By admin | May 3, 2009
By Richard Allen
A late race rally in Richmond that brought him from outside the Top 20 to a final finishing spot of 13th is all that saved Matt Kenseth from dropping out of the all important Top 12 in the Sprint Cup standings.
This driver and team so well known for consistency would have seemed a sure bet for staying inside the Top 12, and thus making the Chase for the Championship cutoff after the next Richmond race, after having won the first two races of the season. However, since those first two victories there has been little to celebrate in this Roush Fenway Racing camp.
Kenseth claimed his first win in the â€˜Great American Raceâ€™ when he won the season opening Daytona 500 in February. He followed that up with a win in the Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California to prove that his initial victory was not just a rain shortened, restrictor plate fluke.
From that point on, though, things have gone downhill for the #17 Ford. He finished a dead last 43rd in Las Vegas after suffering an engine failure at the very beginning of the race and has fared hardly any better since. A 5th place in Texas is the only other Top 10 for Kenseth aside from the first two races.
In Saturday nightâ€™s Crown Royal 400 at Richmond the frustration level for this usually reserved driver rose to a new level.
â€œIt would be nice to come to a track and not have to drive a last place carâ€, he said over his team radio on one occasion during the event.
After being bounced into the wall by another car he commented, â€œWeâ€™ve got to get better cars or weâ€™re just gonna get run over and wrecked every week.â€
He was even critical of crew chief Drew Blickensderferâ€™s decisions on the timing of pit stops in the latter stages of the race.
Even though Ryan Newman set a precedent for winning the Daytona 500 and then going on to have a lackluster season otherwise in 2008, hardly anyone would have predicted such a fall for Matt Kenseth and his Roush Fenway Racing team in 2009. There is still plenty of time remaining for them to return to their winning ways of early on, but it will have to be quite a turnaround based on their recent performances.
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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