Dover, DE (Sports Network) - Matt Kenseth has an opportunity to make history
in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this weekend at Dover
After winning at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, Kenseth will try to become the
first competitor to start the Chase with three consecutive victories. Two
other drivers have begun the playoffs with back-to-back wins: Greg Biffle in
2008 and Tony Stewart in 2011.
Biffle won at New Hampshire and Dover and then finished third at Kansas (the
third race in '08 Chase) before he faded from there, finishing third in the
point standings. Two years ago, Stewart took the checkered flag at Chicagoland
and New Hampshire but lost momentum by finishing 25th at Dover and then 15th
at Kansas. He bounced back with six straight top-10 finishes, including
three victories. Stewart ended the season in a points tie with Carl Edwards
but captured the title by virtue of his five wins for the year compared to
only one for Edwards.
Heading into Dover, Kenseth holds a 14-point lead over Kyle Busch, his Joe
Gibbs Racing teammate, and an 18-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson. Even
though Kenseth is 2 for 2 in the Chase, there are still eight races to go. And
anything can happen from Dover to the season-finale in Homestead, Fla.
"My outlook is really not any different, honestly," Kenseth said. "I know it's
kind of cliche, but it really is one week at a time, especially right now. If
you get down toward the end and you're lucky enough to have a lead or
something, maybe you start looking at that more or thinking about it more. But
eight weeks of racing is a lot of racing, and in this system, one bad finish
and you're behind."
When the Sprint Cup Series last ran at Dover in June, Kenseth started fourth
and led 29 laps before he suffered engine failure shortly before the halfway
point. He finished a season-worst 40th. One year ago, Kenseth placed 35th here
and fell to last in Chase standings. He trailed Brad Keselowski by 72 points
at the time.
After spending 13 full seasons with Roush Fenway Racing in Sprint Cup, Kenseth
is in his first year as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for JGR. He has scored a
series-leading and career-high seven wins this season. Kenseth has won back-
to-back races in Cup four times during his career (2004, '06, '09 and '13) but
has never posted three straight victories.
Kenseth has won at Dover twice (June 2006 and May 2011).
Busch is off to his best start in the Chase after finishing runner-up to
Kenseth at Chicagoland and New Hampshire. He's also a two-time race winner at
Dover (June 2008 and May 2010).
"I've said it for years - if I could finish second in every single Chase race,
I'd take it and win a championship over winning a single Chase race that
doesn't mean as much as a championship would," Busch said. "It's all about the
prize at the end. It's only two races, and you certainly would like to get off
to a good start, but it's early."
In last year's Chase race at Dover, Busch led 302 of 400 laps but ended up
finishing seventh after he was forced to pit for fuel with 10 laps to go.
Keselowski conserved enough gas late in the race and took over the top spot
when Busch pitted. He won the race and went on to capture the Sprint Cup
Busch led the most laps in this year's spring race at Dover with 150 but faded
in the late-stages to finish fourth.
Johnson has won at Dover seven times, which puts him in a tie with Bobby
Allison and Richard Petty for most victories here. Johnson was on the way to
posting his record-eighth win at this track in June, but after a restart with
19 laps remaining, NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart. He had passed
Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead. The Hendrick Motorsports driver and five-time
series champion wound up finishing 17th. Tony Stewart won the race after he
grabbed the top spot from Montoya with three laps to go.
"We were close there last time, led a bunch of laps and were in position there
toward the end for a win," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we got penalized on
that final restart and weren't able to pull it off. I think we've clarified
things a little bit with the new restart rule and are headed in the right
direction. This team has had a consistent start to the Chase, and I expect
more of the same this weekend in Dover."
Johnson has placed fourth and fifth in the first two Chase races. He began
last year's playoffs with second-place finishes at Chicagoland and New
Hampshire but ended the season third in points (-40). He finished 32nd at
Phoenix and 36th at Homestead.
Carl Edwards comes to Dover fourth in points (-36), followed by Biffle (-38),
Kevin Harvick (-39), Kurt Busch (-40) and Jeff Gordon (-42).
Ninth through 13th are: Ryan Newman (-47), Clint Bowyer (-48), Dale Earnhardt
Jr. (-62), Joey Logano (-69) and Kasey Kahne (-71).
Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, Sept. 29. Race: AAA 400. Site: Dover
International Speedway. Track: 1-mile oval. Start time: 2 p.m. ET. Laps: 400.
Miles: 400. 2012 Winner: Brad Keselowski. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor
Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
The Sports Network