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.
May 29, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
What’s next for Joni Wiman, the defending Red Bull Global Rallycross champion?
May 29, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Ricciardo announced himself on F1’s big stage in Canada last year with the first of three victories in 2014.
May 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Here’s how field did in last year’s doubleheaders.
May 29, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Who will emerge on top after a crucial weekend in Detroit?
May 29, 2015, 12:35 AM EDT
Larry Dixon is making up for lost time – in VERY fast way, that is – as in the neighborhood of 320-plus mph and less than four seconds.
May 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Sarah Cornett-Ching is opening a lot of eyes in the ARCA Series this season.
May 28, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
Here’s the field for this year’s Red Bull GRC season opener in Ft. Lauderdale.
May 28, 2015, 8:31 PM EDT
Taylor Swift on an IndyCar? Believe it.
May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT
With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.
May 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Ex-F1 driver ponders whether Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes may have taken a hit after his Monaco defeat.
May 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
FIA looking for more teams to join the sport in the next two seasons.
May 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
After Williams recorded its first non-score since Brazil 2013 in Monaco, Bottas is sure that the team will respond in Montreal next weekend.
May 28, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
25 years on from Mark Blundell’s pole position at Le Mans, Nissan pays homage with a retro livery on its third car for the race.
May 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Alan Permane claims the data on Grosjean’s car shows he did not brake-test Verstappen and cause their crash in Monaco last Sunday.
May 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
FIA president responds to calls for a stricter policy on alcohol sponsorship in F1.
May 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Andreas Bakkerud will fill in for Piquet while he’s on Formula E duty in Russia.
May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took part in a Twitter Q&A earlier this week.
May 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Two-time series champion looks ahead to a big year in Red Bull GRC with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.
May 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Gossage and Walker are in contact about how to best move forward with super speedway aero kits ahead of June 6 IndyCar race.
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