Saturday, October 11, 2003

Kenseth's recent struggles have field gaining ground



The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. - Matt Kenseth seemed untouchable two weeks ago. It almost certainly would be his name engraved on the Winston Cup championship trophy.

But two disastrous races sliced 177 points off his lead in the standings, and his closest competitors now believe they've got a chance.

The final stretch of six races begins tonight with the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"The blood is dripping," said Kevin Harvick, who is 259 points back in second place. "We're trying to find out where the trail is."

Harvick's hopes are bolstered by history: The late Alan Kulwicki registered the biggest comeback with six races to go in 1991, overcoming a 278-point deficit to Bill Elliott to win the title.

Although Kenseth has scored his lowest finishes of the season the past two weeks - he was 33rd in Talladega and 36th in Kansas - some still believe the race is over.

"If he had not lost a couple hundred points the past two weeks, we would be saying, 'He's got a 259-point lead with six races left. It's in the bag for him,' " said three-time Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, now a commentator for Fox. "All he's done the last two weeks was shown he is fallible and we didn't think he was.

"But if he continues to falter - and I don't think he will - it would be one of the biggest letdowns we've ever seen."

In a points system that rewards consistency, Kenseth has been the model most of the year with one victory and 22 top-10 finishes. But since blowing an engine in Talladega and wrecking in Kansas, his closest competitors have sudden hope.

"We can see the trail ahead of us," said Richard Childress, Harvick's car owner. "But we know we have to watch our back door just as much as we're watching our front door."

Lurking right behind Harvick is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is 325 points behind Kenseth.

Ryan Newman, who has a series-high eight victories and starts from the pole tonight, is fourth, 364 points back.

Jimmie Johnson, who won both races here in May and is starting third in his bid to become the first driver to sweep the season at Lowe's, is fifth, 380 points back.

Lowe's Motor Speedway typically has been a good race track for Kenseth. He scored his first career victory here in 2000 and has placed second in the past three races here. Harvick's best finish in the past three races was 13th.

CART: Paul Tracy took the provisional pole Friday for the Mexico Grand Prix, adding a point to his narrow lead over Bruno Junqueira in the CART standings.

Tracy clocked an average time of 112.893 mph on the 2.786-mile track.

IRL: Helio Castroneves is tied with Scott Dixon for the IndyCar Series points lead going into Sunday's season finale at Texas with 467 points. Tony Kanaan is seven points behind.

Weekend racing

NASCAR UAW-GM Quality 500

Time: 7:30 p.m. today.

TV: Ch. 5, 22.

IRL Chevy 500

Time: 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

TV: ESPN.

CART Mexico Grand Prix

Time: 4 p.m. Sunday.




PREP SPORTS
Elder 28, St. Xavier 7
Princeton 14, Lakota East 7
Conner 29, Dixie Heights 16
Colerain 44, Hamilton 24
Wyoming 40, Deer Park 13
Turpin 54, Goshen 13
Reading 38, Indian Hill 32 (3OT)
Winton Woods 16, Loveland 15
Roundup of Friday's other Ohio games
Roundup of Friday's other Kentucky games
Scores, how poll teams fared
Bacon's Zeller trails by 7 at state
CovCath finishes third in state
Friday's results
Today's schedule

REDS / BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
Allen completes interviews
NLCS: Cubs 5, Marlins 4 (11)
Pedro vs. The Rocket
Damon back in Red Sox lineup today
Boston businessman to purchase Dodgers

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals' Graham landed on his feet
Injured girl's family sues league

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Guidugli, UC fighting for balance
Bucks braced for big battle
Clarett sues Ohio State, seeks $2.5M in damages
MU offense aims for 40-plus points vs. lowly Buffalo
Soldier trades war nightmares for college football dream
Panthers wary of 1-3 Irish
Michigan's rally stuns Gophers
Major games, major stakes

GOLF
Verplank, Flesch tied for lead at 23-under par

NBA
Bryant case strategy shifts

SOCCER
Americans want a winning ending

MOTOR SPORTS
Kenseth's recent struggles have field gaining ground

ON THE AIR
This weekend's sports on TV, radio