It is rare that I decide to make predictions on the title for NASCAR’s Chase. I tried doing that in 2011 when the points got reworked to the current format, and I was so wrong it wasn’t funny. Although I will admit that when Tony Stewart was on a roll and had four wins entering the final two races, all within the Chase, I had a feeling he was gonna win it.
Then again, his “He better be worried” line certainly made it clear what his goal was.
This year, I am already making my declaration of who is gonna win the title. I knew going into the Chase who I was going to pick to win it all, because all season it was clear who the best car was all season. There was no doubt I was picking Matt Kenseth to win the title this year. The man entering the Chase had five wins, the most he’s ever had in a season of his career. But what is most impressive is that he is with a new team, and completely new equipment, and has simply blown away the field.
Last year, Kenseth announced he was not returning to Roush-Fenway Racing and joining Joe Gibbs as the new driver of the No. 20 Toyota, the car that Joey Logano was leaving at the end of the year.
That car in particular had a vast history thanks to Tony Stewart, but after he left at the end of 2008 to form Stewart-Haas Racing, it lagged behind. Logano came in as a true rookie with no Cup experience, but was on a tear through the Nationwide Series. Yet, that car was a high-profile ride with a major sponsor that had seen two Cup championships, plus it was with a new manufacturer, as in 2008 the Gibbs team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota. It just didn’t seem to work as well as expected.
Now, Kenseth has given the spark to that team that hasn’t been seen truly since the 2007 season, and it was clear that he found his home. Kenseth entered the Chase with the lead, thanks to five wins, but then to start out the Chase, he would go back-to-back with wins at Chicagoland and New Hampshire.
Consider this as well, this season Kenseth now has seven wins on the year. Of those seven wins, four have come on tracks that up till this year, he had not won at yet (Kansas, Darlington, Bristol, New Hampshire). This is a changed driver, and a changed team.
Mark my words, my bet is placed on the No. 20 Toyota and Kenseth to win the Chase. He lost momentum at some points in the year, but has gotten it back when it matters most.
RESULTS: 1-Kenseth 2-Kyle Busch 3-Biffle 4-Johnson 5-McMurray 6-Earnhardt Jr. 7-Vickers 8-Burton 9-Edwards 10-Truex Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 13-Kurt Busch 14-Logano 15-Gordon 16-Newman 17-Bowyer 20-Harvick 27-Patrick 37-Kahne
CAUTIONS: 7 for 37 laps. Lap 31-35 (#35, 51 Accident-T4), 39-46 (#1, 30, 42 Accident-T4), 53-59 (#38, 47 Accident-FS), 165-169 (Debris-T1), 202-205 (Debris-BS), 247-250 (#38 Accident-T1), 254-257 (#5 Accident-FS).
LEAD CHANGES: 19 among 11 drivers. Newman 1-2, Kahne 3-31, Truex Jr. 32, Yeley 33, Kahne 34-35, Truex Jr. 36-108, Kenseth 109, Gordon 110, Keselowski 111-112, Logano 113, Earnhardt Jr. 114-129, Truex Jr. 130-152, Kenseth 153-165, Truex Jr. 166, Gordon 167-201, Earnhardt Jr. 202, Bowyer 203-207, Kenseth 208-246, Johnson 247, Kenseth 248-300.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 57 Mins, 2 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 107.573 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.533 Seconds
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1. Kenseth, 2111 points; 2. Kyle Busch, -14; 3. Johnson, -18; 4. Edwards, -36; 5. Biffle, -38; 6. Harvick, -39; 7. Kurt Busch, -40; 8. Gordon, -42; 9. Newman, -47; 10. Bowyer, -48; 11. Earnhardt Jr, -62; 12. Logano, -69; 13. Kahne, -71