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.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Despite expecting to struggle in Bahrain, Sainz will start the race from ninth place on Sunday.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Grosjean believes he could have qualified higher up the grid, but is pleased to have maintained his 100% Q3 record in 2015.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud led IndyCar’s final practice session in Long Beach.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT
Daniel Ricciardo fares far better in the sister Red Bull, qualifying seventh in Bahrain.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Former Red Bull driver believes that the focus should not be on tire management, but instead on driver ability and pace.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Rosberg misses out on the front row for the second time in three races, exposing Mercedes to the threat from Ferrari in the race.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
Conor Daly gets a last-minute IndyCar shot with Dale Coyne Racing.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Four-time world champion qualified second for the Bahrain Grand Prix, splitting the Mercedes drivers at the front of the grid.
Apr 18, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
The defending F1 world champion feels more at ease with this year’s car in Bahrain, allowing him to dominate qualifying on Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
John Booth says that the long-term future of the team is being planned and secured thanks to fresh investment.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:02 AM EDT
The defending world champion edges out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in FP3 ahead of qualifying later today.
Apr 18, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Mercedes and Ferrari continue to exchange blows in Bahrain, but who will get the upper hand ahead of qualifying?
Apr 17, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Ricky Taylor, Bill Auberlen secure pole positions for Round 3 of TUDOR Championship season in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Some good banter between Simon Pagenaud and Will Power occurs during post-practice press conference, as the two laugh off their contact here last year.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT
Power leads second practice in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Five in a row for the McLaren junior driver as he starts the 2015 season in style.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Ferrari’s long run pace suggests that Mercedes may not have it all its own way on Sunday.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT
More from INDYCAR has been released regarding aero kit updates.
- Simon Pagenaud fastest in IndyCar’s final Long Beach practice 0
- Hamilton eases to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain 0
- Hamilton closes out Bahrain GP practice on top 0
- INDYCAR confirms more aero kit updates coming to Long Beach 1
- Rocky Moran Jr. to replace Huertas in Coyne’s No. 18 for Long Beach 7
- Rosberg heads up Mercedes one-two in Bahrain FP2 1
- Kimi Raikkonen quickest in first practice for Bahrain GP 2