As the clock continues to wind down on the regular season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Matt Kenseth desperately needs a win to be able to secure a spot in the playoffs, but at Watkins Glen, Kenseth would fall one spot short.
Throughout the season, Kenseth has had opportunities to win races that didn’t pan out for one reason or another and Sunday’s I Love New York 355 was yet another example of the 2003 series champion being close at the end of the race, but not close enough, as he crossed the line 0.414 seconds behind Martin Truex, Jr.
“I mean, man, all these years trying to do this it’s disappointing to come home second when I had a shot at him (Martin Truex Jr.) there,” said Kenseth. “But, in all reality he just slowed down as much as I did and watched his back. He had a lot faster car today, but the guys had a great strategy and I was able to save a lot early in that run and just tried to manage my back and the gap behind me and had enough fuel there for the end.”
Kenseth started the race in 15th place and made his way into the top-10 by lap eight. However, his No. 20 team elected to play the fuel strategy game before the end of the first stage, so Kenseth would end the first stage outside of the top-10.
By pitting before the first stage was complete, Kenseth was able to cycle into the top-five when the leaders pitted during the stage break and climbed as high as third place when the second stage was complete on lap 40.
Once inside the top-five, that’s where Kenseth would stay for the remainder of the race, except for making his final pit stop under caution on lap 53.
As the cars in front of him began pitting in the closing laps when they could not make it to the finish on fuel, Kenseth was able to climb to second with leader Truex, Jr. close enough that Kenseth had a chance to try and catch him over the last two laps. However, the laps would run out before Kenseth could get there, having to settle for second instead.
Though he wasn’t able to capture the win, Kenseth’s runner-up finish was his best finish of the season and he was also able to increase his points margin over 17th by 11 points, giving him a 28 point cushion with four races remaining in the regular season.
“I realize how many different winners there’s been, and there’s only, I think, maybe three spots or something left, but honestly I feel like with driving for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and having Jason (Ratcliff) as my crew chief and the team we have that we shouldn’t be over a year without a win,” Kenseth added.
“It’s kind of our own doing no matter what happens. We’re running a lot better lately. At the beginning of the year we ran so‑so and just had so many DNFs, so many problems and no stage points, just got buried in the points. So, we’ve been able to make a little comeback in the points, which is nice especially for the season that we’ve had. But, lately we’ve been running a lot better, and I feel like we keep running like this, hopefully we can get a win the next few weeks.”