Matt Kenseth, battling to remain playoff eligible, apologized to his team after Martin Truex Jr. held him off to win Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
“Sorry,’’ Kenseth told his team on the radio. “I freaking sucked. I should have went a little harder. Sorry. (Truex) missed Turn 6, and I still couldn’t pass him. I’m sorry.’’
Crew chief Jason Ratcliff responded: “You did real good. We were on the button (on fuel) there.’’
Kenseth said: “I saved so much (fuel) early in that run. I should have ran harder. You don’t get many of those opportunities. Damn it. I wish I would have gotten a little closer getting into (Turn) 7, but I just couldn’t get there because of my brakes.’’
A victory would have assured Kenseth a spot in the playoffs in what could be his final Cup season. Erik Jones will replace Kenseth, whose contract expires after this year, at Joe Gibbs Racing. The 2003 Cup champion has not said what his plans are for next year.
The runner-up finish leaves Kenseth in the last playoff spot with five races left. Kenseth stretched his lead on Clint Bowyer, the first driver outside a playoff spot. Kenseth leads Bowyer by 28 points heading into next weekend’s race at Michigan.
Kenseth and many others made their final pit stop on Lap 53 of Sunday’s 90-lap race. At the time, nobody could make it to the end without saving fuel. Kenseth restarted eighth. He moved into the top five by Lap 64. He found himself second in the final laps as cars in front pitted for fuel.
Kenseth was told he didn’t have to save fuel on the last lap and pressured Truex but couldn’t get by, having to settle for his best finish of the year.
Asked if he was happy or disappointed after the race, Kenseth, winless in the last 39 Cup races said: “I’m the second happiest. 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 has been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here.
“Felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it. Man, when it’s that close, and you see him saving and you’re saving and you go after him on the last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it, especially when I saw him miss Turn 6.’’