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.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Romain Grosjean can opt out of Lotus at year’s end if he so desires.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT
Johnny Sauter was fastest in both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Thursday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
On Thursday’s NASCAR America, Rusty Wallace gave his top five drivers to watch in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. Rusty’s pick for the winner? Jeff Gordon.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Spaniard says that his future is not his first priority, and that all of the events of the past few months have gone as planned.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Rick Allen and Rusty Wallace discussed what are Carl Edwards’ and Jeff Gordon’s chances Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Sauber team boss has long warned about the problems blighting Formula 1.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
British driver speaks about his appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show and his trip to New York City.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Lewis Hamilton politely questions double points.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
As the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season draws near, the sport ventures to the United States for one of the most popular races of the year in Austin, Texas.
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Oct 30, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
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Oct 30, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Date changes, date equity, and broadcast windows play key role in shaping 2015 IndyCar schedule.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
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Oct 30, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Ahead of the premiere of Road to Mercedes on NBCSN at 10p ET, here is one final teaser for the show that will see NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales travel to Germany to visit the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Frenchman thinks he would be the best choice for Toro Rosso in 2015 alongside Max Verstappen.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT
Sergio Perez closing on in contract extension with Force India.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
The F1 community loves coming to Austin and COTA, but why?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
This weekend’s race at Texas will mark the official debut of Tony Gibson and Daniel Knost as crew chiefs for Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick, respectively. How will they and their drivers fare together?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez appear at the event in Austin ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Get your calendars out and start marking up which series run where, when.
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