By: Bill Tewes
UPDATE: According to Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com, Kenseth’s #20 Toyota failed post race inspection during the laser tech portion of the inspection. Fines/Penalties will be announced Wednesday.
Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth took home his second checkered flag of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series campaign this afternoon, winning the New Hampshire 301. After starting 18th, Kenseth led only 38 laps and methodically worked his way into position late in the race to secure the victory, holding off charges from Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr. led 123 laps, but was passed by Kenseth late in the race and then had a clutch issue; which forced him to restart in 4th gear for the rest of the race, killing his restart speed. Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch led the most laps (133), but suffered from a loose race car and was relegated to an 8th place finish.
Kenseth sat down with the NBCSports post-race show panel and gave a run-down of his race weekend: “The first run we were really, really tight. And for me this place, typically the middle gets tighter, tighter and tighter. And it’s easy to tighten something up when it’s loose but when you won’t roll the center fast enough it’s really hard to fix that. and I don’t know what he did from run one to run two. But run two it was money; and after that it was just real small adjustments just to keep trying to keep up with the track and keep up with the middle of the corner. I was pretty happy with it in happy hour yesterday and after the first run today I was really pretty happy with, it just took us a long time to get back all the track position. I did a poor job of qualifying and got blocked in the pits, it just took a while to get back up there.”
The Dollar General team had only one mishap on a pit-stop around midrace where he slid into his pit box and had to back up in order to leave, costing him multiple spots and valuable track position. Aside from that, the 20 car looked strong all day as Kenseth slowly but surely worked his way through the field and ran in the top five for vast majority of the 301 miles. Kenseth avoided late race accidents (multiple cautions were thrown with less than 30 to go) by being positioned upfront and his crew adjusted throughout the race to keep him out of traffic and in contention for the win.
This race marked Kenseth’s third career victory at New Hampshire and comes at an important time as far as the Chase for the Sprint Cup is concerned. The 20 team is continuing to show that they will be a big threat when the Chase kicks off at New Hampshire in seven races. Kenseth is two wins shy of the Chase points leader Brad Keselowski (four) and will have excellent opportunities at Bristol, Darlington and Richmond to pick up a couple of victories before the Chase starts.
Kenseth’s season has been marred with inconsistent runs as well as some unfortunate luck. The good news for Kenseth fans and Joe Gibbs Racing is that Kenseth has had excellent runs at Chase tracks (Charlotte, Dover Kansas, Phoenix and now New Hampshire) and has wins at two of those tracks (Dover, New Hampshire). Kenseth could take some serious momentum into the chase if he can get one more win and will definitely have a lot in his favor by running well at these Chase tracks. The Sprint Cup Series heads to Indianapolis next week where Kenseth looks to take home his first ever Brickyard trophy and build momentum off today’s victory.