Matt Kenseth ‘I was just too stupid’ at the end of Talladega
By Kelly Crandall On Sun, May. 06, 2012
Matt Kenseth was highly critical of himself following his third place finish Sunday in the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway. After leading the most laps, 78 of 194, and leading with just two laps to go in a green-white-checkered finish, it was he and he alone the reason his team wasn’t in Victory Lane.
“I think we had the wining car, really just didn’t have the winning driver,” Kenseth explained afterwards. “On the last restart, Greg [Biffle] and I got hooked together like Daytona, of all the cars I raced around today, Greg was really pushing me fast.
“Got clear in front of the 2 [Brad Keselowski] and Kyle [Busch], as soon as we became clear, wasn’t long after that I looked forward for a second, when I looked back Greg and I were separated, those guys were already outside him.
“With nobody behind him, lost his speed. With me not paying attention, keeping us hooked up, just cost us a shot at the win; cost Greg a shot at the win. Just didn’t do a very good job of managing where he was on that last restart.”
Kenseth and Biffle had gotten a clean start and shot away from the field as they looked to settle the race amongst themselves. It was the plan they carried over from Daytona when the two ran first and second for much of the Daytona 500.
That’s how most of Sunday played out as well. The Roush Fenway teammates ganging up on the field and showing their plate power. Had Kenseth been able to pull off the win he would have gone 2-0 on the season in restrictor plate races.
And he would have ended his 0-24 Talladega streak, but it wasn’t meant to be. The two-car tandem of Keselowski pushed by Busch flew past the unhooked Kenseth and Biffle as they headed for the white flag. Keselowski went on to score the win, Busch finished second.
It’s what Kenseth feared would end up happening. After dominating the event he knew a victory wasn’t in the bag, not a restrictor plate track. Anything can happen, things can change quickly and a late race restart didn’t help his cause.
“I worry about it all the time because I can only see the first couple cars behind me,” said Kenseth. “Bunch of people bail out of that lane, you don’t get in front of that lane, even if you have one of the fastest cars like I though we did, you can get beat easily.
“You could see that at the end. I think if I would have done a better job of managing, stayed on his front bumper, I think we would have run first and second. You’re always worried at these places because you only have so much control.”
But enough control for Kenseth to take the blame. Having added a second Daytona 500 win earlier this season and another strong performance on Sunday, the Wisconsin native has shown he’s quite the plate racer and a driver who should be watched.
Whenever trouble broke out he was either in front of it or made his way through it. And when his car looked too damaged to be fast, he proved it to be otherwise. For as fast as his No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion was, it didn’t escape Talladega unscathed.
He ran the second half of the race with a crack and dent in the right front fender and a crack in the post behind the window net. They just weren’t enough to slow him down.
Kenseth was right there at the end, just as he has been from the start of the season. The 2003 Cup Series champion has been knocking on the door for another title, showing speed, patience and consistency every weekend.
Sending a silent message that he and his Roush team are going to be contenders. It was just unfortunate for Kenseth that on some Sunday’s the fastest car doesn’t always win.
“I wasn’t too fast, I was just too stupid I guess at the end to keep a win,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things that happened there and at Daytona in the 150s and the 500. I didn’t worry about the guy attached behind me because if he had two or three guys in the lane, he could push me out far enough where and tandem couldn’t beat us.
“I kind of had that same strategy today. If I get pushed away, I think we’ll be okay. If they would have stayed behind them until we got to turn three, we still would have been okay. When they bailed out, it made Greg’s car go slower and he lost his momentum and he couldn’t stay sealed up to me. I should have watched the mirror and managed that a drug the brake a little better.
“Earlier when Greg was behind me, he could push me hard, almost spin me out. On the restart everybody kind of pushes each other, stays in line for a little bit. I was hoping that bottom, once we got in front of those two, I was hoping all four of us would be locked together, at least until we got to max speed but that just didn’t happen and I didn’t watch it close enough.”