Kenseth Gives Texas Boot To Two-Year Drought
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Consistency is cool, Matt Kenseth knows, but in NASCAR, you have to sow in a race victory now and then for your job to be really cool.
This morning, all is cool with Kenseth as he put an end to a two-plus-year-long winless streak when he won the Samsung Mobile 500 Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Kenseth, whose last victory came in the 2009 spring race at Auto Club Speedway, led the most laps (169) and beat second place Clint Bowyer to the finish line by over 8 seconds.
“After two years,” Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, said, “I didn’t know if I would have a chance to win again.”
The victory was the 19th of the Roush Fenway Racing driver’s career. It was his second at Texas as he won at the 1.5-mile quad-oval in 2002.
“It has been a long time,” Kenseth said. “I am really happy for Jimmy (Fennig, his crew chief) and all these guys on the Crown Royal Black Ford. I have lost a lot of close ones at this track. It feels good to be able to close it out.”
While Kenseth has not been winning races over the last couple seasons, he has always driven well at Texas.
His Saturday result gave him nine top-five finishes in 19 starts.
“I don’t really know why we do better here than some other tracks,” Kenseth said. “The thing that
makes you a good race car driver is a fast race car. I have been able to have really fast cars here and great engines and crews and teams and all that. That makes my job easier. I think there are some tracks that for whatever reason you have a better feel at and can give better feedback to help your guys more so than other tracks. Martinsville and Sears Point are probably my worst two tracks for that.
“We had a great car last week, probably the fastest I have ever had there but I got behind because of a mental error in the beginning. That is an example of a track where I can tell him what the car is doing but I can’t help Jimmie. Here I feel like I can help a little more. I know the feel I am looking for which probably helps.”
The runner-up finish was his best of the season for Bowyer.
It was a good night, a good weekend,” the Richard Childress Racing Chevy driver said. “Really proud of everybody on this Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet. We’ve come on, we’ve had solid runs and we’re clicking now. That’s what it takes in this sport. You’ve got to be able to get on a momentum swing, get some confidence built back up, and you have to start with that.
“Just so proud of everybody for digging in deep, and bringing in good equipment to the racetrack, and you know having great finishes. I got in the lead there, and got away from him once, but I was driver, you know, as hard as I possibly could to stay in front of him, obviously.
Carl Edwards finished third and Greg Biffle fourth.
“It was a great run for us,” Biffle said. “We really felt like we had a faster car than that but that is the positive thing, we had a really fast car. We are happy with fourth but I got us way far behind in the beginning of the run and it took that long to get back up there.”
Fifth was Paul Menard, Bowyer’s teammate at Richard Childress racing.
Filling out the top 10 were Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch.
While Kenseth easily led the most laps, the race was decided in the final 100 laps.
With 86 laps to go, Kenseth retook the lead from Bowyer when Bowyer was knocked sideways
by Brian Vickers. Bowyer, who led 44 laps, somehow recovered but the lead was gone.
“I had a run. And it was so important to get around those guys as soon as you got to them,” Bowyer said. “They just slowed you down so much. It took me a couple of laps and I slowed down 2.5 tenths. And he was starting to catch me.
“I just forced the issue a little too much. Got loose underneath, having got into him, and almost ruined the night. Did you see that? It was dirt tracking it. At its best, in the middle of the straightaway. Not supposed to do that.”
Green flag pit stops immediately followed. When those stops cycled through – with 59 laps to go – Kenseth had a lead of over four seconds over Bowyer.
The leaders began their final green-flag stops with 40 laps to go. When that series of stops cycled through, Kenseth again had the lead – a lead he held to the end.
The race was spiced up by off-cycle pit strategies by a couple of big name drivers – Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart.
They opted stay out of cycle late in the race, hoping that caution flags near the end would pay dividends.
But the race was relatively clean in the second half, with long runs and green flag stops dominating the night.
Both led laps but not the one lap they wanted to lead most.
Busch hung on to finish 10th.
“We led laps when we were off-sequence, but overall a hard fought battle to get the car dialed-in once again,” he said. “We struggle to make adjustments as we go. We got something towards the end to make something of it. Overall, we got off-sequence which might have helped preserve that top 10. It’s tough. We want to compete for top fives and wins and we’re only getting top 10s right now.”
Stewart ran out of fuel on the final lap but crept home 12th.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment