By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Matt Kenseth had his work cut out for him heading into the elimination race at Kansas Speedway, needing to make up eight points to be able to advance onto the next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and he looked to be well on his way to accomplishing that before finding an early exit that put an end to his hopes of challenging for a second championship.
Finishing the first two stages eighth and fourth, respectively, Kenseth put himself in position to not only score enough points to move on to the Round of 8, but also challenge for the race win. However, all of that would come to a crashing halt on lap 199.
Coming off of Turn 2, Erik Jones broke loose and spun back across the track in front of the oncoming field, collecting a total of 14 cars by the time the crash was over. One of those cars involved was Kenseth, who had moderate damage to his Toyota, but it was still in a drivable condition.
Kenseth would bring his car to the attention of his crew on pit road, but would shortly find his day coming to an early end, not due to the damage, but because the team broke a rule in accordance with this year’s Damaged Vehicle Policy which reads as follows:
“In addition to the five-minute time limit…six or fewer crew members are permitted in the vehicle’s assigned pit box for repairs to a damaged vehicle…If a vehicle exceeds the crew member limit, the vehicle will not be scored or permitted to return to the race.”
Only six crew members were allowed over the wall to work on fixing the damage, but a seventh crew member was seen heading over the wall with a saw in hand to try and help the other crew members, putting Kenseth in violation of the rule, ending his day, and taking his championship hopes with it.
Needless to say, Kenseth was not happy about the ruling by NASCAR and said as much in his interviews with the media a short time later.
“Honestly, I’ve never heard of disqualifying somebody from a race if you got one too many guys over the wall or whatever happened there,” said Kenseth. “I don’t really know. I really don’t have a lot of good things to say at the moment, so I’ll probably try not to say much. Pretty disappointing way to end. Can’t even go back on the race track because of the error we made. It’s just – couldn’t be any more disappointed.
“Seems like we got a lot of stuff that kind of gets, you know, changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins from putting lugnuts out of pit boxes to one to many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you.”
With his championship hopes gone and no news on whether he’ll be racing full-time in the Cup Series or elsewhere next season, Kenseth will now look to try and pick up the pieces and win a race between now and the end of the year, when his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing will come to an end to make room for Erik Jones.
“We showed some flashes of brilliance this season, been off and on, been fast at times, had great pit stops at times, just haven’t been able to put it all together like a championship team needs to. Unfortunately, this is an example of that. I hope that I can do a better job here the next four weeks and hopefully go get a win.”