FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Matt Kenseth had his testing at Texas Motor Speedway cut short when he crashed his car because of an issue with his front right tire.
Two days after losing his NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead with a 20th-place finish at Talladega, Kenseth had the session-ending crash Tuesday during a week-delayed Texas test that includes the top eight drivers in the points standings.
“Well, it was up and down. It ended down,” Kenseth said. “We just had a tire problem and crashed, so we’re done for the test. ... When you run nine laps and one blows apart for no reason, that’s always a cause for concern for sure.”
Five-time Cup champion and points leader Jimmie Johnson, who now has a four-point lead over Kenseth with four races left, wasn’t even aware that his closest competitor had crashed during the test.
Kenseth said the car he crashed in turn one wasn’t the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota he plans to race at the high-banked, 1½-mile Texas track on Nov. 3, which comes after Sunday’s race at Martinsville.
“No, she’s at home safe ready to get to the track,” Kenseth said.
Carl Edwards said he didn’t see what happened to Kenseth, but that the Roush Fenway team didn’t have any tire trouble.
“I wasn’t sure if he was trying to get out of here early,” Edwards said, with a smile. “They’ve had a spectacular year. He’d done amazing, so I think it’s going to be a good battle between him and Jimmie.”
Kevin Harvick said the Richard Childress team was putting 35 or 40 laps on a set of tires “and they’re completely worn out.”
The tires being used were the same drivers had for the April race at Texas won by Kyle Busch.
There are 16 drivers from five teams taking part in a three-day test at Texas that goes through Wednesday. There were 11 hours of testing scheduled Tuesday, with another full day Wednesday.
Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway, Hendrick Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing were all scheduled to test last week before wet and cold weather postponed that until this week, when the Childress team was already set to test.
“We’re down to crunch time,” Johnson said. “We all had the same agenda, the same idea when we were planning our test schedule. You feel so good when you’re the only car that tests at a track and you feel like you’ll have a leg up on guys. But everyone racing for the championships is here. So it’s kind of a draw.”
Johnson won at Texas last fall and finished sixth there in the spring.
No one has more top-five finishes (12) or led more laps (772) at Texas than Kenseth, who like Johnson has two wins there. Kenseth and Johnson are tied with a track-high 15 top-10 finishes.
Kenseth took part in testing Monday and had been scheduled to test until a late-afternoon break in testing Tuesday before the crash ended that even earlier.
Johnson, who also was testing only Monday and Tuesday, said it had been a “useful couple of days.”
While things might not have gone as well in testing for Kenseth, Johnson doesn’t believe Talladega and the crash will negatively affect the Joe Gibbs driver.
“With Matt, I don’t know if there’s a lot of significance in it. He’s been doing this too long. He’s won a championship,” Johnson said. “He knows what it’s like to experience the pressure. ... I think Matt has a lot of confidence moving forward for these next four events, as do we. His maturity, his mindset, he’s pretty rock solid in that department.′