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Matt Kenseth laments ‘light bulb’ not going off to avoid last-lap crash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If only the “light bulb,’’ as Matt Kenseth said, would have come on at the end of his qualifying race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Instead, Kenseth kept racing and was collected in a last-lap crash that will cost him his front row starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

His trouble started a few laps earlier.

Kenseth, who had been running second, dropped down when Jimmie Johnson tried to go below him with six laps left. Cars passed Kenseth and Johnson on the outside and trapped both behind lapped cars. Both fell out of the top five.

“They got outside of me before I knew what happened,’’ Kenseth said. “I was basically stuck in the middle, and Jimmie was on the bottom, and we caught those lapped cars. We were just stalled out in bad air. That would have been a real great time for the light bulb to come on and call it a day.’’

Instead, Kenseth kept racing and didn’t fall back far enough. He was  eighth on the final lap. Ahead, Jamie McMurray shot up the track in second place trying to block Johnson.

“I had stalled out right when I got to (Busch), and I didn’t think (Johnson) had much of a run either,’’ McMurray said. “It felt like our momentum was about the same. I saw the replay and I still don’t know if he was up to my rear bumper or if it was the air that made his car turn. I’m just not sure.”

The result was that Johnson turned into the wall, triggering a six-car accident that sends Johnson, Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger to backup cars for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

“Jamie tried to put a move on (Busch) and left the bottom in a hurry to come up and block my run,’’ Johnson said. “I could see with his aggression how fast he was coming up and that our line was going to take me into the wall. I tried to check up and get out of there and it just didn’t work out and it took me into the outside wall a little bit and turned me down across the field. Just a block that didn’t turn out.’’

Johnson wasn’t critical of McMurray’s move, though.

“Man, we’re racing,’’ Johnson said. “They’re split-second decisions.’’

One that caused Kenseth’s car to suffer extensive damage and not be usable for the Sunday’s season-opening race.

“I just saw (Johnson) going across the race track,’’ Kenseth said. “I was in the process of trying to get out of there. I did a poor job of that, and I got ran over from behind.’’

Ty Dillon was behind Kenseth when the accident started.

“He slammed on brakes so quick I had no time to react,’’ Dillon said.

Now, Kenseth will start at the back of the 40-car field.

“I don’t know if starting in the back is as big of a deal as losing your (primary) car,’’ Kenseth said. “In 500 miles if you can’t get to the front in 3 1/2 or 4 hours, you have an issue.’’

NASCAR America: Assessing Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ historic tenure

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After 17 years, seven Cup championships and 81 wins, the checkered flag will wave on Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus this weekend.

Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the final time Johnson and Knaus will work together as driver and crew chief.

In 2019, Johnson will be paired with Kevin Meendering while Knaus will work with William Byron on the No. 24 team.

On NASCAR America, three-time Cup champion and Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty discussed the legacy of the Johnson-Knaus pairing and how it compares to what was accomplished by Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman and Jeff Gordon and Evernham.

“The most underrated record in this sport is five (championships) in a row,” Petty said, referring to the No. 48 team’s title run from 2006-10. “Nobody gives them enough credit, I just don’t think so. … The crew chief job that Ray did is a completely different job than what Chad does. The crew chief job that Chad does, Dale Inman wouldn’t even recognize it in 1967, ’68.”

Said Evernham: “Jimmie and Chad are right there with those guys. Without a doubt it’s Petty-Inman, Johnson-Knaus. What Jeff I did together was great, but we weren’t together that long. … To me it’s incredible to win that many championships, not just mechanically, but what it takes emotionally to do that. To hold those teams together and be that good for that many years is to me incredible. That’s longer than most marriages.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR penalty report from Phoenix

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NASCAR has fined two crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at ISM Raceway.

In the Cup Series, Luke Lambert was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

In the Xfinity Series, David Elenz was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 9 Chevrolet.

There were no other penalties announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Miami preview, Richard Petty and Dale Inman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to set up the final race weekend of the year in Miami.

Marty Snider hosts with Kyle Petty and Ray Evernham from Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll discuss the final race together for Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, and their lasting impact on NASCAR. Another legendary driver/crew chief combo, Richard Petty and Dale Inman, give their take on the success of their fellow seven-time champions.

  • It’s the final NASCAR race for Elliott Sadler. The panel, including Sadler’s former boss Ray Evernham, share their fondest memories of the 24-year NASCAR veteran.

  • Plus, we’ll reveal the final three members of this season’s Pit Crew All-Stars.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

‘A lot of tears shed’ as Furniture Row Racing departs for last Cup race

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The final chapter in Furniture Row Racing’s history began overnight as the team’s hauler embarked on its journey from Denver, Colorado, to Miami for Sunday’s Cup season finale (3 p.m ET on NBC).

The race, where Martin Truex Jr. will compete in the Championship 4, will mark the 451st and final Cup race for the team that owner Barney Visser started in 2005. The team announced Sept. 4 that it would cease operations at the end of the year due to a lack of sponsorship.

Truex will try to deliver the team’s second consecutive Cup title.

The team’s farewell at the Denver shop was marked by a large gathering of team members.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was (Tuesday) night when we loaded up,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.  … A lot of relationships have been built from that shop, and it’s a weird feeling for sure.”

Pearn said the occasion was marked with team members sharing “a few beverages” while they “told old stories and kind of reminisced.”

Visser said Furniture Row Racing “remained a team” in the months since the announcement of its impending closure.

“I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation,” Visser said in a media release. “I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.”

Visser said it will be “hard to give up” a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

“It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do,” Visser said. “Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it. It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.”

When it comes to how involved Visser will be in NASCAR going forward, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran said he hopes to attend some races next season.

“I am a huge racing fan,” Visser said. “I love the cars, love the smell, love the sound and love the people. I will be coming as a guest and fan next year and hope to sit in the stands for a few races. Never did that. My wife and I are looking forward to taking weekend trips to races next year.”