Matt Kenseth appears to be on a roll as he took the checkered flag on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – his 500th career start – notching up his seventh win of the season, and his second in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, having held the lead in 106 of the 300-lap race. Teammate Kyle Busch crossed the finish line soon after, giving Joe Gibbs Racing the top two positions in the Sylvania 300. Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray took third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup, generally referred to simply as The Chase, has had a field of 12 drivers since first established in 2007. This year is an exception to the rule as the field has been expanded to include Jeff Gordon, who had his opportunity to compete in The Chase snatched away in the controversial finish at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7. With only seven laps of the race to go, Clint Bowyer allegedly forced a caution by going into a spin in an effort to help his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr earn the second of the two Wild Card spots in the chase.
After an intensive investigation it was determined that members of the Michael Waltrip Racing team had conspired to manipulate the results of the race and some of the most severe penalties in the history of the Sprint Cup were issued to the team, including probation for the rest of the 2013 season. Citing ‘actions detrimental to stock car racing’, NASCAR docked 50 driver/owner points from all three MWR teams. This knocked Truex out of the Wildcard spot, opening the position up for Ryan Newman.
As the 13th driver in The Chase, Jeff Gordon’s performance is likely to be scrutinized, so his pit road misjudgment at New Hampshire on Sunday was quite widely publicized. In what should have been a routine pit stop, Gordon came to a standstill with the nose of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet touching the white line of the pit box. To avoid incurring a penalty, the pit crew had to push the car back before servicing it, costing valuable time that put Gordon into 22nd place. He finished the race in 15th place, noting that he was highly disappointed in himself.
The next event in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is the AAA400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday September 29. The top five spots in the standings are currently held by (in order) Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
With only two races to go before the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, competition on the track is at fever pitch, making for some nail-biting action for both competitors and spectators. More than 100,000 fans showed up to watch Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway and saw Matt Kenseth take the checkered flag for the fifth time this season, with Kasey Kahne close behind, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano in the top five places. That Kahne didn’t make first place was not for lack of trying as he repeatedly tried to pass Kenseth in the last twelve laps of the race, but it was not to be as Kenseth pushed ahead for the win.
Some keen followers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series appeared to anticipate that Kahne may wreck Kenseth in retaliation for being wrecked by him earlier in the season at Watkins glen, but in a post-race interview Kahne noted that he just doesn’t wreck people and tried to pass as clean as he could, voicing some frustration that he had not been able to make it happen. Nonetheless, he achieved a finish, and in a good position, putting him 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings.
The top twelve in the Sprint cup standings at present are:
1. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet – 821 points
2. Clint Bowyer – #15 Toyota – 803 points
3. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford – 768 points
4. Kevin Harvick – #29 Chevrolet – 760 points
5. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota – 739 points
6. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota – 736 points
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet – 714 points
8. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet – 701 points
9. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford – 698 points
10. Joey Logano – #22 Ford – 685 points
11. Brad Keselowski – #2 Ford – 681 points
12. Kurt Busch – #78 Chevrolet – 679 points