Kenseth riding high after Dover win
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Darlington, SC (Sports Network) -
What a year it's been so far for Matt Kenseth. His beloved Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in February. Last month, Kenseth snapped a 76-race winless streak at Texas, and then on Sunday, he notched his second victory of the season at Dover, which put him in great shape to clinch a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Two fresh tires instead of four during the final round of pit stops with less than 40 laps remaining turned out to be the winning strategy for Kenseth and crew chief Jimmy Fennig at Dover.
Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards dominated most of the 400-mile Dover race, but the four-tire call for Johnson and Edwards on their last stops ended up costing both drivers an opportunity to win.
Kenseth passed Martin for the lead with 32 laps left, and then held it for his second Dover win. He won here in the spring of 2006. Kenseth joined Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch as those drivers who have won twice in NASCAR's top- tier series so far this season.
After his Texas victory, Kenseth endured disappointing finishes at Talladega, Richmond and Darlington before bouncing back in a big way at Dover.
Matt Kenseth notched his second victory of the season at Dover.
"I feel pretty good about it now, because with some of the bad finishes we had, we still perform much better than we have in the past," Kenseth said. "We perform better at more places than we have. It really feels for sure like we're on the right track."
Kenseth stormed out of the gate at the start of the 2009 season by winning the first two races -- Daytona and California. But Kenseth faltered from there and missed the Chase for the first time. He qualified for the playoffs and finished fifth in points in 2010.
Barring some unforeseen event, Kenseth looks as though he'll be one of the 12 drivers in this year's Chase field.
NASCAR revised its Chase format during the off-season. The top-10 drivers in points will be locked in the playoffs after the regular season ends September 10 at Richmond. Positions 11 and 12 will go to those drivers who have the most wins, provided they are in the top-20 at the time.
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, jumped from tenth to sixth in points after Dover.
"I was thinking about the win thing a little bit, not necessarily because of the Chase or how they created it or anything like that," he said. "Until five weeks ago, it had been two years since we won. When I see that, honestly because we haven't won in a while, you start thinking it's not a 12-person thing anymore. It's a top-10 in points, which is fine. So we got to make sure we're in the top 10."
Last June, Fennig took over crew chief duties at Kenseth's No.17 Roush Fenway Racing team. The two have racked up 12 top-10 finishes in 30 races together since then.
In 2006, Fennig teamed with Kenseth in the Busch Series -- now known as the Nationwide Series. Fennig also guided Kurt Busch to the inaugural Chase championship in 2004 when Busch drove for Roush at the time.
"I enjoy working with Matt," Fennig said. This isn't the first time I worked with him. I worked with him with the Busch cars. I enjoyed it back then."
Lots of credit should be given to Fennig for Kenseth's winning momentum this season. However, Fennig wouldn't take much recognition of Kenseth's victory at Dover.
"That was all Matt there," Fennig said. "He figured we needed to have clean air, and he called for two tires. We did two, and away we went."
And now they go...setting sail for what could be a championship run this year.
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