Charlotte II: Round thirty-one preview

Points battle tightens as Kenseth slumps for second-straight week DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2003) -- A seemingly secure lead has turned tenuous for Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford), coming into Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500...

Points battle tightens as Kenseth slumps for second-straight week

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2003) -- A seemingly secure lead has turned tenuous for Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford), coming into Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. After posting his two worst finishes of the season in the last two races, Kenseth unwillingly has rejuvenated the championship hopes of his closest rivals in the NASCAR Top 10.

Prior to the last two races, many people had begun to concede the NASCAR Winston Cup championship to Kenseth, who has led the points virtually all season via remarkable consistency by both himself and his machinery. It also has helped, of course, that the reigning world championship pit crew wears DeWalt colors.

But two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway and this past Sunday at Kansas Speedway, circumstances conspired to take the driver and crew out of the equation. At Talladega, Kenseth's Ford developed engine problems and he finished 33rd. At Kansas, a Lap 68 accident damaged the No. 17, necessitating extensive repairs in the garage. Kenseth returned to the race 42 laps behind and in 43rd place, and ended up 36th.

Kansas, in fact, was a weekend of double-headed misfortune. An accident during Friday's practice damaged the primary No. 17 and forced Kenseth to use a back-up car the rest of the weekend.

"Yeah, we've had a couple tough weeks, that's for sure," Kenseth said. "A lot of times you create your own luck. [At Talladega], breaking an engine wasn't bad luck, it was poor decisions. [At Kansas], it wasn't really bad luck. It was poor driving by me and poor decisions with the car, so I can't really blame it on luck. We're doing it to ourselves.

"It can always be worse. We're walking out of [Kansas] and we get to go to Charlotte. I'm looking forward to going there and, hopefully, do a better job there."

Prior to Talladega, Kenseth held a 436-point lead over second-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Leaving Kansas, the lead had dwindled to 259.

"We're digging, and Matt's having some bad luck," Harvick said. "If we keep knocking the lead off 80 or 100 points at a time, we're going to be in good shape in a couple of weeks. Right now, we're just going out and doing everything we can every week. Our cars are better, our pit stops more consistent, and that is helping everything come together.

"Down the stretch here, we're definitely racing a little harder because we've got something to shoot for. We just need luck to stay on our side and see how things play out."

A footnote to consider, when assessing Harvick's chances of catching Kenseth: Harvick is the only driver in the current NASCAR Top 10 to not have a DNF this season.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick