Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kenseth's Phoenix Debacle Leaves Johnson In The Driver's Seat

"We just could never get it right."
It’s going to take a miracle now.

Matt Kenseth’s second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title – so possible just a week ago – is now the longest of longshots after a crushing day at Phoenix International Raceway. When point leader Jimmie Johnson turned up the heat with a pole-winning effort on qualifying Friday, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing team wilted. They struggling with a balky race car all weekend, and a horrific pit-road performance at the midpoint of Sunday’s race doomed their driver to a 23rd-place finish.

Johnson now enjoys a whopping, 28-point advantage heading into Sunday’s season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, and needs just a 23rd-place finish to claim his sixth series title and move with one championship of Hall Of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

"We haven’t had a day like this all year," said a crestfallen Kenseth Sunday. "We just could never get it right."

Jimmie is in command
His Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota started 14th and got progressively worse from there, handling so poorly at one point that Kenseth complained, “I can’t even tell you how tight I am. (It) will not turn at all. I can’t keep up with the pack, it’s so tight."

Things went from bad to worse on a lap-164 pit stop, when crew chief Jason Ratcliff seemed unable to decide whether to change two tires, or four. Confusing commands over the team radio left crewmembers scrambling in confusion for a time. They eventually changed four tires, then dropped the No. 20 Toyota on the air hose, more than doubling the length of a normal pit stop and dropping Kenseth from seventh to 29th in the running order.

Ratcliff called the pit road fiasco “a perfect storm. You go to put left sides on and then nobody comes down pit road behind you and you’re thinking, 'Man, let’s just put four on.' But the bad part is that you’ve already called (for only) lefts and your guys have left-side tires in their hands. 

“(It was) just a bad job on my part.

"We missed it pretty bad all weekend," admitted Ratcliff. "The car just wasn’t responding the way our typical Joe Gibbs Racing cars do. For whatever reason, this tire package with our short-track package wasn’t good today. We didn’t push the right button all weekend."

Now, there’s nothing left for Kenseth and company to do but pray for divine intervention at Homestead, a track where Johnson has proven adept at wrapping up titles.


  1. Anonymous9:33 PM

    Keep your chin up Matt, it's still been a great year!

  2. Gosh it was painful to watch Kenseth absolutely struggle today. And here I thought he was going to wind up with 10 wins.

  3. Anonymous12:15 PM

    What the hell happened? I can't remember a season's worth of bad racing luck show up all at once in one race. Almost makes Denny's luck look good! -Ellen, JJ's girlfriend

  4. Anonymous1:18 PM

    Don't hand JJ that trophy just yet. First lap of Phoenix race shows anything can happen at anytime.

  5. Wow have you ever seen a team deteriorate in a weeks time like this before?

    Is Jason or Matt watching the mail box for that Card with his Christmas bonus from RH, CK, and JJ?

    Shameful! That performance was totally shameful!

    Did Matt bring Roush Championship Syndrome with him to JGR?

    Was that really the same 20 Team we watched all year?

  6. As a JJ fan I sympathize with Matt. He's a great competitor and it's a terrible it has to end like that. I'd rather show up at Homestead and duke it out to the last lap.