Elite Form For Matt Kenseth At Darlington

 

5/11/2103

By: Billy Tewes

Once a year, one lucky driver is able to say they conquer “The Lady In Black”. The track that is often too tough to tame was handled by one man tonight. That man was Matt Kenseth. After running in the top 5 for majority of the race, Kenseth’s crew made a late race adjustment on the final caution and passed race leader Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go to win the Bonjangles Southern 500. The Southern 500 is Kenseth’s 27th win and his very first at Darlington!

This race meant the world to Kenseth. “Honestly, I’ve only dreamed about winning the Southern 500,” Kenseth said. “This to me feels to me probably bigger than any win of my career. Kenseth who started 7th, ended up leading a total of 17 laps. Kenseth led the final 13 laps and faced no challenges after he blew past Kyle Busch who said he had a tire going flat.

The Lady In Black was manhandled by Kyle Busch tonight. Busch led 265 of the 367 laps. With 35 laps to go, Busch took the air off the left rear quarter panel of the 5 car of Kasey Kahne as Kahne tried to pass him on the high side. Kahne got loose and slid up into the wall which caused the final caution. . This is last caution where the Husky Tools #20 team made the right adjustment to make Kenseth’s car the superior one. If Kahne had not spun and if there was no caution, I don’t think Kenseth’s team would have been able to put him in position to win. Not to mention that Kyle Busch was the class of the field and Kenseth lucked out with Busch getting a flat around 15 laps to go. Somehow Kyle Busch was able to hang on to finish sixth

This race was relatively clean for a Darlington race. There were only five cautions and there was plenty of green flag racing. Talladega race winner David Ragan would end up finishing 39th with a blown engine.

There were only two lap leaders other than Kenseth and Busch. Kyle’s brother Kurt who qualified first led 69 laps and Jeff Gordon, who started his 700th career race, led 16.

For Kenseth and crew this win was giant. Kenseth’s crew cheif Jason Ratcliffe was suspended for only 1 race after Joe Gibbs Racing appealed the bogus penalty that was handed to Kenseth and co. after their Kansas victory earlier this year. Originally Kenseth was penalized 50 points and his crew chief Jason Ratcliffe was going to be suspended for six races. The Nascar appeals process changed this penalty to 12 points and only a one race suspension for Ratcliffe. Tonight, interim crew chief Wally Brown took over and won his first race as a crew chief!

For the first time all year I was correct in picking the race winner. He didn’t lead the most laps, but he did win the race! Next week is the Spint Cup Showdown (formerly known as the All-Star race) which is one of the most fun races to watch. The winner gets $1,000,000 and there are three different segments throughout the course of the night. Due to the nature of it being a non points paying race and that the winner takes home $1,000,000, this race has intensity written all over it. In a wacky turn of events, I see Kurt Busch taking home the victory for Furniture Row Racing!

Jimmie Johnson celebrating his all-star victory in last years Sprint Cup Showdown!

 

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Flawless Victory For Matt Kenseth At Kansas

4/21/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The #20 Car of Matt Kenseth became the 3rd repeat winner of the 2013 season taking home the STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway. Kenseth was extremely fast all weekend as he set a new track record in qualifying as well as being fastest in practice. Kenseth faced a staunch challenge from Kasey Kahne as it was deja vu all over again. Kahne stalked Kenseth at Las Vegas earlier this year and finished second today. Kenseth’s second victory at Kansas marked his 26th career victory.

The action was a plenty at the 1.5 mile track. Drivers like Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr and even rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all showed they had the ability to get to the lead and hold onto it. It was hard to gauge who was strong enough to win the race as there was 13 different lead changes. This race saw eight cautions which was a stark contrast from last falls race of 14 cautions. Last weeks winner Kyle Busch complained of a loose race car early on and eventually crashed out and collected Joey Logano in a hard hit down the track.

With 20 laps to go the action really heated up as Kasey Kahne began to chisel away at Kenseth’s lead. Kahne was roughly one second off Kenseth’s back bumper and slowly but surely closed in. Lapped traffic helped Kahne close the gap as Matt Kenseth had a difficult time passing the slower cars. Kasey Kahne got into the corners better than Kenseth, but Kenseth sped off the corners faster and that was just enough to keep Kahne at bay.

One driver appeared poised to win late in the race had a caution ruin his shot at victory. Ricky Stenhouse Jr and a handful of others were on a different pit sequence than the rest of the field. They were 13 laps short of the regular pit sequence. These drivers pitted on lap 162 whereas the rest of the field had pitted at lap 175. This caused a problem for Stenhouse Jr when it came down to what would be his final pit stop. Stenhouse Jr came to pit road and completed his stop but the caution came out and he went a lap down. Stenhouse Jr got the free pass as he as the first car a lap down but there wasn’t enough time for him to challenge for the win and he would finish 11th.

Nascar heads to Richmond for the first night race at a short track. Night racing at short tracks is always exciting and there is bound to be a lot of close racing and more than likely a lot of crashes. Last year’s winners at Richmond were Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch. Toyota has had a stranglehold on Richmond winning 7 of the last 8 races. So look for the Toyota teams to be up front next week and all of the excitement that Richmond brings!

Kahne Wins the Crashfest 500

3/18/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Just as expected, the drivers put on a show at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Food City 500 trophy belongs to Kasey Kahne. Kahne won his first race of the season as well as first career race at Bristol. Kahne finished runner up to Matt Kenseth last week at Vegas after having the dominant car, but the real race winner might have been wrecked out of the race with nearly 100 laps to go.

Jeff Gordon was leading the race and facing mounting pressure from Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon’s pit crew decided to take left side tires only when the rest of the field took four tries. Jeff Gordon’s right side tires had 154 laps on them and on lap 391 as he sailed into turn 3, his right rear tire cut and sent him hard into the wall. Gordon would end up collecting Matt Kenseth, as he was right on his back bumper at the time. Many will question why Gordon’s team put him out there for so long as tire failure had been a noteworthy issue throughout the day.  Kenseth had a great car and it looked as if he was a serious threat for winning back to back races and was a participant of unfortunate luck.

Matt Kenseth was one of the only drivers who could consistently drive the bottom lane of the track with success. I continue to reference the generation six car as a test for the sport.  Nascar is hoping we see good racing, but it has been a challenge for drivers when it comes to these shorter tracks. Bristol proved to us today that drivers preferred one lane and that was the top. This is due to the newly designed progressive banking that was reconfigured for this year.

They call it “progressive” because the degrees of banking increase from bottom to top. Tracks like Phoenix and Las Vegas feature this style of banking. Tracks that get a reconfiguration packages usually end up with progressive banking as it supposedly allows for more passing. As of 2013, the bottom lane at Bristol is 26 degrees and the top features 30 degrees of banking. Before the reconfiguration  Bristol had 36 degrees of banking from top to bottom. Instead of having to bump a driver out of the way, drivers are supposed to be able to pass on the top or the bottom. Ironically now they are only running the top line, something we won’t see next week at California.

California will yield better racing than the short tracks. The generation six car performed much better at Las Vegas, so I have a good feeling we will see more passing. It seems as if only a few drivers have really grasped the generation six car early in the season. Look for Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to be front runners at California. I could be wrong though, as there have been four different winners in four races this season!

View of Auto Club Speedway in California from a jet fighter!

Kenseth Wins A Thriller In Vegas

3/11/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The Silent Assassin was in elite form today as Matt Kenseth held off a mounting charge from the #5 car of Kasey Kahne. Kenseth took home his 3rd Las Vegas trophy after leading 42 laps. The Wisconsin native would win his 25th career race on his 41st birthday; which would also be a first at Joe Gibbs Racing!

Matt Kenseth’s skill as a driver was the main reason he came home the victor. Matt Kenseth started 18th and methodically worked his way through the field to reach the top 5. The final stretch of the race saw Kenseth on much older tires than the rest of the competition. Kenseth held off a strong challenge from Kasey Kahne who led 114 laps prior to giving up the lead to Kenseth. It seemed as if Kahne was going to blow past Kenseth after the final stop, but Kenseth held on just long enough to take home the victory. For nearly 30 laps, Kasey Kahne was no further than a car length away from Kenseth’s back bumper. Talk about tight racing! Strategy would be an integral part in Kenseth’s team putting him in position to win.

On the final pit stop of the day Kenseth took fuel only, while most of the field took at least two tires. The #20 team rolled the dice, knowing that other drivers would have fresher tires. Just like last week, pit crew strategy put a driver in the prime spot to win the race. Fortunately for Kenseth, his car handled better than many other drivers who complained about ill handling race cars throughout the day.

Even though drivers complained about loose handling race cars, the aero push drivers experienced the last two weeks was not as significant. Clint Bowyer started 2nd and dropped to 20th in the running order after telling his crew his car was loose. Loose is a handling condition where a driver accelerates through the turn and instead of going forward, slides the back tires. The car then slides up the track and if the driver doesn’t lift off the gas they might crash. Other drivers such as Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Danica Patrick got loose and slid up into the wall, finishing and 18th and 33rd respectively.

This video explains the two different handling situations drivers encounter throughout a race.

As I noted in my previous blog, Las Vegas would be another test for the new generation six car. Drivers passed with ease and the last 30 laps were absolutely worth watching even for people who do not like Nascar. The generation six car was designed for 1.5 mile tracks to generate better racing and more passing. The race itself was entertaining and we are starting to see the positive side of the freshly designed car.

Bristol Motor Speedway is next up on the Sprint Cup Schedule. The half mile coliseum of Nascar is the most exciting race and hardest ticket to get in all of Nascar. The track is notorious for accidents because of the high banked turns and the fact that drivers complete a lap in under 15 seconds! I’ve been to Bristol and if I chose one race to go to every year it would be Bristol Motor Speedway!

Bristol Motor Speedway in all of its glory!