Kenseth confident in ability to make playoffs after another strong run

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Kenseth confident in ability to make playoffs after another strong run
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Aug 6, 2017, 11:28 PM

Matt Kenseth wheeled his way to a career-high second-place finish at Watkins Glen International on Sunday — and just his second top-five finish in 18-career starts at the 2.45-mile circuit.

Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Kenseth, who qualified 15th, could have used a little luck to run down race winner Martin Truex Jr., over the closing laps.

He trailed the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota by .414-seconds at the finish.

“Man, all these years trying to do this it’s disappointing to come home second when I had a shot at him (Truex) there,” Kenseth said. “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.”

Within arm's reach

Kenseth was eighth when the race restarted on Lap 55. He conserved enough fuel to run the final 45 laps while other drivers ahead of him could not go the distance.

“I felt like we had a top-five car,” Kenseth said. “Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it's that close and you see him saving and you're saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it's disappointing not to get it.

“Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6 I was like, man, I'm going to have a shot, and he was so fast I still couldn't get to him getting into (Turn) 7.”

For Kenseth, who hasn’t won in 39 races, the second-place was his best result of 2017 — but hardly a consolation prize. He’s currently ninth in the Monster Energy Cup standings — the third-highest drivers in points without a win. He’s six points behind eighth-place Jamie McMurray and 11 points behind seventh-place Chase Elliott.

“I'm second happiest,” Kenseth said. “Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win. Honestly, I don't even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it's been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here.”

Playoff situation

With 14 race winners — and 13 drivers with unencumbered wins that will transfer into the playoffs, a win over the next four races would offer Kenseth some security entering the post-season. He has four wins at Michigan, three wins at Bristol one win at Darlington and two wins at Richmond. Is Kenseth confident being on the bubble?

“I haven't really thought about it that much,” Kenseth said. “I mean, 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 and having Jason (Ratcliff) as my crew chief and the team we have that we shouldn't be over a year without a win.

"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. You know, 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.”

Living in the moment

After18 full seasons on the Monster Energy Cup Series tour, the 2003 champion has amassed 38 wins, 19 poles, 177 top fives and 319 top 10s. However, now Kenseth finds himself a lame duck after Joe Gibbs Racing announced its plans to move Erik Jones into the No. 20 Toyota next season.

But just like his quest for a win, Kenseth is trying to remain in the moment.

“Again, I mean, believe it or not, it's really not at the front of my mind,” he said. “I'm just really ‑‑ I'm actually enjoying this. I had an enjoyable day today except for the end was very disappointing. I was like, man, after all these years I'm going to have a shot at winning one of these things and couldn't do it. That's really all I'm thinking about is just trying to run good and enjoy these next few months and try to get some more wins.

“It's a great opportunity. I feel like we've got the best, fastest race cars in the garage, got great people working on them, so I'm really just focused on that and trying to be successful. I'd sure like to get a couple more wins at least this season, and hopefully make our way through the playoffs.”

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Watkins Glen
Location Watkins Glen International
Drivers Matt Kenseth
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Author Lee Spencer
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