Kenseth confident in ability to make playoffs after another strong run

Matt Kenseth wheeled his way to a career-high second-place finish at Watkins Glen International on Sunday — and just his second top-five finish in 18-career starts at the 2.45-mile circuit.

Kenseth confident in ability to make playoffs after another strong run
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Kenseth, who qualified 15th, could have used a little luck to run down race winner Martin Truex Jr., over the closing laps.

He trailed the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota by .414-seconds at the finish.

“Man, all these years trying to do this it’s disappointing to come home second when I had a shot at him (Truex) there,” Kenseth said. “But, in all reality he just slowed down as much as I did and watched his back.

“He had a lot faster car today, but the guys had a great strategy and I was able to save a lot early in that run and just tried to manage my back and the gap behind me and had enough fuel there for the end.”

Within arm's reach

Kenseth was eighth when the race restarted on Lap 55. He conserved enough fuel to run the final 45 laps while other drivers ahead of him could not go the distance.

“I felt like we had a top-five car,” Kenseth said. “Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it's that close and you see him saving and you're saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it's disappointing not to get it.

“Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6 I was like, man, I'm going to have a shot, and he was so fast I still couldn't get to him getting into (Turn) 7.”

For Kenseth, who hasn’t won in 39 races, the second-place was his best result of 2017 — but hardly a consolation prize. He’s currently ninth in the Monster Energy Cup standings — the third-highest drivers in points without a win. He’s six points behind eighth-place Jamie McMurray and 11 points behind seventh-place Chase Elliott.

“I'm second happiest,” Kenseth said. “Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win. Honestly, I don't even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it's been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here.”

Playoff situation

With 14 race winners — and 13 drivers with unencumbered wins that will transfer into the playoffs, a win over the next four races would offer Kenseth some security entering the post-season. He has four wins at Michigan, three wins at Bristol one win at Darlington and two wins at Richmond. Is Kenseth confident being on the bubble?

“I haven't really thought about it that much,” Kenseth said. “I mean, I realize how many different winners there's been, and there's only, I think, maybe three spots or something left. But honestly, I feel like with driving for JGR and having Jason (Ratcliff) as my crew chief and the team we have that we shouldn't be over a year without a win.

"It's kind of our own doing no matter what happens. We're running a lot better lately. At the beginning of the year we ran so‑so and just had so many DNFs, so many problems and no stage points, just got buried in the points. So we've been able to make a little comeback in the points, which is nice. You know, especially for the season that we've had. But lately we've been running a lot better, and I feel like we keep running like this, hopefully we can get a win the next few weeks.”

Living in the moment

After18 full seasons on the Monster Energy Cup Series tour, the 2003 champion has amassed 38 wins, 19 poles, 177 top fives and 319 top 10s. However, now Kenseth finds himself a lame duck after Joe Gibbs Racing announced its plans to move Erik Jones into the No. 20 Toyota next season.

But just like his quest for a win, Kenseth is trying to remain in the moment.

“Again, I mean, believe it or not, it's really not at the front of my mind,” he said. “I'm just really ‑‑ I'm actually enjoying this. I had an enjoyable day today except for the end was very disappointing. I was like, man, after all these years I'm going to have a shot at winning one of these things and couldn't do it. That's really all I'm thinking about is just trying to run good and enjoy these next few months and try to get some more wins.

“It's a great opportunity. I feel like we've got the best, fastest race cars in the garage, got great people working on them, so I'm really just focused on that and trying to be successful. I'd sure like to get a couple more wins at least this season, and hopefully make our way through the playoffs.”

shares
comments
Suarez earns career-best third, says a win "can happen any time"

Previous article

Suarez earns career-best third, says a win "can happen any time"

Next article

Ryan Blaney comes up short in fuel gamble at Watkins Glen

Ryan Blaney comes up short in fuel gamble at Watkins Glen
Load comments
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020