Season Review: Matt Kenseth
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on December 5, 2013 | 7:00 A.M. EST
"Obviously it’s been a great year, best year I’ve ever had." (Photo: Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth enjoyed a career year in his first season as a member of Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
That may sound strange for a driver who brought home a Sprint Cup Series trophy and 24 career wins during his tenure at Roush Fenway Racing before moving to JGR last winter. But Kenseth exceeded most everyone’s expectation in 2013 when he scored series-high seven victories and went down to the wire in a championship battle with Jimmie Johnson.
“Obviously it’s been a great year, best year I’ve ever had,” Kenseth said. “I think when you look at our season overall, when I talk about it being the best season of my career, we didn’t come up with the championship, the championship is the ultimate goal, you always want that, but from a competitive standpoint it’s been by far the best season of my career.
“We lead the most laps, qualified the best, most wins, all that stuff. From a competitive standpoint, it was our best year.”
Kenseth started the campaign with a strong car, but a blown engine handed him a 37th place finish in the Daytona 500. However, he rebounded two weeks later with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"This is awesome," Kenseth said after winning on his birthday. "I just want to thank the Lord for this opportunity. I just knew it. I felt really good about this group and I really feel like this is just the beginning."
It proved to be the first of many trips to Victory Lane for Kenseth, who was especially strong at mile-and-a-half tracks all season. In addition to Vegas, Kenseth added victories at Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland with other wins coming at New Hampshire, Darlington and Bristol.
Kenseth kicked off the Chase with back-to-back victories in Chicago and New Hampshire and was in the hunt for the top spot until the second to last race of the season at Phoenix.
While Johnson avoided two potential disasters on the race track to finish inside the top five, Kenseth struggled all day long and finally came home 23rd and fell 28 points behind in the title race.
"We missed it pretty bad, missed it all weekend," said crew chief Jason Ratcliff of the disappointing day. "The car just wasn’t responding the way our typical Joe Gibbs Racing cars do. I’m not so sure that our teammates didn’t fight something similar. I can’t say it’s a bad car, but for whatever reason this tire package with our short-track package wasn’t good today. We didn’t push the right button all weekend."
Kenseth did show some fight in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway winning the pole and finishing second to JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. But it wasn’t enough to overtake Johnson and score a second career Sprint Cup trophy.
“Obviously it's been a great year, best year I've ever had,” said Kenseth. “Had a lot of fun racing over at Joe Gibbs Racing. I'm really happy for Denny getting that win. Think that will help us all with some momentum over the off-season. Really enjoyed our year.”
In all, Kenseth ended the season with 12 top fives, 20 top-10s and three poles.
Motor Racing Network will conclude our countdown to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards in Las Vegas with a look at the champion, Jimmie Johnson, on Friday, Dec. 6. MRN will broadcast the Awards on Dec. 6 starting at 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.
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