With likely just a single race left in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, No. 20 driver Matt Kenseth gets to go out on top. Winning the Phoenix Can-Am 500, means the driver without a ride for 2018 can celebrate win number 39.
Celebrating the Win
The winning driver, his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, and car owner, Joe Gibbs gathered in the Phoenix International Raceway after Sunday’s win to take questions.
Ratcliff said the win meant the world to him.
“I think for us, we’ve been really close this season, and just hadn’t quite been able to put it all together and close the deal, and you know, knowing that the situation where Matt is going to go into a different season in his life maybe in a few weeks, we were hoping that, hey, if we could get back to Victory Lane, that would be awesome. To be able to come here, especially to Phoenix, which is, I think, one of Matt’s favorite tracks as well as mine, we’ve always performed well here, so to come here and get a win, you know, tops it off, kind of puts an exclamation point on the season for us,” he said.
Matt Kenseth said the finish was awesome.
“That was the best part of the race. That’s all I’ve got,”
Gibbs added that Kenseth deserved the win.
“It’s just awesome today seeing him get this. All he’s done for us here, the races that he’s drove his heart out. Jason said it best. This year just hasn’t—there’s times that they’ve been there but just haven’t been able to get it. To see him get it for his future and for his great family that he has, just wishing him—man, I hope this does great things for him. So it’s a thrill for us.”
Cautions and Race Conclusion
Kenseth said the string of cautions drove him crazy.
“As you put cycles on the car, it’ll act a little different, but every restart fired off pretty much the same, and I kind of knew what I wanted to do inside of the car and where I wanted things to be set, and for whatever reason that restart I fired off really loose, and I just couldn’t hold him off. Honestly when [Chase Elliott] cleared me, I had that feeling of dread, and I’m like, I can’t believe I’m going to let another one of these get away. We’ve just had so many close ones get away at the end of these races for a multitude of reasons,” she said.
He said when Elliott took the lead, it tightened up the No. 20 car and he was able to get off turn 2 better.
“…I saw him slip the first time, and I was like, he might start coming back, and then he slipped the second time, and I felt a little better about it, and then the third slip he had was a big one, I gained about three car lengths, and I kind of started honestly got the tingles from head to toe, and I knew it was on and we were going to have a race. I felt pretty good when I saw that last one, and I’m like, I’m at least going to get there and we’re going to have a race,” Kenseth said.
Ranking Wins and Losses
The No. 20 driver noted that he never had a bad loss, and couldn’t really rank his 39 series wins.
“I mean, I can rank the losses a lot easier than the wins to be honest with you because I have way more losses than wins,” he said.
“I’ve screwed up a lot more of them than I’ve done right. Certainly just a special day. I mean, it’s hard to rank it. I wish Katie and the kids could have been here is the only thing that would have made it better. But it was pretty neat to have a lot of your peers come and congratulate you, and even at the end to be able to drive by all the fans and could actually hear them yelling over the car and hear them in the window. I mean, it was just a really, really special day for a lot of reasons. It will probably more sink in here in the next couple weeks. But it’s hard to rank them. They don’t get much better than that, though.”
Of the last seven races at Homestead-Miami, Kenseth has finished in the top ten in six of those. If he were able to win at the finale, it’d mark just the third driver in Cup history to win in their final confirmed start.
“Well, since this is the first time we’ve won in about 80 races or something, the odds are we’re probably not going to win next week, but I hope we do,” he said.
“We’re going to work really hard at it, and hopefully we can get one more. I love the racetrack. It’s one of the best tracks in the circuit since they reconfigured it. It puts on a great show. But there’s a lot that goes on next week. It’s a very hard race to predict what’s going to happen. But I don’t see why we won’t be competitive when we go down there, and hopefully we’ll have a shot at one more.”