May 26, 2014, 12:26 AM EDT
If there’s anything to the law of averages, Matt Kenseth is next in line to win his first Sprint Cup race of 2014.
Points leader Jeff Gordon won his first race of the season two weeks ago at Kansas.
Sunday night, Jimmie Johnson won his first of the season in the longest and most grueling race on the Cup schedule, the 400-lap Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
That leaves Kenseth as the only driver in the top 7 in the Cup standings that has yet to reach victory lane in 2014, an oddity for sure given that Kenseth led the entire series with a high of seven wins in 2013.
It’s not like Kenseth didn’t try Sunday night. He was in the lead and even tried to throw a block to keep Johnson from passing him in the closing laps.
Unfortunately for Kenseth, Johnson avoided his block and sailed on to victory lane, leaving Kenseth to fall to an eventual third-place finish, right behind runner-up Kevin Harvick.
“I mean, everything kind of fell into place with us with that (final) caution, people being under fuel strategy,” Kenseth said. “Our tire problem, all that, getting off sequence. Everything fell into our lap.
“We got a good restart, got out front. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough speed to hold off Jimmie and Kevin and hang on to win.”
The biggest difference between Harvick and Kenseth is Harvick called out his team for falling short due to a loose wheel.
Kenseth was more the gentleman in his synopsis of how his run went.
“Overall for the weekend, I thought it was a step in the right direction,” Kenseth said of getting closer to his first win of the season. “I thought we were more competitive tonight.
“I didn’t think we were quick enough to win unless everything fell exactly our way. Even then I couldn’t quite hang on.
“Overall … I thought we had a top-five car all night. Great pit stops, great adjustments. Just couldn’t hang on to it at the end.”
End result, another frustrating finish of sorts, particularly considering Kenseth now has four top 5 and five other top 10 finishes thus far this season (nine top 10s overall).
Whereas Harvick blamed his crew for his runner-up finish due to a loose wheel and pit stop errors, Kenseth took a more even-handed approach in his response.
“Me personally, whenever your team does everything, everything falls the right way, they put you out in the front at the end of the race, you don’t win the race, you’re always frustrated and disappointed,” Kenseth said. “You don’t get a lot of those opportunities.
“Although I felt like I did everything I could possibly do, we just weren’t quick enough to hold ’em off. So, yeah, I’m a little frustrated we didn’t get the win tonight.”
But at the same time, Kenseth feels he indeed could join Gordon, Johnson in the winner’s club next Sunday at Dover.
“I feel like we’re gaining on it,” Kenseth said. “Certainly, we’re not where we were at this time last year, all of us there leading a bunch of laps and being in contention to win.
“Panicking has never helped anything. Like I said, I feel like we’re gaining on it. We’ve just been off a little bit all year. … We’re digging hard trying to figure it out. We’re just not quite there yet.
“I think the pressure and urgency to win is there each and every week, at least it is for me. These are all huge races. Not many of us that get to do this every week.
“…It’s a big deal to win any of these races. Always has been. I’ve never been in the front in the end and not wanted to win. You race as hard as you can for these wins. You hate it when you can’t hold on and win it. There’s no more I can do about it. We were in position. I did everything I possibly could do and got beat. It’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“You can only do your best and take your result for that day.”
And hope the law of averages is in his favor the next time.
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