Kenseth: 'I Should Have Been Smarter'

Matt Kenseth

“I should have been smarter and just, I guess, rode like everybody else did half-throttle on the top (lane) and finish there." (Photo: Getty Images)

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Matt Kenseth’s attempt to win Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway cost him the points lead and left him confused.

As he stood on pit road after falling four points behind Jimmie Johnson in the title Chase, Kenseth tried to reconcile what happened.

“I’m still actually dumbfounded why everybody rode,’’ Kenseth said of the pack after finishing 20th.

“I should have been smarter and just, I guess, rode like everybody else did half-throttle on the top (lane) and finish there. I should have thought about points more. I thought we’d get enough cars to mix it up and make a run back toward the front ... and mix it up for the win. I thought that’s what we’re here to do.’’

Kenseth got shuffled late and was 16th with three laps to go. He tired to make a move and pull out but not enough cars left the top lane and followed him. Drivers said that it took about five or more cars to make a line work. Kenseth, who was 15th on the last lap, fell back without enough help, costing him points and positions.

While it would be easy to say that Kenseth was just frustrated that others didn’t make a move to help him, he wasn’t the only driver who noticed that those at the front appeared content with their position.

Johnson, who finished 13th, saw the same thing, so he made a move to jump into the top lane and avoid losing spots and points.

“I had to jump up there and salvage what I could at that point,’’ he said. “It’s no fun when it does that. It’s the nature of (restrictor-) plate racing. You don’t know the place to be.’’

“I was really shocked. We were able to make the bottom lane work often. I don’t know why guys didn’t try to do it. I guess everybody just wanted to finish for he most part. I tried it once or twice and I didn’t have a lot to lose because I was near the end (of the pack) and nobody would go, so I fell back to dead last in that line. I was really shocked that nobody wanted to go racing.’’

Joey Logano, who went with Kenseth late only to finish 16th, also was stunned at how the race ended.

“That was a lot more conservative race than I think anyone ever thought,’’ Logano said. “We all were racing pretty hard, too. In the end, nobody wanted to go.

“The bottom lane doesn’t work because of these big shark fins on the side that doesn’t let any air on the spoiler, so it hurts the bottom lane so much. You aren’t able to slow down the guy on the top because the fin blocks the air on the spoiler and you can’t slow them down. That is why the bottom lane doesn’t work and it is never going to work until they change that.’’

Despite the frustration with the finish, Johnson goes into this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway with the points lead. That will put pressure on Kenseth since Martinsville is one of Johnson’s best tracks and it is not one of Kenseth’s better tracks, thus Johnson has a chance to extend his lead.

Sunday’s end added to a frustrating day for Kenseth after his car’s handling went away in the middle of the race. It was so bad that he complained on the radio about nearly crashing.

“It was a horrible, horrible day for us,’’ Kenseth said. “We were real fast in the beginning and then just got way off. We got so loose that I couldn’t even hang on to it.’’

Kenseth said it got better at the end but then no one made a move off the top lane and his finish was doomed.

Kenseth also downplayed losing the points lead.

“I don’t think it will affect my team,’’ he said. “I feel like we can go everywhere else, and, honestly, we can race with anybody when we’re at our best. Hopefully, we’ll be at our best the next four weeks and we’ll give them a run for their money.’’

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