The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led only 11 laps, but was in contention for the win. A win that would guarantee him a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs. Heading into Bristol, Kenseth was still in on points, barely. However, should another driver who has yet to win this season pull off a victory, it could leave Kenseth on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.
Jones nearly did that Saturday. He led a race high 260 laps but lost to race winner Kyle Busch and finished second just ahead of Denny Hamlin and Kenseth in fourth. Kenseth held second on the final restart with just over 60 laps to go. Jones would eventually get past him, and in the end Kenseth could not make up lost ground.
“We didn’t start the race very good,” Kenseth said. “Made good adjustments. Had really awesome pit stops. Got behind when we sped on pit road. We had a great 40‑lap car. Really, really fast. Then it would just get tight. Just really couldn’t do anything about it. So that run was just too long.
“I felt like if we wouldn’t have got out of the caution, cycle the tires, I felt like I was making maybe a little ground on Erik, not a ton, but maybe a little bit. After the cycle, we had that long run, I got really tight, couldn’t really do much with it.”
Had Jones won there would have been an ironic sort of twist. Jones will replace Kenseth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota next season.
Jones made his pass of Kenseth using a bump and run, hitting the car of Kenseth to take second.
“Takes my ride and runs into me,” Kenseth said chuckling.
That Kenseth could joke showed that despite missing out on the win, and facing an uncertain future, he is still a pretty happy guy.
“I don’t really have anything to be unhappy about,” he said. “I mean, I shouldn’t say, knock on wood, because things can turn on dime. But my life couldn’t be much better. I’ve never really been in a better place. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. There’s more to life than racing.”
“I wish it kind of maybe would have went down a different way or maybe I had another year or two there. That’s not the way it worked out. I think everything happens or doesn’t happen for a reason. It will all become clear.
“I’m pretty happy. I’m not really worried about it. Certainly I wanted to win tonight, though. I’d be happier if I would have won. Yeah, I’m pretty happy.”