After an impressive regular season, Matt Kenseth opens the Chase with back to back wins. Kenseth scored his seventh win of the season in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kenseth led 106 laps and held off a late race charge by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch. The one-two finish for JGR duplicated last week’s race at Chicagoland where the duo opened the Chase in the top two spots.
Many fans say Kenseth is the reason NASCAR converted to the Chase format. In 2003, Matt won the series championship, but only had one victory during the season. 25 top-10 finishes earned him enough points to secure the title. Many fans criticized the system saying a wins should be more valuable. When NASCAR changed to the Chase format, it was considered by many as a reaction to the fans outcry and an attempt to make winning more valuable.
There can be no criticism for Kenseth this season, however, with seven wins and 15 top-10 finishes, Kenseth’s first season at JGR is arguably the best season of his career. Making the success more impressive is the fact that the team overcame two huge obstacles. A severe NASCAR penalty was handed down due to connecting rods being too light. NASCAR originally assessed a 50 point penalty which was reduced upon appeal to only 12 points. They also fought through a rash of engine failures. JGR purchases engines from Toyota Racing Development (TRD). The manufacturer had a multitude of engine failures this season and last. If not for engine problems, Kenseth would likely have two additional wins in the bank by now.
With the win at New Hampshire, Kenseth stretched his points lead to 14 over Kyle Busch and 18 over five time series champion, Jimmie Johnson. The series now head to Dover where Kenseth has two wins and 18 top-10’s in 29 starts. Given the momentum this team has, and Matt’s history at the Monster Mile, he could easily make it three wins in a row.