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 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, we looked at the struggles Jimmie Johnson and his team have had over much of the last six weeks.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, in the continuing absence of Tony Stewart this weekend at Bristol, it was announced that Jeff Burton will drive in his place for the second week in a row.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Kyle Busch (who else) earned the No. 1 qualifying position Wednesday afternoon for this evening’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Stewart won’t race at Bristol, talk with Jeff Burton, JJ and Harvick
Aug 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
We have a huge show for today’s edition of NASCAR America, including the latest on Tony Stewart not racing at Bristol, Jeff Burton back in the No. 14 to replace Stewart, Kevin Harvick’s GoKart race, Jimmie Johnson’s recent struggles. And those are just for starters. Make sure you tune in.
Aug 20, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT
Tony Stewart will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the third consecutive race Stewart has skipped in the aftermath of the tragic racing incident with sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. nearly two weeks ago.
Aug 20, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
Amidst news that a grassroots campaign is building support for Tony Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains: When will Stewart race again
Aug 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
The famed STP logo will once again grace the legendary No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports in Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Kyle Busch will attempt to win all three NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Will Power and Team Penske have been dominant over the last several years at Sonoma, and if they are again, the IndyCar championship could be put out of reach.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
If Mike Conway wins Sonoma this weekend, he’ll have his third win of 2014, and tie Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay with the most in the IndyCar field.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Gabby Chaves to get new teammate in form of Ryan Phinny for Sonoma, at Indy Lights weekend finale.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
NBA legend Dominique Wilkins tours Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 team during the Milwaukee IndyCar weekend.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Le Mans champion Andre Lotterer confirmed for surprise Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Last year, reliability was the problem for Toyota’s engines, not power. This year, the situation has been reversed, and Toyota Racing Development’s president says they’re hunting for more performance ahead of the Chase.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT
Alan Gustafson may not be as well-known as other crew chiefs, but it’s clear that he’s played a big role in Jeff Gordon’s success this season. The NASCAR AMERICA crew breaks down what’s made them such a good pair together.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA talks about Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing – and the impact of their new sponsor, telecommunications equipment company ARRIS.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Reaction from 2015 JGR drivers Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez, and current JGR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch; No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson on the team’s win at Michigan; the Michigan edition of “Scan All 43.”
Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Four days after racing in Michigan, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series faces the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in Wednesday night’s UNOH 200.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
This weekend, Red Bull GRC drivers will compete on a .924-mile layout at Daytona International Speedway that’s the longest they’ve faced so far this year. Catch Saturday’s final at 2:30 p.m. on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
Gibbs, who won two Sprint Cup titles with Stewart in 2002 and 2005, believes that his former driver has the courage to overcome his grief and eventually come back to racing.
Video from NASCAR America
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- When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again? 1
- Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa 5
- NASCAR: Joe Gibbs hopeful for eventual return of Tony Stewart 12
- The 2014 Milwaukee IndyFest weekend high on promise, with more positives than negatives 5
- NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is official: Carl Edwards joins Joe Gibbs Racing from 2015 4
- Report: Comcast’s Xfinity, NASCAR closer to series sponsorship deal 0