Tuesday, March 3, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Bad day at worst time ruins Kenseth’s season

NASCAR In the Pits Auto Racing

FILe - In this Sept. 21, 2013 file photo, Matt Kenseth leads Jimmie Johnson during practice for a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Just like last season, Johnson enters the next-to-last race with a seven-point lead.. He came up empty in his bid for a sixth title last year. He's more confident after his victory at Texas, but with Kenseth in his rearview mirror that could be a false sense of security. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

By
November 13, 2013 |

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Matt Kenseth did his best to put on a brave face following his worst performance of the season, which just happened to come at the worst possible time in his championship battle with Jimmie Johnson.

Dark sunglasses shielded the disappointment in Kenseth’s eyes when he climbed from his car. His voice cracked just once during what was clearly a concession speech. Instead of harping on the negatives — he was saddled with an ill-handling car all day at Phoenix International Raceway and every fix crew chief Jason Ratcliff attempted only made it worse — Kenseth focused on the positives.

His first season with Joe Gibbs Racing has been the best of his 14 years in the Sprint Cup Series.

He won a career-best seven races, added a Southern 500 victory to his resume and crossed Chicago, Darlington, Kentucky and New Hampshire off the list of active tracks where he’d never won a Cup race.

And at 41 years old, a decade removed from his only Cup championship, Kenseth was in the mix again.

Although Kenseth is still mathematically eligible to win the title, his 23rd-place finish at Phoenix sends him into Sunday’s finale at Homestead trailing Johnson by 28 points. It would take a massive failure for Johnson not to win his sixth championship.

“You hope to go down to Homestead and race for it on performance,” Kenseth said. “On the other hand, I’m extremely happy. I’m really, really happy with my team. It’s a special group of guys. We’ve had just an amazing, incredible season and we still have one week left. Hopefully, we can go to Homestead and go down there and contend for a win.”

It was an admirable post-race performance on an abominable day for Kenseth and the entire No. 20 team that came out of nowhere at a time when there was zero margin for error.

The rest of the garage had noted from the opening practice Friday that Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team had shifted into another gear. Coming off a rout of the field at Texas, the No. 48 team gave every indication it was poised to do the same at Phoenix. Joey Logano said Johnson was in “kill mode” and Kenseth teammate Denny Hamlin sounded as if a Johnson title was inevitable.

“I think everyone in the garage knows that they can turn it up at will, and this is typically the time of year they start doing that, especially when they are in championship contention,” Hamlin said.

With the pressure on, Kenseth had to be perfect.

Instead, his car was terrible from the start, every adjustment backfired and strategy didn’t play into Ratcliff’s hands. When the crew chief tried to make a call on the fly, it led to a botched pit stop that put Kenseth down two laps from the leaders.

“It’d be great if we came in here and everything worked out like we had on paper, you went out and won the race and go to Homestead tied,” Ratcliff shrugged. “That’s why it’s so hard to win these championships. People work their guts out for them and they’re very rewarding when you do get them.”

Ratcliff called it “a pretty rough day,” but noted the No. 20 team had very few of those this year — Kenseth had two engine failures and a crash that contributed to three of his five finishes worse than 23rd this season — and that on this particular Sunday, things just spiraled out of control quickly in a sport that moves at almost 200 mph.

“Everybody’s going to say, ‘Oh, the pressure got to them,'” Ratcliff said. “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.”

This is a team that led just 190 laps a year ago when Joey Logano drove the car and Ratcliff won his first race as a Sprint Cup crew chief. This is a team that took Kenseth to New Hampshire, where he’d led 89 laps in 26 previous races and hadn’t finished in the top-five since 2005, and got him to Victory Lane for the first time in his career.

The New Hampshire victory marked back-to-back wins to open the Chase and put Johnson on alert. After Johnson moved into the points lead heading into Martinsville, the No. 20 team went into another one of Kenseth’s weaker tracks and delivered a second-place finish that tied the championship race.

Sometimes, people just have bad days. Sunday was one of them for Kenseth and crew. It was the wrong day against the wrong opponent, and behind his sunglasses, Kenseth had to be wondering if he’ll ever have an opportunity like this again.

But deep down, he knew this season itself was one to be treasured.

“Disappointing day here, but yet what a great season,” he said. “I really appreciate this whole group. There’s not a car out here I’d rather be driving than this one. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
Fairfield police seek help to ID injured bicyclist

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

 
New receiver for Parkway Gardens wins praise

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

College looks at Measure Q project changes

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A5

 
Robots, raucous businessmen set to arrive on big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

Bridge work to shut down Highway 12 east of Rio Vista

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
Caltrans reschedules work on J-Mack Ferry

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
Highway 12 Association to meet this month

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

 
State schedules work on Highway 12

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

.

US / World

GOP vote to endorse gay group is momentous but incremental

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lawmaker billed taxpayers for private plane to football game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Netanyahu assails Iran deal, touts US-Israel ties

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
‘Naty’ Revuelta, who had daughter with Fidel Castro, dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Pakistan police arrest parents refusing kids’ polio vaccine

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
UN warns against complacency as Ebola fight enters new phase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Iraq launches operation to retake Tikrit from Islamic State

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn’t see his killer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Storms bring up nearly 3 feet of snow to Lake Tahoe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
4 people killed, 4 others injured in California car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

California court rules against sex offender law application

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
State water officials announce modest supplies amid drought

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Federal study: Foster kids struggle to get health screenings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Mom convicted of killing son, 5, by poisoning him with salt

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Well-liked photo teacher found dead in California classroom

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Budget standoff leaves California college hopefuls in limbo

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Georgia woman seeks to delay death for husband’s murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Police chief: Man killed on Skid Row reached for gun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Military judge orders overseer of Gitmo cases replaced

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Snowy Boston starts removing parking-space savers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Israelis worry about inequality, not Iran

By Daniel Gordis | From Page: A11

 
Editorial cartoon: March 3-4, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Minority outreach that works

By Jennifer Rubin | From Page: A11

 
State GOP gathers, celebrates modest successes

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

.

Living

.

Entertainment

Sara Gilbert welcomes baby boy with wife Linda Perry

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Judge: CeeLo Green in compliance with probation in drug case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Clive Owen to make Broadway debut in Pinter’s ‘Old Times’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Television’s ‘Judge Judy’ staying in session

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Pop channel bringing Daytime Emmys ceremony back to TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Julianne and Derek Hough to hit the road again this summer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Ming-Na Wen: ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ role makes me a cool mom

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
TVGrid March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

NASCAR falls flat in follow-up to Daytona 500

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Mayweather and Pacquiao to meet only once before fight week

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Michael Schumacher’s son to drive in Formula 4

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
UConn still No. 1 in women’s basketball poll

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Kurt Busch to follow guidelines toward NASCAR reinstatement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Harrington wins the Honda Classic in a playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Catholic school apologizes for racial taunting of hoops foes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Curt Schilling fires back after offensive Twitter posts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Wild week leads to changes across AP Top 25 poll

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
New Browns QB McCown barely knows Manziel

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Jordan, other NBA owners join Forbes’ billionaire list

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
NFL salary cap increases $10 million to top $143 million

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

A’s switch-pitcher hopes to find spot with Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sharks trade Desjardins to Blackhawks for Smith

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

.

Business

Buffett declines to clarify plan to eventually replace him

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US consumer spending, adjusted for inflation, rose in Jan.

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Ikea launches furniture with inbuilt wireless chargers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Google, Facebook update contrasting plans to connect world

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Minimum wage in 1 Oakland jumps

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
PayPal to acquire mobile wallet provider Paydient

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Costco strikes credit card deal with Citi, Visa

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

 
Bill Gates repeats at top of Forbes’ list of billionaires

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

HP’s big deal: Tech giant buys Aruba Networks for $2.7B

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Next Google Maps adventure: Soaring through Amazon jungle

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Dot-com deja vu: Nasdaq tops 5,000, approaching record high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Wizard of Id March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Cryptoquote March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Dilbert March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Crossword March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth March 3

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4