But suddenly, and unexpectedly, it all came good at Dover, where Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates were the ones who had issues. Them and about three-quarters of the field.
And things went very right for an obviously relieved Kenseth.
"It feels good to be here, been a tough few months, for sure," Kenseth said after the race. "These guys did a great job, did a great job on pit road today. Obviously Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and these guys did a great job with the car and adjustments as well as Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development)."
As is his customary style, Kenseth wasn’t especially emotional afterwards.
"We had a good car today," he said in Victory Lane. "I thought we were competitive and there were a few guys at different parts of the race that were a little bit better and Kyle (Larson) gave me all I wanted at the end, and then some. We were fortunate to be able to hold him off."
In truth, it was probably more talent than fortune that got Kenseth the 37th career Sprint Cup victory. He sized up where Larson was going to make his move and defending his ground expertly.
"Kyle Larson is extremely talented and I knew if I was on the bottom, he was going to be on the top," Kenseth explained. "We got so free, I started working that middle groove and I was able to get just far enough ahead. If he would have snuck outside of me, it would have been over. I had just enough momentum to stay in front of him."
And in the end, that’s exactly what it took for Kenseth to be the one guy who won, while 39 others didn’t.