Nov 10, 2013, 8:43 PM EDT
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.
Aug 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
“If somebody wants to go into Formula 1 and they think that they can do it from one to the next year, I think he shouldn’t try to do it.”
Aug 30, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT
While there’s no shortage of wineries in Napa Valley, few have racing tie-ins, and fewer still get a racing tie-in at Sonoma Raceway – here’s the story of the Trefethen Family Vineyards.
Aug 30, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT
Rossi wins a wet-weather thriller to regain the lead of the MotoGP world championship.
Aug 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
In case you missed it, a look back at the week’s worth of coverage in the lead-up to Sonoma.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
Power does it again in qualifying at Sonoma.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:13 PM EDT
Oriol Servia reflects on Justin Wilson.
Aug 29, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Power is only active driver in the field with a pole since 2008 at Sonoma.
Aug 29, 2015, 4:19 PM EDT
Marquez beats his own lap record for pole position at Silverstone.
Aug 29, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT
All-American top three as track record eclipsed, unofficially, at Sonoma.
Aug 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Trulli looks poised to stick with its own powertrain for despite only completing seven laps in pre-season.
Aug 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma is live from 10:30 a.m. PT, 1:30 p.m. ET, today on NBCSN.
Aug 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Bottas had been linked with a seat at Ferrari for 2016, until the team confirmed that it would be retaining Kimi Raikkonen.
Aug 29, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Lotus technical director Nick Chester reveals the cause of Maldonado’s DNF in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:03 AM EDT
Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas take Porsche to its fourth pole position of the season, edging out the sister no. 17 car.
Aug 29, 2015, 4:38 AM EDT
Marc Lieb storms to the top of the timesheets in the no. 18 Porsche, heading up a 1-2 finish in FP3.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:38 PM EDT
The title contenders sum up their chances heading into Sonoma.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT
A long day on Friday ends with Will Power on top of the timesheets.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:11 PM EDT
Quick series of interviews and tributes flow in for Justin Wilson on site at Sonoma.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT
The 10th place driver in NHRA Top Fuel standings gets released from his contract at DSR.
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