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.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell sits down with NBCSN’s Marty Snider to go over all the details.
Sep 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Pagenaud reveals that he’s made his decision on where he’ll drive in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Rodolfo Gonzalez tests for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA discusses how the defending Sprint Cup champion has been flying under the radar in the early stages of the postseason.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
A local media report states that one of the drivers who raced with Stewart and Ward during the Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park has been called to testify.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: An interview with NASCAR executive VP Steve O’Donnell; Jeff Burton on what kind of racing the new rules package will produce; the New Hampshire edition of “Scan All 43″; and why is Jimmie Johnson driving a tank?
Sep 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Where does everyone in the Chase besides Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have to finish Sunday in order to go to the next round?
Sep 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Points shift after second-to-last IMSA weekend of 2014 in Austin.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Sunday’s Challenger Round finale.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
NASCAR’s top series is set to experience multiple changes next season.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.
Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.
Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
Not that we needed further evidence that Circuit of the Americas is awesome, but riding shotgun with Dindo Capello in Audi provides us said further evidence.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT
Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?
Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
It hasn’t always been easy for Logano since he broke into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. But there’s no disputing that the kid once known as “Sliced Bread” (as in, greatest thing since) has grown up.
Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.
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