Kenseth Earns Second Consecutive Chase Victory
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.