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Allen Lessels' Motorsports Notebook: No signs of slowing down for Kenseth
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth (20) celebrates his victory of the Sylvania 300 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Thirty-three laps to go, 32 laps to go, and still crew guys surrounded Kasey Kahne's Great Clips Chevrolet in the garage area.
Now 30 laps remained in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and a grim-faced Kahne walked back to his car. He climbed in the window and put on his helmet and a crew guy pulled his safety net up and he drove back onto the racetrack.
There was no way to make up ground and Kahne ended up 37th in the race, dealing his chances in NASCAR's 2013 Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship a major blow.
Fact of the matter is, it's only two races into the Chase and already a title run is looking like a longshot for all but a few drivers.
"I mean, I thought he was getting in a better deal," Earnhardt said.
"I know Joe and Mr. Gibbs and they're really, really, really good people and they'll take good care of him."
He leads Kyle Busch by 14 points and Johnson by 18 and no other driver is closer than 36 points. There are a maximum of 48 points available in each race.
Still, he's far back in 11th place and 68 points behind Kenseth. Joey Logano is in 12th and a point behind Earnhardt. Kahne is 13th and two more points back.
He wasn't sure how he ended up there.
"I really don't know what happened," Kahne said. "Just racing and I'm not really sure if there was contact or if I just spun. . . . I hit the inside wall, but I'm not sure how I got there."
So are those of Earnhardt and Logano and a bunch of other guys — heck, everybody can forget it, if Kenseth keeps this up.
"I mean, if Kenseth keeps doing what he's doing, it's not going to matter what anybody else does," said Jeff Gordon, a teammate of Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne.
There's no sense thinking about the points race as far as he's concerned, Earnhardt said.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "We're just going to try to win races. We tried to win this one today. If we could have done a couple of things different on restarts and I could have drove it a little better, we might have been able to win. But Matt was pretty fast."
firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @AllenLessels