By Kelly Crandall – In his last four Bristol starts, Matt Kenseth has led 424 laps. He’s led over 500 in his last six.
But in three of the last four, trouble not of his doing has kept Kenseth from competing for the win. Last August he was able to avoid problems to dominate the event and pick up his third Bristol victory. Sunday, as Kenseth was going for his fourth, someone else’s problem, again, collected him.
While running second as the caution came out for a wreck on lap 156 ahead of he and the leader, Timmy Hill plowed into the back of the No. 20. Leader Kurt Busch and Kenseth had just gotten slowed down when Hill came along at a much higher speed. The contact destroyed the rear end of Kenseth’s car and led to numerous pit stops for the team.
“Our Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota was really fast. We had it in the lead there and we were trying to take it easy on tires, honestly I was just trying to keep the gap where it was and we were pretty comfortable,” Kenseth said about the incident that occurred just as the race had restarted after a three hour rain delay.
“We had some damage earlier when that one car (Hill) must not have seen the caution and hit me going like 4,000 miles an hour. We had some damage that really slowed our pit stop down and we couldn’t get the tire off. We came down third there and had a flat left rear. Fortunately, got another caution, but then for some reason we just could never get the car tightened up again. Just really couldn’t go forward after that. It was a disappointing ending, but it was a really positive day. We led some laps. We were a lot stronger than we’ve been the last few weeks so looking forward to hopefully taking that momentum to California.”
Kenseth led the most laps, 165, but finished 13th. After the accident he restarted in the rear but charged his way back to the lead and looked to have been left unharmed. Then the car started to go away and Kenseth made contact with the wall again before eventually loosing complete control and never challenging again.
“I told Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) that I feel like a high school kid in my first race today – I felt like I bounced off of everything,” said Kenseth of the car control. “It was definitely an eventful night. Certainly not the result that we wanted. There was a lot of positives that came out of tonight. I thought we performed really well on the racetrack – the strongest we’ve been so far this year.”
It was another Bristol result not worthy of the performance. Kenseth was crashed last year in the same event while also running second. Having just been passed by Jeff Gordon for the lead, Gordon cut a tire and collected them both. In the August race of 2012, Kenseth was racing side-by-side for the lead with Tony Stewart when the two wrecked.
On Sunday it was more trouble. Kenseth will head to California next weekend still looking for his first win of the season, sitting eighth in points.
“I think it (the car) was about the same as what we had here in the spring and in August – we had unbelievably good cars here the last two times,” he said. “I was really pleased with my car once the race got rolling I really felt pretty good about it if we could stay out of trouble, which we didn’t, and not have any damage and stay somewhere toward the front. Then I felt like we were going to be in the group and have a chance.”
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