TALLADEGA, Ala. – At the end of what he called "an incredibly disappointing day" in Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Matt Kenseth found himself with a good car but a bad finish.
The result was Kenseth losing the Sprint Cup points lead for the first time since the beginning of the Chase. Kenseth swapped point positions with Jimmie Johnson, Johnson moving four points in front of Kenseth after starting the day four behind.
Despite leading 32 of the race's 188 laps and racing as high as sixth with 18 laps to go, Kenseth took the checkered flag 20th, his worst finish in the past 10 races. Oddly, Johnson experienced a similar day, leading a race-high 47 laps but finishing 13th. However, his finish position, teamed with Kenseth's run, left Johnson first in points.
Kenseth said the handling on his car went from good to bad in the second half of the race, but he was more surprised, he said, by the fact that there was little jousting for position over the closing miles.
The top 12 drivers raced in single file approaching the finish, with every competitor seemingly wary to try to make a move to the inside for fear of dropping through the pack.
Asked if drivers were thinking about moves, Kenseth said, "They must be still thinking about it because nobody made one. They were all up on the top [of the track] there. Once everybody got piled to the top with about 15 to go, I don't know why, but if you had five or six cars to try it, you could get it back to two wide, but just nobody tried it. I did, and it was dumb on my part because I couldn't get enough cars to do it and just fell backward."
Instead of a probable top 10, Kenseth fell to 20th.
"I should have been smarter there and, I guess, paid attention to points, but I'm not really wired like that," he said. "I want to go up and mix it up and try to win the thing."
Although he now is the hunter and not the hunted in the Chase, Kenseth said he isn't concerned.
"I think I have one of the greatest teams out here, obviously, and I feel like we can go everywhere else and honestly we can race anybody when we're at our best," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be at our best the next four weeks, and we'll give them a run for their money."
Kenseth said he was surprised that his car's handling suffered in the second half of the race.
"We ran well in the beginning, and we just – for some reason – handling is never really an issue here," he said. "We just got incredibly loose, and I just couldn't control my car even hardly by myself, and I really just had to go to the back and wait until we could fix it.
"It was really bizarre. Typically, handling is a non-issue here, and we just got so loose I couldn't even hang on to it."
By Mike Hembree - Special to the NASCAR Wire Service