By admin | April 1, 2009
By Richard Allen
One of the roller coasters at Dollywood could well be renamed â€˜The Kensethâ€™ in honor of Matt Kensethâ€™s up and down 2009 season. His year began with the highest of highs but has since experienced a precipitous drop to the lowest of lows.
Kenseth could not have asked for a more perfect beginning to 2009. He won the prestigious Daytona 500 in the season opener. In doing so, he benefited from a bit of racing luck. The driver of the Roush Fenway Racing Ford led less than a mile of that race under green flag conditions. Almost at the very moment he took the lead it began to rain and after a few laps of driving around under caution, the race was stopped and Kenseth was declared the winner.It was Kensethâ€™s first win in NASCARâ€™s premier event.
The next week, the Wisconsin native added a second victory in as many races. He took the checkered flag at the Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California. In doing so he outran Jeff Gordon over the last 50 miles of the event to score his 18th career win.
After that, however, things have not gone so well for the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. He finished dead last 43rd in the seasonâ€™s third race in Las Vegas after his car was beset by engine troubles at the very beginning of the race.
Kensethâ€™s best finish since his California victory has been a 12th which he scored in Atlanta during the seasonâ€™s fourth event.
After Atlanta came two consecutive short track races in Bristol and Martinsville.
Kenseth has two career wins in Bristol but he was never a factor in the Food City 500. A poor qualifying run buried him deep in the field at the very outset and things only got worse from there. He bounced the #17 car off the wall in the early going and limped to a 33rd place result.
Martinsville is a track the former champion has never cared for and has rarely done well on. Kenseth fell behind early when his crew made the uncharacteristic mistake of letting a tire roll outside their pit stall. The black and yellow Ford was forced to observe a pass through penalty which put him one lap down. He was never able to recover that lap and wound up with a 23rd place finish.
Despite winning the first two races of the season, Kenseth has fallen all the way to 12th place in the Sprint Cup standings.
Two weeks into the 2009 season it appeared as though Matt Kenseth was bound to take control of the Sprint Cup Series. However, the highs of Daytona and California have faded due to this teamâ€™s poor performance over the following four races.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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