Sprint Cup Driver Review: Matt Kenseth

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After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year.

Next up, the championship runner-up in 2013 and this year’s Sprint Cup wins leader, Matt Kenseth…

MATT KENSETH
No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
2013 Stats: Second Place, Seven Wins, 12 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 1,783 Laps Led
Average Start: 8.7
Average Finish: 12.1
DNFs: 3

Estrada Says: When Kenseth left longtime home Roush Fenway Racing and landed at Joe Gibbs Racing, did anyone imagine that Kenseth would be going blow-for-blow with Johnson for the championship? Or that he’d collect seven wins in his first year with JGR? If Kenseth’s exodus from Roush Fenway was surprising, it paled in comparison to how surprising it was to see him have such a wildly successful season. Yes, he and the No. 20 camp would’ve loved to have had the next-to-last race at Phoenix back (especially after Kenseth finished second in the finale one week later at Homestead), but despite their near-miss on a Sprint Cup title, their future together appears to look very bright indeed.

DiZinno Says: Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing clicked immediately. He and crew chief Jason Ratcliff formed a bond almost from the off, with their first win at Las Vegas in just their third race together coming after a great run in the Daytona 500 that was spoiled by an engine failure. Kenseth didn’t have the TRD unreliability that his teammates did on the whole, and additionally, they had the resiliency to bounce back from penalties assessed following the win at Kansas in April. Sometimes a change of scenery does you really good and not to say Kenseth had plateaued at Roush after 13 years, but he seemed to have a new lease on life in 2013. The weekly performance – Phoenix in November aside – proved Kenseth remains firmly at the top of his game in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

MRTI: Saturday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their first races of the weekend on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Indy Lights saw a pair of teammates battle for the win, while a series veteran suffered first lap trouble for the second race in a row.

In Pro Mazda, things were much more straightforward, as a title contender ran away to a dominant win from the pole.

Reports on both series are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Withstands Herta Challenge for Race 1 Victory

Lap 1 told the tale for Indy Lights Race 1, as Colton Herta led from the pole, but Pato O’Ward was able to sneak by on the inside entering Turn 5.

O’Ward subsequently had to withstand a race-long challenge from Herta, who kept the gap at less than one second between the two Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers – Herta races under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner – for most of the 30-lap race. But, O’Ward kept Herta at bay to take the win by one-and-a-half seconds at the checkered flag.

This is also O’Ward’s second win in three races in the 2018 season.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia finished third, followed by Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, and Ryan Norman finished fifth to put three Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers in the Top 5.

Meanwhile, Belardi’s Aaron Telitz endured a second consecutive race in which he failed to complete a lap, after he was collected in a Lap 1, Turn 2 spin with Dalton Kellett. Kellett, who spun on his own, was able to continue despite the contact, but Telitz suffered damage to the right-front suspension, forcing him to retire without completing a lap for the second race in a row.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 1:00 p.m. ET.

 

Pro Mazda: Thompson Roles to Dominant Race 1 Victory

Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson dominated Race 1, leading all 25 laps from the pole on his way to victory. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Race 1 for Pro Mazda was hardly ever in doubt. Polesitter Parker Thompson, who soared to pole with a track record in qualifying, led right from the drop of the green flag to lead all 25 laps on his way to winning Race 1.

Thompson had to withstand a brief challenge from RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott on a Lap 4 restart – a caution was flown for debris on the front straightaway on Lap 2 – but Thompson immediately began gapping the field again, and the Exclusive Autosport driver won by over five seconds.

Scott came home in second, while BN Racing’s David Malukas, Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez, and Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay battled for third, with Malukas holding off Gutierrez and VeeKay to take the final spot on the podium.

Results are below. Pro Mazda Race 2 rolls off at 10:50 a.m. ET on Sunday.

 

Check back later for driver quotes.

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