(WOMR file photo)
When Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup championship in 2003, he and his team were highly criticized because they had only won a single race en route. Should he win this year’s championship, no such criticisms will be made because on Sunday, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver won for the seventh time in 2013.
The season leading victory came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in race #2 of the 10-race Sprint Cup playoff.
The victory in the Sylvania 300 gave Kenseth a 2-0 record in the Chase and allowed him to pad his points lead.
Kenseth, making it look almost too easy, picked up his series-leading, and career-best, seventh victory of the season, meanwhile he joined 2011 champion Tony Stewart and 2008 third-place finisher Greg Biffle as the only drivers to win the first two races of the 10-race Chase.
Kenseth’s 31st career victory came in his 500th Cup start. Only seven-time champion Richard Petty previously won his 500th start.
He is the first drivers to win as many as seven races in a season since five-time champion Jimmie Johnson turned the trick in 2008 and 2009. More importantly, Sunday’s victory was the fourth time this season that Kenseth has won for the first time on a track where he has struggled in the past.
“For me, to win at Loudon is more than a dream, more than a stretch, this has been my worst place,’’ Kenseth said, tears welling in his eyes moments after climbing from his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world.’’
For the second straight week, Kenseth’s JGR teammate Kyle Busch finished second, dropping 14 points behind in the standings.
Busch appeared to be catching Kenseth near the end, finishing about a half-second behind. But it really wasn’t that close.
“If I could have caught him, it might have been exciting,’’ Busch said. “But they just had a special car. Sometimes, you just unload like that.’’
Kenseth departed the longtime ride at Roush Fenway Racing after last season to join JGR, a move that seems to be paying off bigtime. Asked about his newest teammate, Busch said, “It reminds me of a similar situation in 2008. Matt is just executing the end of the deal, which is what we’re supposed to do. I won eight of the first 26 (races that year) and then fell flat on my face. Matt is doing a good job, obviously.
“He’s one of the best. That’s why we went to talk to him, to hire him and that’s why he’s here (at JGR). He’s put it all together.’’
Winning the first two Chase races is strategic! However, it does not guarantee that the team will win the 2014 Sprint Cup championship. A few years ago Greg Biffle rolled of two quick wins to start off the Chase, however, he faded rather quickly into the middle of the pack. Nevertheless, having reeled of two quick wins to start the Chase off, it does give Kenseth, and team, some strategic momentum. The real question now is; can that team harness, fine tune, and take that momentum to the next level of competition?
Check out the unofficial results from the Sylvania 300.
Here is the Sprint Cup standings following the Sylvania 300.
Thirteen drivers, eight races, one championship, who will be the last man standing?
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!