Race Weekend Central

Mental Mistakes, Not Bad Luck, Plague Matt Kenseth’s 2016 Run

For the third-straight time, Matt Kenseth appeared to have a car capable of winning on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Yet for the third-straight time, he ended the day outside of the top 10.

Despite popular belief, none of the results stem from bad luck.

That’s been the calling card for Kenseth’s fans to date in 2016. Everything’s been attributable to ‘bad luck.’ They’ve called Kenseth ‘snake-bitten,’ ‘unfortunate’ and ‘unlucky.’

However, a closer look into the results show that luck’s had nothing to do with it.

It’s hard to believe things have gotten to this point. Kenseth was in prime position to win his third career Daytona 500 just two weeks ago, leading until the exit of Turn 4 on the final lap of the season-opening race. His decision to try to block teammate Denny Hamlin ultimately cost him any resemblance of a solid finish, as lost momentum sent him reeling to a 14th-place finish.

What rotten luck. There was nothing else he could have done, right?

Well … Not exactly.

Kenseth made the decision to jump up to the high lane. He alone failed to make the block and left himself without a drafting partner for the final stretch. Sure, his spotter told him what was going on, but he made that decision.

The next week, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kenseth again appeared to have a great car. The Wisconsin native led early in the Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500, and looked poised for a great run when he came in for a routine green-flag pit stop.

Unfortunately, the stop wasn’t quite routine.

Kenseth’s fuel man was filling the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s No. 20 Toyota when he elected to place a wedge wrench on top of the car. For any other crewman, that would have been fine. However, the fuel man isn’t allowed to do anything but supply fuel when the catch can is engaged with the car.

The moment NASCAR noticed this, Kenseth was issued a penalty. Incredibly, the team somehow failed to make Kenseth aware of this until six laps later, one lap after NASCAR had displayed the black flag with white stripes to him, signifying that he was no longer being scored.

(Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)
Matt Kenseth has shown enough speed to win anywhere. His team just needs to quit shooting themselves in the foot. (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

Suddenly, a dominant car was rendered useless. Stuck two laps down, Kenseth could do little more than scrape to a 19th-place finish.

Once again, the excuses came pouring in. Tons of teams have been doing this, right? NASCAR hasn’t cracked down on it before!

Sorry, rules are rules.

Heading into Las Vegas this weekend, as most people do, Kenseth seemed assured that his luck would turn around. Once again, he had a fast car. The 2003 Cup champion led nine laps in the early going, and ran inside of the top 10 for most of the day at the 1.5-mile oval.

Unfortunately, this story once again failed to have a story book ending.

Driving for position shortly after a late restart, Kenseth lost control of his No. 20 with 43 laps remaining. He slid up the track, directly into the path of Chase Elliott, who blasted into Kenseth’s rear.

Both cars were totaled.

Kenseth ended the day in 37th place, dropping him from 12th to 20th in series points.

This time, the excuses had run out.

Coming off of one of his best seasons ever, Kenseth entered 2016 with momentum and high hopes. If it weren’t for a few false moves, those hopes could have translated into results.

Unfortunately, Kenseth’s team has been unable to get out of their own way.

Despite leading 96 laps thus far, fourth among all drivers, and having an average starting position of sixth, second only to Kurt Busch, Kenseth has only 56 points coming out of Las Vegas. Teammate Kyle Busch has led 37 fewer laps and has failed to get to victory lane, but by virtue of finishing each race up front holds the points lead with 116 points.

With two Daytona 500 victories and the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, there’s no doubt that Kenseth knows how to excel at the highest level. With the speed his No. 20 JGR team is showing, there’s little doubt that he could make his way to victory lane soon. However, first the team needs to quit making mental mistakes and provide some results.

And as for luck?

Stop using it as an excuse. These wounds are self-inflicted.

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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Kenseth had a weak mind the last couple of races of last year and yet Logano was blamed. He pulled the same garbage the week before with Newman and took himself totally out of the race. Newman did not stand for it for a second and he was left finished in a bad spot. Logano more than patient finally held his line and he is the bad guy with a spin NOT WRECK as Matty went down on his right front bumper. Logano did not let off the gas. He finished 14th. Dega same drama. He is continuing this year where he left off. But he will lie about in some interview and blame Chase, imo. Watch out Chase if he is down a few laps and is in a pissy mood look out!


Give it a rest.

Fed Up

Mattie, you know what they say about karma.


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe Ol Matty shouldn’t have wrecked Logano at Martinsville last yeay


Everyone is finally seeing the real Kenseth that has always been there. Doesn’t everyone remember years back when Carl was ready to pound Matt in the face in front of the tv camera’s. Carl said Matt is a two faced liar who spins a tale for the media but is sneaky behind the scenes. Look how he snuck after Brad between the two haulers. He ducked down and snuck up behind Brad and tried to put a choke hold on him, that’s the real Kenseth way, sneaky and from behind. Karma Matt Karma


Here’s hoping that this will be the season long trend for Kenseth.

He had a reputation for being a Prick long before he showed up in NASCAR.

the big 2-0

Sounds like y’all are tired of the 20’s fans… Just remember it happens to everyone so don’t fall back on “bad luck” when your driver has a dry streak, y’all don’t want to hear it from us… We sure as heck don’t want to hear it from you… And as for his “Weak Mind” you need a win to advance, so you do what ever you need to to win. I don’t see how letting someone pass you is going to get you the win. Good for Joey he held his ground and yeah “Mattie” shouldn’t have retaliated like he did, but he did and I enjoyed it when it happened (although I realized it was a bad move almost immediately). Nobody likes a push over and Matt’s proving he ain’t no pushover.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this haha, good article other than the fact that you can tell the person who wrote it is just sick of the 20’s fans….

Carl D.

None of this really matters much. One win and you!re in the chase.

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