Matt Kenseth: ‘We just couldn’t touch them’

Posted Sunday, Nov. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Matt Kenseth’s problems on Sunday were more tangled than an expensive speeding ticket through pit road.

The Joe Gibbs racer is no longer co-leader of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup because Jimmie Johnson was that good in the AAA Texas 500. Kenseth’s car simply wasn’t.

Johnson beat Kenseth on his turf, the 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway where the 2003 Sprint Cup champion has 15 top-10 finishes in 22 starts, including victories in 2002 and 2011.

“We weren’t going to beat him on speed tonight, no matter what,” said Kenseth. “We just couldn’t touch them.”

NASCAR officials penalized Kenseth a pit pass for speeding through pit road early in the race.

The result sent the No. 20 back to 16th, the last car on the lead lap and 27.5 seconds behind Johnson.

Kenseth spent the rest of the race playing catch-up.

He rallied to finish fourth but fell out of the top spot of the series lead he shared with Johnson and seven points back of the five-time Sprint Cup champion heading into next week’s race at Phoenix International Speedway.

“I sped trying to be aggressive… it was all on me,” said Kenseth, who led three laps early after starting sixth.

Kyle Busch was penalized for the same thing later in the race.

“We still came back and got a top five. The day could have been a lot worse. It was a good day for us, really.”

Sunday’s race marked the second consecutive that Kenseth and his crew have had trouble with the race setup at TMS. This is his first season at Joe Gibbs Racing after years with Roush Fenway Racing.

“We made big improvements in the spring,” Kenseth said. “In the spring we were really off, and it is kind of ironic, because this has probably been my best track of my career until this year.”

Kenseth and Johnson put some distance between them and the third and fourth cars, Kevin Harvick, who moved up a spot in the standings, and Kyle Busch.

It’s a two-man race, though Kenseth’s quest is uphill with two races remaining.

“Matt didn’t have maybe the best day and still finished fourth,” Johnson said. “This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it’s going to come down to mistakes.

“There is still two weeks of very hard racing ahead of us.”

It’s premature to write the obituary on Kenseth’s 2013.

Johnson left TMS a year ago with a seven-point lead, which he lost to eventual champion Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth said the strategy is fairly clear at this point.

As Johnson has proven over time, if you’re to win a championship you have to win races and you have to go through the No. 48.

“We’re right in it,” Kenseth said. “As good as my team is… if we hit everything right, we can have days like he had today.

“I still feel good, I’m confident. I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix.”

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