By admin | March 31, 2008
Kenseth not finding usual consistency
By Richard Allen
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Flowers bloom in the spring. The tide comes in and the tide goes out. Matt Kenseth finishes in the Top 10 of NASCAR races on a regular basis. Until this year those were all things that could be counted on.
In 2008, Matt Kenseth has had a hard time keeping up his end of that bargain. For years he has been known as a driver who could take a good car and win, or at least place in the Top 5. But perhaps more importantly, he has shown the ability throughout his career to take a car that was not at its best and salvage a Top 10 finish.
The 2003 champion’s finishes this year show only the consistency of a yo-yo. It has been an unusual up and down pattern for the man whose steadiness was at least in part the cause of NASCAR changing the way it decides its season title.
What has happened?
The popular thing to do would be to point out that for the first time in his career Kenseth has opened the season with a new crew chief. Chip Bolin has replaced Robbie Reiser atop the #17 pit box, a position he held briefly last season as Reiser sat out a suspension for a rules violation during Daytona qualifying.
However, a deeper look into the team’s performance would indicate otherwise. The finishes outside the Top 10 all have one thing in common. Kenseth has found himself involved in someone else’s troubles.
In Daytona Kenseth had a strong car and moved to the front late in the race along with teammate Greg Biffle only to be taken out when another teammate, David Ragan, forced him into the wall. He finished 36th.
In Las Vegas, Kenseth led late in the race only to be passed by teammate Carl Edwards then spun after contact with Jeff Gordon.
In Martinsville, Kenseth got off to a poor start on the track he has never been fond of. However, he was able to take advantage of the ‘Lucky Dog’ rule to get a lap back. He appeared on course to snatch a good finish out of a disastrous day when he was spun by David Gilliland. The usually mild mannered Kenseth seemed to allow his frustration to show as he retaliated on Gilliland and was made to sit through a two lap rough driving penalty.
So, it appears as though bad luck or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time has been Kenseth’s worst enemy this year.
As of now the Wisconsin native sits 15th in the point standings, 238 points out of 1st place and 63 markers out of the all important 12th spot.
For Kenseth and his fans it is not yet time to press the panic button. The consistency that has made him one of only two drivers to qualify for every Chase for the Championship is sure to return once this string of bad luck passes. After all, the sun rose in the east this morning and the flowers are beginning to bloom.
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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