, while tossing out two dates of note.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Look through the Pirelli World Challenge field continues with a look at GTS.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat look to lead the team in the post-Vettel era.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
Justin Wilson returns to Michael Shank Racing for Sebring one-off.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:09 PM EST
Manor Marussia F1 to make trip to Melbourne after all.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
FIA Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag outlines goals for upcoming two U.S. races, and recaps the first four thus far.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST
Soft and medium the main choice for Pirelli in three of first four Grands Prix.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:14 AM EST
Raffaele Marciello set for Malaysia FP1 appearance at Sauber.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
One to two sentence bullet point rundown on the PWC GT, GTA, GT Cup field heading into COTA and the 2015 season.
Mar 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EST
Pippa’s Pink Posse to feature prominently in Komen Race for the Cure, for Central Indiana Affiliate.
Mar 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
It’s the race to repeat in 2015, but will it be Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg who takes the title?
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