NASCAR » 23 September 2013
Kenseth makes it two for two in dream Chase start
Matt Kenseth came into the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as top seed. Two weeks in and he's in danger of becoming unstoppable in the battle for this year's championship title.
Matt Kenseth had already defied expectations - other people's, and even his own - by claiming five wins during the regular NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. That was more than enough to put him through to the all-important Chase that decided the championship title in November, but he was under no illusion that this was where the hard work would really start.
Just a fortnight into the Chase, and he's actually making it look easy: two wins out of two Chase events, the dream start. It literally couldn't get any better for him. Fans watching the events unfold at the end of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway might have been forgiven if they were watching a replay of the previous week's race at Chicagoland, as the same two Joe Gibbs Racing team mates - Kenseth, with Kyle Busch in hot pursuit - once again raced away from the field to claim the honours.
For Kenseth the victory was especially sweet, coming as it did on his 500th race outing in the Cup series. And it had been particularly unexpected, since the one-mile New Hampshire oval is far from being one of Kenseth's favourite. In fact he's never won here before.
"I didn't even know there was a victory lane here," he joked afterwards. "This is probably one of my worst places ... For me to win at New Hampshire, first of all, is more than a stretch and more than a dream," he added, brimming with the emotion of the moment that forced tears to his eyes.
Kenseth credited his team with supplying him with the perfect car, but his crew chief Jason Ratcliff wasn't having any of it.
"He doesn't take enough credit," said Ratcliff. "You don't just come out here and win on any given Sunday. This guy has done an incredible job. It's been an incredible season for us."
"The #20 just had a lot more than us this week for some reason," Busch said of his victorious teammate as he finished in the runners-up pot for a second week in succession. "We're not real sure why. Sometimes you just get those magic cars. Hopefully there are a couple for us left this year."
It's certainly been an amazing maiden season for Kenseth with JGR, which he joined at the start of 2013 after leaving his long-term home at Roush Fenway Racing over the winter. Many at the time questioned whether it was a wise move for the 41-year-old from Wisconsin, but it's safe to say that absolutely no one is asking that question anymore.
With Kenseth pulling back-to-back wins and Busch only inches away, the imperative for the rest of the 11 drivers in the 2013 Chase was to make sure they didn't give up too much ground in the meantime. That meant finishing near the front themselves and not making any mistakes that could see them slump to the back of the field with possible terminal consequences to their title ambitions. With only five of the 43 cars at New Hampshire retiring, there was a lot of scope for disaster this week and not everyone emerged from Loudon unscathed.
Kasey Kahne took over the lead of the 300-lap race from polesitter Ryan Newman on the second lap and maintained the position through to the first caution of the race, which was for Josh Wise being spun following contact with Michael McDowell, which led to the first round of pit stops. Martin Truex Jr. got the jump on Kahne at the restart but there was an immediate follow-up caution when Juan Pablo Montoya inadvertently sent his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team mate Jamie McMurray into the wall, who was then collected by Kevin Swindell which did significant damage to the rear end of the #1 in the process.
Tagged as: Kyle Busch , Kasey Kahne , Jeff Gordon , New Hampshire , Joe Gibbs Racing , Ryan Newman , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , cup , Jimmie Johnson , bobby labonte , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Martin Truex Jr.
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