By admin | November 10, 2013
By Richard Allen
Whatever Matt Kenseth’s worst nightmare might have been coming into Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in Phoenix, it came true. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who is seeking his second NASCAR championship, experienced a miserable run that dealt a devastating blow to his chances with only one race remaining in the 2013 season.
Kenseth battled an ill handling Toyota all day as competitors often passed by him on the outside and inside as he struggled just to stay out of the way. In the end, the #20 car crossed the finish line in the 23rd position, one lap off the lead pace.
At one point, things got so bad for Kenseth that crew chief Jason Ratcliff told him to stay on track during a caution flag because “There’s nothing I can do for you in here that will help as much as clean air will”. It turned out that the driver did not gain enough track position to make a difference and his car continued to fade.
After the race, Ratcliff admitted to his team over the radio that “I did a really poor job of executing this week.”
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson did what Jimmie Johnson seems to always do, and that is to produce a clutch performance when titles are at stake. The Hendrick Motorsports pilot steered his Chevrolet to a 3rd place finish and all but put his sixth Sprint Cup championship on ice. His lead is now 28 points over Kenseth and 34 markers ahead of Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick.
With his current lead, Johnson needs only to finish 23rd or better next week in Miami to clinch the Sprint Cup. The five time champion has a career average finish of 15th on that track. But there is at least some hope for Kenseth as Johnson has scored results of 32nd and 36th in the last two races held on the 1.5 mile speedway.
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