Chase leader Kenseth: “We kind of missed it today”

Leave a comment

Today at Dover International Speedway, Matt Kenseth finally cooled off after opening the Chase for the Sprint Cup with back-to-back wins, fading late in the AAA 400 to a seventh-place finish.

Kenseth was able to maintain his lead in the Chase with seven races to go, but with Jimmie Johnson picking up the win, that gap between him and the five-time Sprint Cup champion is now down to eight points.

“We kind of missed it today, but there’s times we ran a lot better than that,” said Kenseth, who led 36 laps at Dover. “We got caught with being the last on two tires and restarting on the inside, which was really bad. Still salvaged a respectable finish, but certainly I wanted to do better than that.”

The stage was set for the finish after debris in Turn 3 brought out the yellow with 31 laps to go. That didn’t help Kenseth, who was hoping for the race to stay green so he could be in position to pick up spots as the leaders pitted for splashes of fuel.

“I really wasn’t [happy] because we were running second I think and [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] said nobody could really make it,” he said. “None of the guys that were going to win the race were going to make it and a lot of those cars that I think were trying to make it were already a lap down, so I wish it would have went green to the end. I think that would have got us a Top-3 or 4.”

Instead, Kenseth fell back after the green came out again with 26 laps remaining, victimized somewhat by not being in the preferred outside lane on the restart.

But perhaps there are better days ahead for Kenseth next weekend at Kansas, where he won back in the spring. He’s earned four wins this season on mile-and-a-half tracks, including his Chase-opening triumph at Chicagoland three races ago.

So while Kenseth was left unfulfilled on Sunday, he could find himself with another chance to build on his championship edge very soon.

“I feel good about this stretch — Dover, Kansas, Charlotte have all been great tracks I really enjoy that our performance has been pretty good at it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting there.”

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
Leave a comment

The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

Follow @JerryBonkowski