Matt Kenseth recovers from mid-race issues, finishes 4th

Leave a comment

Matt Kenseth was unable to repeat as winner tonight at Kentucky Speedway, but still put on a great drive to finish fourth after suffering a flat tire under green and a pit road speeding penalty later on.

Even more encouraging, it looks like his Joe Gibbs Racing team has gotten its pace back on 1.5-mile ovals.

Kenseth was running solidly in the Top 10 when on Lap 120, his No. 20 JGR Toyota suddenly slowed down with a right-front tire failure.

He was the second of the Gibbs racers to suffer such a problem, as Denny Hamlin had earlier smashed into the wall on Lap 29 when his own right-front tire came apart.

But Kenseth was able to keep his car off the wall and got it to the pits for green-flag service without damage. He went down a lap, but got the wave-around following a Lap 126 yellow for debris.

Things got tougher, however, when the caution came out at Lap 153. Kenseth made his stop under the yellow, but was hit with a speeding penalty in the pits. Just before the Lap 160 restart, Kenseth came in again to top off on fuel.

On Lap 176, another caution emerged and this time, Kenseth was told to stay out in a bid for track position. He took the subsequent restart on Lap 182 in ninth position, and during a stop under a Lap 214 yellow, his crew got him three spots in the pits to move him into the Top 5.

Kenseth would hover around fifth and sixth position for much of the final run before passing a fading Kevin Harvick for fourth with less than 10 laps left.

“They did a really good job on pit road on the pit stop there and we gained a whole bunch of spots,” said Kenseth. “Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) had some good adjustments in the middle of the race that got us back in the game.  It was certainly a positive weekend.”

Kenseth also noted the speed across the board for the Gibbs team, which got a runner-up result from Kyle Busch in addition to his own solid result.

He believes that it’s a sign of progress in coming to grips with the new rules package that was implemented this year.

“We ran a lot better — we’ve been struggling at these bigger tracks all year and I thought this was a big step forward,” he said. “I know Denny had a problem at the beginning and I thought Kyle was real competitive — I thought all three of our cars were pretty good all weekend.”

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”