By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series return for Matt Kenseth could not have been worse. Through no fault of his own, Kenseth’s first run in the No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Fusion at Kansas Speedway was far from stellar. The 2003 Premier Series Champion struggled throughout the entirety of the KC Masterpiece 400 race weekend.
In the waning laps of the race, Kenseth had found himself mired deep in the field, three laps down. On a restart with 14 laps to go, the Roush Fenway Racing driver’s night came to an abrupt end. William Byron lost control, setting off a multi-car wreck. Kenseth almost got through before sliding in the oil and other engine fluids before colliding with Byron. The impact destroyed the front end of his Ford.
“I don’t have any idea what happened with the wreck,” Kenseth said. “I just saw everybody wrecking and the track was kind of blocked, so I tried to get down towards the grass. This grass is not the new friendly grass with the rain and all it just kind of dug in and then I just hit the car in front of me.”
From the drop of the green flag, Kenseth was off the pace. He complained about the car’s lack of speed on the radio to his crew chief, Matt Puccia. Kenseth went a lap down early, being forced to take the free pass during the competition caution on lap 30. Later, he battled seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson for the free pass late in Stage 1. Neither drive received the ‘lucky dog.’
“I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around,” Kenseth explained. “We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”
Kenseth’s weekend never got far off the ground. In practice, his team struggled to get through technical inspection. In qualifying, the same issue prevented him from ever attempting a lap, relegating him to the 36thstarting position in his first race since last year’s season finale.
Now Kenseth and Puccia will prepare for next weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race as Kenseth attempts to ‘right the ship’ at Roush Fenway Racing.