Matt Kenseth moved from Roush-Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing at the beginning of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Most expected this season to be the ‘getting to know you’ type but two races into the year that looked to be no longer the case.
After an engine failure at the Daytona 500 and a 7th place finish at the second race of the year in Phoenix, Kenseth would get his first win of seven this season in Las Vegas, a 1.5 mile track. In fact, the majority of his victories came at these tracks. He went on to win at Kansas (April), Darlington, Kentucky, Bristol (August), Chicago, and New Hampshire, which was his 500th start of his NASCAR career.
Winning the first two races of the 10-week chase, the driver of the No.20 Toyota looked to be a contender for the championship in 2013, until in November at Phoenix International Raceway, when his JGR pit crew suffered a miscue on pit road. He would finish 2nd in the final race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway but it still wasn’t enough to move into the No.1 spot in the Chase standings when all was said and done. However, he finished strong in 8 of 10 races, the worst being 20th at Talladega and 23rd at Phoenix (November).
Kenseth’s total stats on the 2013 season include 7 race wins, with 12 top 5’s and 20 top 10’s. He only suffered 3 DNF’s, one being an engine failure and the other two were crashes. He completed 10,141 out of 10,553 laps in the whole year, while leading 1,783 of them. Even though Kenseth ended the year as runner up to Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup standings, his 2013 season is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
In the past, 2nd has not been the place to start the new NASCAR season for a few drivers. Both Carl Edwards (2nd in 2011 standings) and Clint Bowyer (2012) would struggle in the years after they finished in the runner-up position. Hopefully this will not hold true for Kenseth in 2014. If he can escape that ‘runner-up jinx’, expect him to contend for the championship again this upcoming year.